Major works – section 20 consultation and retrospective dispensation

The section 20 consultation process for major works is well established yet still has the potential for confusion, particularly when the process was not followed to the letter. Brady Solicitors’ Jack Turner explains section 20 consultation, and what you can do if you failed to consult.

What does section 20 consultation mean?

A section 20 consultation, under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, is where a freeholder or a management company is required to consult with leaseholders prior to undertaking works on a residential development that will cost any individual leaseholder more than £250. An example of works that might fall into this category is drainage works or roof replacement.

What happens if you do not follow the consultation process?

If a freeholder or management company fails to adhere to the consultation process, they will be limited to recovering a maximum of £250 from each leaseholder irrespective of the actual costs in undertaking the works. This could lead to a shortfall which the freeholder or RMC would have to carry.

“I didn’t consult, is there anything I can do!?”

In particular circumstances, where a building owner has not consulted with the leaseholders, it is possible to seek dispensation from the required consultation process. This will include an application to the First Tier Tribunal (under s.20Z Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) which requires the freeholder to explain and justify why the consultation process was not adhered to and further, that the leaseholders have not been suffered as a result.

Examples of reasons to apply for dispensation are where the works were emergency works and sufficiently urgent that there was no time to consult the leaseholders, or if the freeholder or RMC made a mistake during the consultation process.

To conclude

A lot of freeholders and Management Companies are aware of the consultation process but we still receive enquiries on this particular topic.

The best advice is to always adhere to the section 20 consultation process outlined in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. If you fail to consult properly, you should seek independent legal advice and if an application for dispensation is required, it should be made as soon as possible. Whilst not ideal, it is not essential for the application for dispensation to be made prior to the completion of the works.

For help or advice on your major works project please do get in touch with our specialist team.


Further reading

Section 20 – a guide to the notices

Section 20 – is there a time limit?

Dispensation from Consultation – Court of Appeal upholds decision



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