In Curo Places Ltd v Pimlett the Upper Tribunal held that a landlord could not charge a tenant for ‘extra’ services when those same services were previously being provided at no cost to the tenant.
Curo was the landlord and Mr P the tenant of a bungalow in a sheltered housing scheme. Mr P’s tenancy agreement included specified services for which a charge could be applied and included a further clause as follows:
“2.10.1 The Trust agrees to provide the Services (if any) listed in the Tenancy Agreement and for which you pay a service charge providing that, subject to consultation with tenants:
(i) the Trust may stop providing any of the Services if it reasonably believes it is no longer practicable to do so; or
(ii) provide the same service in a different way; or
(iii) it may provide extra Services if it believes this would be useful.”
Ground maintenance was carried out by the landlord at no cost to Mr P. There was no obligation on the landlord to carry out the maintenance under Mr P’s tenancy agreement. However, tenancy agreements issued after Mr P’s agreement were amended to include maintenance as a chargeable service.
In 2016 the landlord began a consultation to vary the tenancy agreement by including additional services for “clearance, communal grounds management, management charge and tree maintenance”.Mr P successfully challenged the charge in the First Tier Tribunal and the landlord appealed the decision.
The landlord argued on appeal that the word “extra” should not be understood in terms of what was happening at the date of the grant of the tenancy but instead what was provided for as a matter of contractual provision. The landlord was not contractually required to maintain the grounds and the tenant was not contractually required to pay. Accordingly, the ground maintenance service did constitute the provision of an extra service for which the landlord could charge. Under clause 2.10.1 (iii), if properly exercised the landlord will become liable to provide and entitled to charge for this extra service.
The tenant argued that the “word extra meant extra”. This meant that the provision of extra services did not include services that were already provided at the commencement of the tenancy. The Upper Tribunal agreed with this argument and also held that both parties were aware that the grounds were maintained at no cost to the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy. The natural meaning of the word extra meant extra to services already provided. The maintenance was not an ‘extra’ service for which the landlord could charge and expect Mr P to pay. Mr P would only be liable for costs for services which were new and not those already provided at no charge.
Our thanks to Nearly Legal.
Published 31 May 2019