Bradys’ property management solicitors have successfully resolved a long-running case concerning a ground-floor leaseholder and their refusal to pay towards the upkeep of the lift.
We made a direct application to the LVT under Section 27A, highlighting how the tribunal can be a useful friend in dealing proactively – and successfully – with tricky problems.
Our managing agent client wanted to get on top of a dispute that had been rumbling on for well over a decade and that had seen off a number of previous managing agents and their legal advisers.
The property under management concerns three blocks, built at around the start of the 21st century and with an older leaseholder demographic. Two of the blocks have lifts, one doesn’t.
The dispute involved a ground-floor leaseholder in one of the lift-equipped blocks. This leaseholder had refused to pay the portion of his service charge that related to the maintenance of the lift. The other ground-floor leaseholder was a director of the RMC and, needless to say, had been paying the lift element of his service charge without complaint.
The lease, rather unusually, gave the management company wriggle room, allowing the service charge percentages to be ‘adjusted as fits’. Accordingly, our non-paying leaseholder wanted the management company to use this flexibility and reduce the percentage of the service charge to the benefit of the ground-floor leaseholders.
When Brady Solicitors was instructed on this case it was clear that the situation – and the litigious leaseholder! – needed taking in hand with a firm, fair and highly proactive approach.
We advised a direct application to the LVT under Section 27A, which concerns the payability of service charges – essentially who pays what and when.
Crucially, we were seeking determination from the LVT that it was reasonable to expect leaseholders in a block equipped with the lift to pay towards its upkeep.
The leaseholder prepared an exceptionally eloquent and impressive statement of case, setting out his grounds for what HE felt was reasonable in terms of service charge payability and which of course did not include the ground-floor leaseholders paying towards the lift.
The LVT agreed with our argument that it was reasonable that the leaseholder, despite living on the ground floor and there being discretion for the RMC to vary the service charge payable, must contribute to the upkeep of the lifts. Our client will also be able to recover his costs.
The determination also prompted an interesting discussion in the LVT around definitions of reasonableness: as we pointed out to the tribunal, the leaseholder had prepared one calculation, the management company another – and no doubt everyone in the tribunal could have come up with a different and reasonable calculation.
Whilst there is always the chance of an appeal by the leaseholder this decision marks a successful end to a long-running and disruptive dispute by a lone litigant that had the potential to seriously impact upon the management of the property.
We of course must wait to see if the leaseholder does appeal but, for now, the case highlights the value in a proactive and thoughtful approach to the LVT to deal with tricky situations.
Find out more
For help or advice with service charge issues and actions on the LVT, contact a member of the Brady team on 0115 985 3450 or by email.