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4 Federation of Private Residents’ Associations Newsletter ASK THE FPRA Q A


Section 20 Our block has 18 residential properties in it and the residents’ association is also close to the leaseholders of the commercial units as well. The property is currently in need of a lot of repairs but our managing agents are saying nothing can be done without going through the Section 20 process every time. We (the residents and commercial leaseholders) are all in agreement that the works need to be done quickly as they are creating more damage to all our properties. I currently have a roof leak that has been going on for months and which is now going through all my electrics, as do other properties. Other properties have water ingress through walls due to the pointing not being done and windows not being resealed in many years We have voiced our concerns, including those of Health and Safety, to our managing agent (water leaking through live electrics etc) and we have been told we must still go through this Section 20 process. ALL leaseholders want to get these works done quickly and by our managing agent trickle feeding these Section 20 notices, we are all incurring additional costs for jobs that could be completed at the same time with the appropriate equipment – not erecting scaffolding around the building five times to do five different jobs but do them all at once. If all the leaseholders are in agreement, is there any way to bypass these Section 20 notices that take months for any works to be able to carried out? Please could you let us know the legal viewpoint on this and where we stand. FPRA Hon Consultant Bernie Wales replies: Obviously I don’t know the precise circumstances, nor the managing agent involved, but there is always something which can be done. Firstly check the lease to ascertain the legal set up. If this is a freehold/leasehold set up – with the managing agent working for the freeholder – then an application to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) might be appropriate in due course … regarding unreasonable service charges. If, on the other hand, there is a Residents’ Management Company, a Right To Manage company, or Right To Enfranchise company – with the managing agent working for that company; i.e. for the leaseholders – fire them! In any event, you could apply to the First-tier Tribunal to shorten the Section 20 process, due to the urgent nature of the works. Section 20ZA refers.


Annoying though it may seem, if the leaseholders club together and carry out works themselves, they may be in breach of the terms of their leases – although I can see the desire to go down this route. Furthermore, such action might leave the leaseholders in a position where they could not pursue the freeholder under the terms of the leases, in respect


Issue No. 109 Summer 2014


Members of the committee and honorary consultants respond to problems and queries sent in by members


Q A


of those works. Send through a copy lease if more specific advice is needed. Supplementary Question, with lease attached: The setup is freeholder/leaseholder with the managing agent working for the freeholder, although the leaseholders combined are responsible for 99.6 per cent of the costs to the building and works. How long would a First-tier Tribunal take to give an answer? Looking at Google Streetview it appears the property is on ground/first/second/third floors. Most roof works should therefore be easily accessible via long ladder and/or cherry picker – certainly for quick remedial works, to patch up problems whilst a longer term solution is priced and consulted upon. The managing agent therefore has no excuse for not doing something (immediate and practical) about the problems. It might be worth writing to the freeholder, with a copy to the managing agent, pointing out that they are in breach of the terms of the lease – and as such, individual leaseholders may well have a valid claim for damages due to consequential losses. In particular the following clauses seem relevant: 4.1 Quiet Enjoyment …water coming through the roof and causing damage, is not quiet enjoyment 5.1.2 Insurance/repair…the landlord should mitigate any insured losses by taking appropriate action; e.g. urgent temporary repairs PART II: THE BUILDING SERVICES…the freeholder is self-evidently failing to provide (some of) the services listed Bear in mind too:


5.2.1 Leaseholders should write to the freeholder (and agent) to formally put them on notice that damage has occurred – and the insurers should be advised How long will the First-tier Tribunal take to hear the matter? That will vary from time to time – and Tribunal to Tribunal. As you’re in London you should contact the London Tribunal offices to enquire 020 7446 7700 rplondon@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk I think you’ll find they’ll hear your case within a couple of weeks of your Section 20ZA application. Whilst writing, I note your leases are for a term of 999 years from December 2005…with a ground rent of £250.00pa. Have you thought about buying the freehold, using Right to Enfranchise legislation? With around 990 years unexpired, the cost per person would be relatively affordable. You would then be able to control your own destiny.


Q A


Whole or Part? Is it a legal requirement for a management company to carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report every five years? If so, does this have to be done on THE WHOLE PROPERTY (ie all flats etc) or just THE COMMON AREAS? FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman replies: The simple answer is yes and would apply to the common


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