Section 20 - Can the landlord ignore our comments?

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    Section 20 - Can the landlord ignore our comments?

    Ive searched this forum for similar comments but cant find anything so apologies if its already been asked numerous times..

    I have owned my flat on a long lease for around 6 years. There are two flats (including mine) in the building with a restaurant on the ground floor, all of us using the communal hallways. The landlord is obliged to refurbish the hallway every 4 years but he has failed to do so in the whole time he has owned the freehold to the building (around 17 years). I have spent the last two years trying to force him to carry out the refurb (amongst other things) and having failed to do so I took him to the First Tier Tribunal around three months ago to seek the appointment of a manager (we have no Right to Manage opportunity as the commercial takes up more than 25% of the building). I wasn't able to get a manager appointed on a technicality - unfortunately the manager I submitted details of was a company rather than an individual, and the Judge said he was only willing to appoint individuals (very frustrating!). However, once the judget had made this known he suggested we take the opportunity of being in the same room together to at least try to reach an agreement and we did so with the Landlord agreeing that he would carry out the refurbishment.

    A couple of weeks ago he issued the S20 but, as I had expected, it contains almost no detail - just 7 lines in total saying things like:

    Replace flooring
    Replace skirting board
    Repaint hallway
    Repaint front door or replace door.

    I have told him that this is nowhere near sufficient detail for us to comment on and that he needs to send a new letter detailing precisely what work is to be done but he has refused. He has also stated that "As landlord my decision on the work is final", I know that's not right as he obviously has to give due regard to what the leaseholder has requested but what he will want to do is a cheap and very basic job as I know that he has no lease in place with the restaurant and will probably therefore have to pay for their share. Is there any way we can stop him just doing what he wants to do? What in reality does giving "due regard" to leaseholders comments mean in this context? I have a quite detailed schedule of works that a contractor put together when they came out to quote for me directly a couple of years ago and im thinking about submitting this and saying that's the work we want done (the other leaseholder said they are happy to do the same) but I know that he will just ignore it or say that its too expensive/unnecessary.

    Thanks for any advice anyone is able to give.

    #2
    That's a lot of detail for a first stage.

    It is illegal for them to ignore the observations, but legal for them not to change the specification as a result. The only really need to explain why they disagree with any objections.

    That doesn't mean that they are immune from a subsequent challenge to the reasonableness of the service charge.

    (Note the first notice must give reasons for the work, and also request proposals for contractors. The only way they can really avoid asking at least one leaseholder proposed contractor to bid is by showing they are not suitable for the job. That means any contractor you propose must be vetted as suitable for B2B work of the nature required, e.g. financially sound, good H&S procedures in place, etc.)

    Comment


      #3
      A first stage of an S20 will be : -
      We intend to carry out work, and this is the work, which the landlord has told you about.
      You may offer firms names who you think may offer the same or better value for money ( within 30 days of receiving the first S20)

      "2 nd stage will be.
      This is what we have been quoted
      Replace flooring _______________________ £
      Replace skirting board_____________________£
      Repaint hallway__________________________£
      Repaint front door or replace door.___________£
      Hopfully, quotes will be included within the 2nd stage, for you to question

      But the final say of who refurbishes the landlord's property, remains with the landlord, who will of course, in your case, take the lowest quote. Nothing you can do about that.

      Of course you do not have enough information, but at least landlord has made an effort ( but not by choice )

      3rd stage.
      You may not see the 3rd stage, which just says who they have chosen. Stage 3 is not always given out,

      Comment


        #4
        If they take the lowest quote, there can be no stage 3. One of the main intents seemed to be to avoid work going to a connected company at an inflated price, so if the cheapest quote is taken, or the leaseholder provided contractor is used, it is assumed that that hasn't happened.

        Comment


          #5
          Thanks both for your thoughts.

          I should clarify that my main issue is that I don't think he will do everything that needs doing - eg we need to change the front and back doors as they're really old and knackered, replaster the ceiling as it's in a pretty bad state, get rid of redundant electrical cabling that's running all over the hall, things like that.. is there no way the leaseholders can force the landlord to include these works in the refurbishment?

          Also I know that he will just use cheap material for the flooring which will just mean it gets old and knackered within a couple of years.. does the S20 process not allow the leaseholders in the building to stipulate the type of materials to be used? We just have to go with whatever he selects even though he isn't a leaseholder so (theoretically) won't be paying for any of it?

          Comment


            #6
            I suggest you prepare a specification of all work required ( separate list of the carpenters work and decorators work) and ask the freeholder to get quotations from 3 independent firms for review and acceptance by the leaseholders.

            Comment


              #7
              Normally section 20 complaints are about the work being too expensive, not too cheap, I would have thought.

              Is the landlord contributing towards the costs? That's the only real reason I can think of them going for the cheap options.

              Comment


                #8
                Yeah he claims that he has a lease in place with the restaurant but I know that in reality he doesn't so whilst we are meant to pay a third each (the two flats and the restaurant) I'm sure he will end up paying for the restaurants third. He has tried charging me for works that haven't been done on previous occasions and refuses to supply invoices for anything, etc, which is one of the reasons I took him to the tribunal. My main concern here is v much on the fact that he will do the most basic job imaginable (bit of paint on the walls, stick some new lino over the existing flooring, etc) so he can say he has fulfilled his obligation to refurbish the hallway but in reality it will not be much better than it is now.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Yes he will likely have to pay for the restaurants share of the costs so I know he will try to do as minimal a job as possible to count as having complied with his obligations.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    As others have already said, you shouldn't be expecting much detail in the first stage of section 20 consultation. Your response, at this stage, should be to point out all the items that you think should be included in the refurbishment work, preferably explaining why you think that each one should be included (it's up to you how much detail you give, but I don't see how it could hurt to include details of the lease clauses that make the work the freeholder's responsibility, or why it would be more appropriate to get all of the work done at one time). The unfortunate reality though, is that the freeholder doesn't have to take any notice of your comments at this stage (or at any other point in the consultation process). Where your comments would become relevant is if, at any later date, you challenge service charge costs as unreasonable because changes were not made to take your comments into account. For example, if the hallways are redecorated without replacing doors and/or removing redundant old wiring, and you are then asked to pay for repainting again a year later after doors are replaced, or wiring is removed, you can argue that the cost of the later repainting is unreasonable.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      You can also ask a tribunal to reduce, or discount, costs if they aren't carried out to a reasonable standard - so may not have to pay if the freeholder does try to get the work done far too cheaply.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Thanks again for comments that's really helpful even if it's frustrating that the S20 notice process doesn't seem to allow us much of a say in the thoroughness of refurbishment works. Given that it's leaseholders that have to actually live with the results of the refurbishment rather than the freeholder who may step inside the building once every year or two that seems extremely unfair but I guess that's a discussion for another thread!

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                          #13
                          Section 20 was introduced to deal with abuses by overcharging. The ultimate sanction of under spending is to have a manager appointed.

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