Brady Solicitors recently secured possession for a client on a vacant property, with an absent leaseholder and arrears dating back to 2009.
Under Section 81 of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended) landlords need a final determination from the Court or First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) – formerly known as the LVT – if they are to apply for forfeiture. We argued that the default judgment represents this final determination. At the first hearing on 11 June 2013 the judge asked for representations and a skeleton argument so that he could be satisfied that default judgment is a final determination for these purposes.
This is a tricky issue, with lots of conflicting views even amongst legal professionals and the courts about whether or not a default judgment gets over the hurdle set down by section 81. Brady Solicitors’ service charge team duly prepared these and, at the adjourned hearing on 22 July 2013, the Court granted possession together with all legal costs to our client.
Service charge, ground rent and insurance arrears are frustrating for managing agents and fellow leaseholders as they dent cash-flow and get in the way of good block management. This is particularly exacerbated in situations where properties are empty and becoming dilapidated.
Forfeiture is sometimes thought of as a draconian remedy for dealing with arrears with the landlord benefiting from the windfall of the property. The Brady Solicitors team explored all other routes, including appointing a tracing agent to locate the absent leaseholder. When all this failed, we were pleased to be able to deliver a successful resolution to a long-running and difficult situation.