Section 20 despite long term neglect of the buildings

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    Section 20 despite long term neglect of the buildings

    For the last 6 months myself and fellow residents have been trying to defend ourselves against freeholder company with S20 work. Incredibly frustrating as they seem to not have the answers to the most basic questions.

    Current estimate of work is £15k for each household.

    My question is this

    I know that legally they can pretty much do what they want

    We have been asking repeatedly for the maintanance and repair records for the building and they have not supplied them, despite agreeing to. They keep stalling.

    We believe they don't have any, as for the last 10 years there has been no work done other than some painting which was actually done poorly and reported to them but was never repaired.

    So now we have:

    1) balconies that are so unsafe they've issued formal notices not to stand on them
    2) guttering which is over flowing continually
    3) damp coming into the properties
    4) rotting cladding outside
    5) Porches with large gaps where wood has splintered and fallen away
    6) Scaffolding holding up some parts of the outside

    If you accept the view that they have neglected this building so badly that now they need to entirely refurb ALL outside areas, then do we have ANY chance of fighting this in court?


    I have looked into civil court and the official guide states:
    • The Judge hears the case on his or her own
    • deciding them by finding facts
    • applying the relevant law to them
    • and there may be considerable argument about what that law actually is – and then giving a reasoned judgment

    So my view is that this is a large extent of what does the common man believe? This company that has over £47m in assets, and over £8m revenue are trying to charge us substantial costs for work due to them not having maintained the buildings.

    I keep hearing "legally they can do XYZ"... well legally has this EVER been challenged formally? I can't help but feel we have a good case here. Am I wasting my time or is this worth pursuing?


    I think you have some options :

    1. Ask your local MP to help you against the freehold company .

    2. Organise the leaseholders to make a collective purchase of the freehold title . It may be cheaper than paying £15K per flat .

    3. Make an application to the FTT on whether £15K charge is reasonable for maintenance work.

    4. Sell your flat .


      Originally posted by Gordon999 View Post
      I think you have some options :

      1. Ask your local MP to help you against the freehold company .

      2. Organise the leaseholders to make a collective purchase of the freehold title . It may be cheaper than paying £15K per flat .

      3. Make an application to the FTT on whether £15K charge is reasonable for maintenance work.

      4. Sell your flat .

      Thanks Gordon. Unfortunately selling the flat is a very sore subject. We did sell last year and bought our dream 4 bed detached. 3 weeks before exchange the major works suggestion was announced and the whole thing collapsed. It has taken a lot to get over it. Particularly as we are now losing equity and a good amount of money whilst we are stuck here

      MP - contacted twice but very little other than a letter saying "ive raised this with Xxx". I'm going to try again

      We aren't in flats. These are town house type things of which there are 30. I believe 21 are privately owned. There's no way anyone would be able to afford it, people are not very well off and that's why this £15k figure is causing so much distress.

      The FTT sounds interesting. I'm going to seek legal advice I think.

      As stated the more I consider the appalling management and neglect the more I question how they can ask for any money at all.


        I can't see the tribunal reducing the charge to nothing; civil proceedings don't normally provide for punishments. What they probably should do, is to reduce it to the cumulative cost of properly maintaining it for the last 10 years, less any expenditure already made.

        I doubt that they could deal with consequential losses, so I suspect you would have to sue for compensation for having to do your own repairs early, in the county court.


          Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post
          I can't see the tribunal reducing the charge to nothing; civil proceedings don't normally provide for punishments. What they probably should do, is to reduce it to the cumulative cost of properly maintaining it for the last 10 years, less any expenditure already made.

          I doubt that they could deal with consequential losses, so I suspect you would have to sue for compensation for having to do your own repairs early, in the county court.
          Thanks for the reply. I've not actually done any repairs myself - although other residents have. Including one who spent £3k on outside work and guttering.

          We've all written a joint letter. It's not sent yet but the general tone is factual, clear and asking questions/raising concerns. We've stated that we don't want to enter into a dispute but we just want some communication and answers.

          I'm going to seek the legal advice - even if it's just a phone call and then go from there.

          I am pretty much settled on the fact that I am not happy to pay 100% of the invoice that comes my way. E.g. if the bill is to be £15k then I don't believe it's fair or right that I pay every penny of it.


            The advice to try to purchase the freehold interest is well worth pursuing. If you can, it is worth avoiding a long term battle with a freeholder who has deeper pockets than yours.

            The advice to involve your MP is also likely to assist you to achieve your aim. Don’t give up, contact your MP again and inform him/her that the freeholder has not responded to the MP’s letter.

            Any form of legal action is likely to involve considerable time and expense and you should not underestimate the stress of pursuing a case where you may need to finance substantial costs, the recovery of which would be uncertain. You should check your lease carefully to see whether or not the freeholder could claim its costs against you, at least initially. A “good case” should not be your only criterion for taking legal action and you should consider the bigger picture and the longer term.

            If you decide nevertheless to take legal action, please return for further assistance.



              The freeholder is under no obligation to provide you with repair records. However, from your post, it appears they agreed to.

              I am unclear whether the S20 consultation was completed. If not, then you and other leaseholders might like to engage in the process. The freeholder is legally obliged to respond to your observations. This will provide you with the opportunity to raise issues, nominate contractors etc. See the LEASE website for information on S20.

              If essential works are required and the works are landlord’s obligations in the lease, it seems the freeholder is following the correct procedure.

              Further, if your lease obliges you to pay X% then you will arguably be liable for this sum. You should also be mindful that the S20 figure is estimated and there may be unforeseen problems that arise when the work is undertaken. The freeholder will be able to recover additional sums from leaseholders.

              If you believe the cost of the works is unreasonable then, as others’ suggested, you can apply to the FTT for a determination. However, I do not think you are claiming £15K for the work to be done is unreasonable but rather you feel the work is only necessary because of neglect. That is another matter.


                Just to expand on my earlier comments, if you apply to a Tribunal, you should expect your freeholder to be represented by a team of expensive experts, a solicitor, barrister and a chartered surveyor at a combined cost in the region of £1,000 per hour.

                Unless you are confident of arguing your case against experts, you would need to instruct experts as well, especially a chartered surveyor to prepare a report and explain why the cost of the work is unreasonable.

                Based on what you have described, you should have a good chance of reducing your share of the cost of the works but the more important issue will be who is liable for the costs of the case and there is never any guarantee that you would recover all of your costs. In order to protect your position, you would need to pay the freeholder’s demands and then try to recover any reduction made by the Tribunal.

                At the end of the case, “win” or “lose” your freeholder would remain in a position to impose future charges and there is no limit to the imagination of an unscrupulous freeholder when he has the right to charge leaseholders. I sympathise with you but I would give serious consideration to the suggestion made by Gordon999 in #2 of trying to purchase the freehold interest so that you can manage the property yourselves at a reasonable cost.



                  From the wording of your post it sounds as if you have little experience of Leasehold Law.

                  The main points to bear in mind are:-

                  1. Service Charge amounts are recoverable contractually down top the lease, this normally allows the FH to recover costs to maintain the building.

                  2. Unlike most other areas of expense the LH is protected by the need for the FH to only incur costs that are reasonable, now of course what is reasonable or not is upto the panel that sits at an FTT (note this jurisdiction of reasonableness sits with an FTT not a county court, the CC deals with more black n white/legal matters).

                  3. The FTT is supposed to be more of an informal/low cost forum for leasehold disputes although most of us know it has become anything but, personally I prefer and have had far more success at county court small claim track.

                  4. The most important bit in your case is the element of Historic Neglect, the argument that if the FH had done the work when he was supposed to it only would of cost £100 but now its going to cost £1000 due to his delay, see here >

                  Advice given is based on my experience representing myself as a leaseholder both in the County Court and at Leasehold Valuation Tribunals.

                  I do not accept any liability to you in relation to the advice given.

                  It is always recommended you seek further advice from a solicitor or legal expert.

                  Always read your lease first, it is the legally binding contract between leaseholder and freeholder.


                    Thanks everyone, some really useful views here.

                    Our priority is to move house, and therefore we need this work to start in May, and finish 4 months later as the freeholder has stated. I am concerned it will overrun and also concerned about the quality. However, that's a separate issue at this stage.

                    As soon as the work is done we want to get the house on the market and move. So maybe paying the money and THEN trying to recover some is the best action.

                    As stated we have written a joint letter. It's very good, factual and clearly lays out what our concerns are. My worry with this letter is it says something like "there is numerous reports of neglect and we feel you are not taking account for your failures in upkeep. We request that you pay a proportion of the costs, such as guttering and scaffolding".

                    The reason we selected scaffolding was because that is quite a large part of the costs due to it being a 3 storey building. I am concerned that by saying this, maybe I am basically agreeing that I will pay some or most of the cost, when in fact I am not saying that at all.


                    I also need to be aware of timing. The formal consultation has not yet started. They have not got their two quotes. So I don't want to start jumping the gun in terms of any formal action.

                    HOWEVER, I am worried as they say the invoices will be given at the end of the project, as they can't predict EXACTLY what each property will require. E.g. they take off some wood and they may find issues. Some need new balconies, some don't.


                      Please note that you need to be a leaseholder at the time that you make an application to the Tribunal or to the Court. Any application would need to be disclosed to the prospective purchaser and therefore could affect your sale.

                      You should seek legal advice regarding the content of a letter and it would be better for it to be issued by a solicitor. You are right to be concerned about accepting liability for the majority of the costs, a letter would need to be drawn up carefully to list all items which you are challenging and it will be implicit that anything not contained within the letter will be regarded as agreed.

                      If you are looking for a quick sale and solution, you may wish to make a without prejudice offer once you have a firm quote to work on but there is no saying how the freeholder will respond.

                      I would not dismiss the idea of purchasing the freehold interest, that could attract potential buyers of your property. I would certainly leave it as an option if you intend to try to negotiate with the freeholder.


                        There doesn't seem to be many solicitors that I can see who deal with S20 Leaseholder disputes. Also, do you think I am acting too early - the formal consultation has not started yet but they want to start building in May. So I feel I should be getting ahead now.

                        I spoke with the Leaseholder Advice Service today - not sure if it was that useful. In fact it was very disappointing really. The person just seemed to say "yes you could do that".... "Yes why not"... with no real advice.

                        E.g. "Yes you can submit a letter - why not?"

                        She did suggest getting a Surveyor round but I don't see how they would help. The building has cladding on the outside which is rotten and falling to bits. part of the worries are we don't know what's; behind that. A surveyor would have the same issue.

                        Really confused


                          I'm a Leaseholder who went through S20 major works. It started at £7k and spiralled to £42k (my share alone) due to unforeseen works.

                          Had I known more about the S20 process I would have sought advice from a solicitor early on.

                          Also had I known that lessees are able to object to the freeholders surveyor we would have done so and requested our own independant surveyor to investigate the works thoroughly and provide a clear scope of works and costs.

                          I recommend you join the National Leasehold Campaign on Facebook where there are 12k leaseholder members who can help and support you. Also look at Leasehold Knowledge Partnership. There are recommended specialist lawyers on the LKP site where you can get advice.

                          It would be better to educate yourself with the consultation process rather than challenge at the first tier tribunal. I have been 4 times and incurred thousands of extra costs of the freeholders legal team.

                          Enfranchisement is a good idea too but make sure you follow the statutory route and not just ask the freeholder informally for a cost. It's also possible to apply for right to manage (if you qualify) and take control of the works through your own managing agent. However it can take 6 months to get.

                          Sounds like you need the works done and done well. Therefore if you just want to get it done, instruct your own surveyor. Then get your own quotes from your own contractors. You may find its a fairer cost and works are executed well if you take control.

                          If you do check out the sites I've mentioned, pls also join in with the law commissions consultations and petition. There is a lot happening for Leasehold reform in govt currently.


                            In your post 3, you say your property is a town house and not a flat ? What does your property title ( at Land Registry) say ?

                            Are you owner of a leasehold House Or leasehold Flat ? Are some 21 houses under freehold title at your site ?


                              The advice which you received to instruct a surveyor would have been based on the assumption that you wish to challenge the reasonableness of any charges due to the neglect of the freeholder. You would need a surveyor to inspect the property before the work is carried out, prepare a report, take pictures and estimate how much of the cost would be normal repairs and maintenance and estimate how much of the cost is due to neglect.


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