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More on service charges….

Peter recently asked what is the best way to recover Insurance Premiums having written to the Lender and not received any reply and should he go to the County Court or the LVT?

The situation is not clear cut. Both methods could be adopted and both have pluses and minuses.

Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT)

You could apply to the LVT for a determination of the reasonableness of the charge. The LVT will normally issue Directions and there will be a hearing. At the hearing the panel will review and use their own expert knowledge to assess the reasonableness whether the Tenant attends and disputes or not. There is no procedure for a default ruling if the tenant does not take part and thus the process can take longer than obtaining a Judgment. The benefit is that if you fear a defence or problems there are no real costs sanctions and if you wish to deal with the matter yourself some people find the process easier than the Courts

County Court

You are entitled to apply for a monetary Judgment. You can today do this on line via the Money Claims website https://www.moneyclaim.gov.uk/web/mcol/welcome. The Court will then issue the claim and serve this upon the Defendant. They will then have 14 days to indicate if they wish to defend. If no defence you can seek a Judgment in default but if defended you will then have to deal with the tenants defence and if it relates to the reasonableness of the charge the matter is likely to be transferred to the LVT to rule upon. Assuming the amount claimed is less than £5000 this matter will be dealt with as a small claim and generally no legal costs (or just a very small amount ) are recoverable save where the tenant has lodged some form of counter claim for more than £5000.

Once you have a Judgment from the Court or a determination from the LVT the mortgage lender should then pay or you can take steps to forfeit the lease.

Please remember which ever route you follow ( and my personal preference would be the Court since you can obtain a default Order) you must ensure you have strictly complied with the terms of the lease and statute governing service charges. If in doubt it is always best to check as otherwise you could find that the sums are not payable. In particular I would highlight that the LVT may say that the sums are reasonable but may not be payable yet if the Landlord has not complied with the Lease terms etc. Generally the Courts will expect freeholders to fully understand the lease and the law governing these matters!

This blog has been submitted in response to a comment from a reader. Thank you for your continued support Peter.

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