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ISSUE No. 97 Summer 2011

Fair deal for flats in energy

saving schemes FPRA Campaign gets Green Light by the Editor

A new consultation process on the unfair treatment of flats and leaseholders under the Government’s Green Deal energy saving measures has been announced by Minister for Housing and Local Government Grant Shapps, who has promised to take action on problems raised.

This is a real result for FPRA. We have been campaigning for the Department of Energy and Climate Change to ensure the Green Deal benefits our “hard to treat” homes, and for the Department for Communities and Local Government – which has responsibility for leasehold law in England and Wales – to change to the Landlord and Tenant Act to allow for reasonable insulation to be carried out to blocks of flats as part of the service charge.

About two million leasehold flat-dwellers are currently being excluded from carrying out many home insulation initiatives as a result of conflicts with legislation or because there is no provision for this in their leases.

Much legislation on energy efficiency (and particularly grants) excludes people living in leasehold flats because the grants are aimed at individuals that purchase in their own names rather than through communal arrangements. Measures such as loft insulation and cavity wall insulation have to be taken up for the block as a whole rather than each individual.

Most leases provide for service charges to be levied for repair and maintenance of existing facilities only and make no provision for “improvements” such as cavity wall or loft insulation. The typical flat owner is likely to find that they will not be able to install loft insulation or cavity wall insulation because the roof space and the cavities in the external walls belong to the ground landlord.

The campaign by FPRA, highlighted in a widely admired article by FPRA Legal Expert Nick Roberts in the New Law Journal (and FPRA newsletter 94) has been supported by colleagues on Westminster City Council.

INSIDE THIS ISSUE Saving energy in flats

TV technology

Action on fire safety Ask the FPRA

– your questions answered Legal jottings

– complied by Philippa Turner EGM decision

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Responding to a proposal by Councillor Philippa Roe, Cabinet Member for Housing on Westminster City Council, to amend section 35 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 in order to introduce a mechanism for amending a lease to allow reasonable energy efficiency improvements, Grant Shapps writes:

“I fully agree that the energy efficiency of flats will only be improved if there is a mechanism that provides for improvements to be carried out at no upfront cost to leaseholders, tenants and freeholders. That is why we are introducing the Green Deal through the Energy Bill, which, as you know, is currently going through Parliament. The Government also shares your concern that a small minority of residents should not be in a position to block the ‘wishes of a majority to see improvements made.

“In looking at any changes to Section 35 of the Landlord and Tenant Act an important, consideration would be whether this would mean imposing costs on leaseholders above and beyond those which could be met from reductions in their energy bills. There is also, as you indicate, some uncertainty about whether the power available to make regulations to add additional grounds for an application to vary a lease is sufficiently wide to include improvements.

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