The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (the LVT) in Southall Court v Tiwari reduced a landlord’s claim for service charge contributions from 48 leaseholders from £2,053.42 to £482.50 per flat. The Landlord was granted permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.
The landlord had fulfilled its obligations under Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the leaseholders’ however failed to comment in response to the consultation process for substantial works to the roof. The leaseholders’ claimed that the reason for failing to reply was because it was obvious that the matter would be referred to the LVT. The reason for this we assume is because in the report it is stated that “Southall Court has probably been the subject of more applications to the Tribunal than any other property in the country”. On appeal the Upper Tribunal held that where the leaseholders have failed to comment then the landlord is entitled to assume that there are no objections to the works. This is the case even where it is obvious that the matter would be referred to the LVT. The Upper Tribunal held that it was the duty of the leaseholders’ to respond during the consultation process and that in this case where no comments were made the landlord had acted reasonably throughout.
At the LVT the landlord’s expert gave evidence and confirmed that there were no current leaks in the roof and that it could have staggered on for a few more years. The LVT inspected the property and agreed with the expert’s oral evidence. However the Upper Tribunal held that the landlord had a wide discretion as to the programme of works it adopted and applying that principal to this case came to the conclusion that the LVT was not entitled to find that the landlord’s works were unreasonable. This was especially so given the expert findings that the roof had only a further 12-18 months useful life.
The leaseholders’ attempted to argue that the existence of a sinking fund was irrelevant in this matter. However, the Upper Tribunal disagreed with this and dismissed the leaseholders’ attempt to argue that given the small sinking fund it was unreasonable to carry out the works. The Upper Tribunal found instead that the fund made very little difference between the reasonableness of a decision to re-cover the roof now or in 12-18 months time.
The landlords appeal was accordingly allowed and the leaseholders’ were ordered to pay £2,053.42 each.
We have had many agents undertaking block management contact us about the consultation process and we hope that this blog emphasises how important it is for agents to advise leaseholders’ to take part and comment in time.