By J
27/06/2011

Speak up

Southall Court (Residents) Ltd v Tiwari and another [2011] UKUT 218 (LC) will, I suspect, become a bit of a landlord favorite case over the next few years as it contains two passages that they’re likely to be rather pleased about.

Southall Court is a block of 48 flats in Middlesex. The landlord sought a determination under s.27A(3), LTA 1985, that £2,000 (odd) of service charges were payable on account of major works. The LVT found that just under £500 was payable. The main difference relates to roof repairs. The landlord said that the roof needed total replacement. The LVT disagreed, and took the view that the roof could last another 12-18 months and reduced the interim service charges accordingly.

The landlord successfully appealed to the Upper Tribunal. The landlord had a “wide discretion” as to the programme  of works to be adopted and, so long as the decision was within the range of reasonableness, it would be unimpeachable. It could not be said that 12-18 months useful life was sufficient to mean that it would be unreasonable to now commence replacement works.

In addition, there was a (albeit small) sinking fund to contribute to the works; this was a relevnat factor which should have been taken into account.

Further, the leaseholders had been consulted under s.20, Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and had not made any comments about the need to replace the roof. “In the absences of any objections during the consultation process, a landlord is entitled to conclude that there is no serious objection to the proposed works.” The tenants are under a “duty” to participate in the consultation process.

It followed that the appeal was allowed.

See what I mean about the good news for landlords. The “range of reasonableness” stuff isn’t new (‘tho it’s always useful to have it clearly stated), but the point about the obligation on tenants to participate in the s.20 consultation process (with the implication that it’ll harm an argument about reasonableness under s.19) is a new one. Expect to see this case cited in all landlord skeleton arguments…

J is a barrister. He considers housing law to be the single greatest kind of law known to humankind and finds it very odd that so few people share this view.

4 Comments

  1. JAC

    I suspect that this decision reflects a sympathetic understanding that sometimes the landlord is an a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” position. You get a lessee on the top floor demanding the replacement of the roof now and the lessees downstairs wanting to avoid having to pay for it so saying patch repairs or the status quo is all that is required.

    The other point emphasised in the case was that LVT or court applications should be looked as a last resort and mediation ought to be considered.

    Reply
  2. J

    Whilst mediation is usually worth considering, the UT(LC) was particularly concerned to try it in this case, given the history of litigation and the fact that this building never seems to be out of the LVT.

    Reply
  3. Peter Ward

    [Edited by J – I thought carefully about this and, although there was nothing that was objectionable per se in what you wrote, it made various factual statements that are simply beyond the knowledge of the NL writers and that don’t appear on the face of the UT decision that we blogged about. I’m reluctant to facilitate people in re-litigating their cases in the comments section and, for that reason, I’ve edited this comment]

    Reply

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