Limitation of service charges: time limit on making demands

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    Limitation of service charges: time limit on making demands

    Under the Landlord And Tenant Act 1985 does S20b only apply to to qualifying works and long ternm agreements for which consultation is required? Or does it apply to any service chargeable item? My Landlord has explained to me that he need only serve a s20b notice in respect of major works, and only where there is a deficit in the service charge to be collected.
    My flat benefits from District heating. However, whilst we have paid an estimated service charge for this we have never had any actual bills sent by the heating provider (i.e to the Landlord). At the end of the service charge year the landlord has refunded the surplus to us but has not mentioned, in the summary, that a heating bill might be forthcoming at a later date. My concern is that once the 18 month rule has passed then I cannot be held liable for this bill. My landlord claims that he need not send me a 20b notice as this is not a major/qualifying work bill and that in any event a s20b notice is only required where my service charge account is in deficit.
    Is this correct?

    #2
    In many ways he is correct, however it is only part of the story.

    In your case district heating ( aka communal heating) is ( we assume) provided and the costs recoverable under the lease, though the service is provided by another ( perhaps by a building under separate ownership/management).

    The law has recently been clarified in that the 18 month clock starts running when the landlord incurs the cost, in this case most likely when the bills are presented.
    Om Property Management Ltd. v Burr [2012]

    There are arguments to the contrary bearing in mind that the service is being provided and the provider known, and the landlord aware of that> They should have made enquiries, or warned leaseholders to accept the surplus but save it up, which a cautious leasehold ought to have done anyway.

    In addition leases may allow landlords to put in a liability into accounts for monies for which they have not yet received an invoice, and if so that it is arguable that they should have done so.

    The answer is therefore on the facts of the case but given the bill will be hefty,

    A twist is if the landlord of your building has a head lease under which the heating is charged to them. The 18 month rule applies to them as the tenant, and there may be some room to challenge the charges as not being due to the Freeholder, who , having incurred them, failed to bill or notify his tenant, your landlord, in time.
    Based on the information posted, I offer my thoughts.Any action you then take is your liability. While commending individual effort, there is no substitute for a thorough review of documents and facts by paid for professional advisers.

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      #3
      Don't forget that if you intend to "not pay for the heating" by continuing
      action that "you don't have to pay" and you are sucessful in any claim
      , howsoever brought or concluded ,
      Then if there are no surplus funds, and legaly do not have to
      pay for the heating, and the money does not come in for the heating
      bill, then it cannot be paid, and services will be cut off if no money
      comes in.

      Always be careful when you state "I don't have to pay" because of
      18 month rule, as you may suffer as a result of being greedy by
      trying not to pay for services you have already used.

      R.a.M.

      Comment

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