Leasehold repairs disputes are one of the main causes of problems with leases, as the cost of repairs to leasehold properties are collected under the Service Charge, which is calculated by the landlord and /or its agents.
Leaseholders may not always be made aware in advance of the costs of routine daily repairs and cleaning costs.
However, in cases of extraordinary expenditure under the Service Charge – such as major refurbishment or extensive repair work – leaseholders should be given prior notice and a copy of the brief and tenders to enable them to comment or make suggestions.
Even when notice is given, however, charges may exceed what was anticipated – or the work carried out may be of such a poor standard that a landlord and tenant dispute might occur regarding costs.
Poor repair work or refurbishment may affect the value of a leasehold property – or it may be that the landlord’s contractors caused damage or other problems. In some leases, however, there may be clauses which state that the landlord is not liable for damage caused by its contractors or agents.
In disputes over leasehold repairs, a freeholder may also be reluctant to carry out repairs to a leasehold property because there are insufficient funds in the service charge account to cover these. This may happen if some lessees fail to pay the service charge and the freeholder has not taken action to recover the monies.
In cases involving disputes over repairs to a leasehold property, Duncan Lewis property solicitors can examine the lease in detail to assess where the leaseholder is protected and the landlord is liable.
Duncan Lewis will also appoint experts such as surveyors, architects and building contractors to report on any repairs that may be needed – or which have been carried out negligently.
Leaseholders have six years after the initial incident involving leasehold repairs (eg the date water ingress was first noted) in which to make a civil claim against a negligent freeholder.
The limitation period for making a claim may be extended if the repair involved successive incidents involving disrepair (eg more than one incident of water ingress, or water ingress subsequently occurred at different points).
However, it is important to contact Duncan Lewis property solicitors sooner than later.
If necessary, Duncan Lewis will prepare a pre-action letter of claim to send to the landlord or its solicitor – and can also lodge a claim with the court as a protective measure.
Claims can be lodged with the court for four months before they are served on the opponent (ie freeholder) and your landlord does not have to be advised of this until the claim is served, so negotiations can continue.
If a tenant is being pursued by a landlord for failing to carry out repairs and a Section 146 Notice has been served against a tenant for breach of covenant, leaseholders may be protected by the Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act 1938. Duncan Lewis can advise tenants served with a Section 146 Notice on serving a counter notice claiming protection under the Act.
In cases involving litigation and leasehold disputes, Duncan Lewis will usually obtain counsel’s opinion from an experienced property litigation barrister, including quantum (an estimate of the value of any damages that can be claimed from the landlord).
Duncan Lewis can also advise on alternatives to litigation in cases of leasehold repairs, including dispute resolution and mediation.
In England, leaseholders in dispute with a landlord over a breach of covenant or disputes such as service charges can also apply to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber – Residential Property) for adjudication.
Duncan Lewis property solicitors can advise on The Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal)(Property Chamber) Rules 2013/1169 – which has replaced the Land Valuation Tribunal (LVT) – and can represent clients at the tribunal.
It is important that tenants remember that a case referred to the Tribunal may mean a leaseholder has to pay the costs of its freeholder’s legal team, as well as its own solicitors.
Contacting a property solicitor at an early stage may therefore also help keep legal costs down and speed up resolution of a dispute over leasehold repairs.
Duncan Lewis property solicitors advise both landlords and tenants in housing and property matters, including claims involving leasehold repairs, as well as forfeiture of lease for breach of covenant.
If a client is not eligible for public funding (Legal Aid) for a housing case, Duncan Lewis is usually able to offer a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) or a set fee.
Duncan Lewis also offers a set fee for the initial assessment of a case, so our clients know exactly what they will be paying.
For expert legal advice on Leasehold Repairs, call Duncan Lewis Property Solicitors on 020 7923 4020.