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Issue No. 107 Winter 2013 GOOD FIRST STEP


FPRA has been consulted by the Government on protecting local authority leaseholders from unreasonable charges.


The Department for Communities and Local Government proposes to have a £10,000 cap on leaseholder works on homes outside London, and £15,000 on homes within London. It also proposes that all future central Government assistance for works of repair, maintenance or improvement provided by the secretary of state or the Homes and Communities Agency is included in the Mandatory Directions to councils.


FPRA has responded: “There is often a built-in unfairness in the system for long leaseholders in local authority properties, particularly on estates where there are council-funded and supported residents’ associations which can exclude long leaseholders.


“The proposals go part way to protect the interests of leaseholders. Capping the costs is a good first step – but councils should be required to adhere to the principals of the Section 20 process, in addition to the precise mechanics of the process.


“It is unreasonable for individual leaseholders, if they are a minority group, to be ignored by the landlord. The landlord should not be in a position to ‘bully’ the leaseholders and railroad the consultation process.


“However there will be situations where the leaseholders’ ‘vote’ counts for nothing and the majority sees major expenditure pushed through. In such circumstances, perhaps the increased service charge from one year to the next could be limited to a 50 per cent increase on the preceding year – or the average of the previous three years?”


Federation of Private Residents’ Associations Newsletter


3 Leaseholder Opinions


The majority of flat owners (60 per cent) believe the Government should independently regulate the management of residential blocks of flats.


That is one finding from the FPRA-sponsored survey of 8,000 leaseholders by Livingcity.


Over one third (36 per cent) of respondents believed their managing agent receives insurance commission.


The majority (52 per cent) said they did not have an adequate say in the setting of the annual communal service charge budget and the level of communal services to be delivered in respect of their block.


The most common problem cited by flat dwellers was maintenance (39 per cent) followed by noise (12 per cent), sub-letting and parking (both nine per cent). Thirteen per cent said they had no problems!


Asked if their management fee offered value for money, answers were evenly spread: excellent value (14 per cent); good (14); average (25); poor (19) and very poor (20). Similarly on the service charge: excellent value (15); good (15); average (27); poor (22) and very poor (17).


Over 47 per cent of respondents would support the residents managing their own block, with these results: keep the existing managing agent (25 per cent); change the managing agent (27); residents to manage (16); residents to own and manage (31).


Yet over 70 per cent of respondents said the management of their building was at a level or above that which they would consider acceptable: excellent (20 per cent); good (25) average (25); poor (17) and very poor (13).


A worrying 10 per cent did not know whether they had a residents’ association/right-to-manage company/residents’ management company in their building.


The full results of the survey can be read via a link on our website. (You can download the whole survey from the website www.livingcity.co.uk).


CONTROVERSIAL


Permission has been given to appeal in the highly controversial leaseholder case of Phillips and Goddard v Francis.


This case, reported in newsletters 105 and 106, caused chaos in the field of Section 20 consultation.


Lawyers preparing the appeal have written to FPRA: “Thank you so much for your assistance to date, and in particular your very helpful letter in support of our clients’ application. It really did make a difference.”


They add: “Fingers crossed the Court of Appeal will clarify when a landlord/managing agent must follow the consultation process.”


Permission has been given to appeal out of time. There is no date for the appeal itself yet, but readers will be kept informed.


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