Improvements to leasehold property / how to charge leaseholders

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    Improvements to leasehold property / how to charge leaseholders

    Hello

    I own a flat in a block of six. A social landlord owns the block and two of the flats. Two of the leaseholders (one of which is me) replaced the flat windows in 2014: old single glazed (but functional) for new double glazed.

    The landlord recently sent a section 20 stating windows would be changed as there "appears to be a maintenance issue". They didn't inspect the block before hand as they were surprised when two leaseholders pointed out that they'd fitted new windwos, and provided FENSA documentation/etc.

    The landlord accepts the new windows do not need replacing but insists the leaseholders must pay 1/6 of the cost to replace the windows in the other four flats. To be clear, the landlord is not offering to repay the cost of the windows replaced by the two leaseholders, add to the scheme cost and divide the entire scheme by six.

    Ownership of the windows is unclear. The landlord owns the major structural elements of the building (a window is not structural - the building stays up if they are removed) and does not own the glass of the windows. So a reasonable interpretation would have to be made.

    I can see their logic. The lease makes no room for improvements and the lease states all maintenance must be paid for by all leaseholders. But there was never any maintenance issue and the primary driver for replacement is because they wish to improve the building. They wish to improve the building so must argue maintenance and hence can't ask four leaseholders to pay 1/4 of the charge.

    In this situation, is it reasonable for the landlord to recharge all leaseholders 1/6 of the cost of replacing 4 out of 6 leaseholder windows? Note there are no communal areas that require windows.

    Is there any case-law/FTT cases that cover such a scenario?


    mkll

    #2
    if the windows and frames belong to the freeholder, then any work has to be paid for equaly by all leaseholders.
    Now it's pay for only 4, instead of six, a saving to you.

    The roof, the drive, the boundary walls, the garden etc have to be maintained and each leaseholder contributes an equal amount.
    If only 4 windows need to be replaced, then each leaseholder contributes an equal amount.

    But it sounds as though the windows are the leaseholders cost to replace, and not part of the service charges, but read the lease again.
    Then re-read it again as these little things are hidden anywhere, and not always in any order.

    Comment


      #3
      Ram

      Thank you for responding. The lease is not clear on window ownership. There are two interpretations:

      1. The windows are 'structural' and belong to the landlord. But the glass is the responsibility of the leaseholder because if they break the glass, it's their problem.

      2. The windows are not structural, ie the building doesn't fall down if they are removed, and they belong to the leaseholder.

      In scenario (2), the LL does not seem to have an opportunity to recharge. In scenario (1), which is the landlord's view, they can recharge the window replacements.

      My specific scenario is that if I'd not replaced my windows in 2014, I'd be paying 1/6 of, say, £12k (at £2k per set). However I (and another leaseholder) have purchased new windows, hence the total bill for four flats is £8k and they wish everyone to pay £8k/6. This means I've paid £2k + £8k/6.

      Now the LL could turn around and say, we'll refund your service charge with the cost of the windows you purchased, and then deduct £8k/6. But they aren't, they are saying, thank you for buying new windows, we like them and wish to keep them, and now you (and the other leaseholder) can subsidise the other four leaseholders for their new windows.


      mkll

      Comment


        #4
        Did o/p seek permission or notify the LL regarding the replacement windows to his flat?

        Comment


          #5
          Retrospectively. They wanted to see FENSA documentation and have stated they are happy with them. In fact, they've been offered the chance to send a surveyor around to inspect them and have so far not taking the leaseholder up on this offer. They've asked for details of the various contractors approached/quotations to help their procurement process.

          Comment


            #6
            With the greatest respect your actions in changing the windows without seeking landlords consent have made the freeholders job far more difficult.

            the freeholder cannot recover more than 1/6 from the other lessees. they cannot reimburse you and then recover because of the 18 month rule. Their hands are tied by legislation and the lease.

            You are fortunate that they have been totally reasonable and not started mentioning breaches under the lease

            Comment


              #7
              It is up to you, not us, to thrash out who pays for replacement windows.
              Otherwise this thread will go round in circles for ever.

              Go spend £ 100 and see a solicitor to disect the lease and give you a definite answer.

              BUT, I see the freeholder owns 2 flats, and I can assure you, he WANTS cut price windows in his 2 flats, so will argue the leasholders pay for new windows.

              You now have to state that if the cost of replacements is £ 2000 each, then as you have already contributed £ 2000 for your windows, then that only leaves the other 4 to contribute £ 2000 each for the remaining windows.
              You and the other flat pay no more, as in the end ALL leaseholders have paid £ 2000 each for windows.

              But you put it to the freeholder that the windows should be the leaseholders property to replace, and to draft an addition to the freeholders duties, that the freeholder does not own the windows complete, and that then puts this to bed for the next 300 years.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by ram View Post
                It is up to you, not us, to thrash out who pays for replacement windows.
                Otherwise this thread will go round in circles for ever.
                Well, I'm merely wondering if anyone has come across any FTT decsiions (Etc) on similar matters. It must be common where ownership is not clearly defined, particularly when a lease specifically states the glass of the windows is owned by the leaseholder (something the freeholder is choosing to ignore).

                I don't think it's very difficult for the freeholder to solve the problem. They are only claiming "maintenance" because the lease does nt allow for improvements. But a perfectly adequate single glazed window, that opens and shuts, isn't a maintenance issue. The issue is energy effiency, and an issue that I agree requires resolving. But that's an improvement, no matter how it's dressed up, and the freeholder can either pay for the improvement themselves or ask each leaseholder to pay.

                I'm assuming it'll end up at the FTT, who will apply a reasonableness test, given I won't pay a penny and the freeholder will need to approach the FTT for a decision. And it's easy to solve: Take the cost of the scheme for four properties, add the cost of the two properties (X and Y) that have new windows, divide by six and ask each leaseholder to pay (for which I've already paid X). This may mean I pay a little more, or it may mean I get a refund if the leaseholder negotiates a better deal on new windows than I did (unlikely).

                Comment


                  #9
                  Usual advice here is for the lessee to go to the FTT, rather than wait for the LL to sue you.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by JK0 View Post
                    Usual advice here is for the lessee to go to the FTT, rather than wait for the LL to sue you.
                    This comment got me thinking about ownership of windows. In my lease, there's no mention of windows in the Reserved Property (just the "main structural parts" of the building). The glass of the windows is mentioned in the Demised Premises.

                    This article seems to suggest it would be prudent for the landlord to go to the FTT and seek clarification before assuming that they own the windows. I'd assume this was a trivial process, ie writing a letter and paying a small fee, and a sensible step to take in order to avoid arguments over ownership later?

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I agree. Far better to pay the freeholder £50 for consent. Then presumably he can never come after you for one sixth of the cost for doing the whole block? Maybe Leaseholdanswers can confirm?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I think it's complicated.

                        If the landlord accepts that a leaseholder has made an improvement to a property, accepts it will not replace that improvement during a programme of identical improvements to other leasehold flats, and then demands the leaseholder subsidises those similar improvements, what's the point in a leaseholder improving their property?

                        In this case, the leaseholder has to wait forever to have their windows upgraded if the landlord has no plans to do so.

                        I guess there are other examples but none spring to mind.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          We cannot answer without seeing the lease or you get advise on the ownership of the windows and in turn the apportionment of costs. There are sadly and contentiously a number of examples in the FTT and CT LC where social housing landlords get a free pass on these new windows as much of these works are government funded under decent homes and therefore there is pressure exerted not rock the boat.
                          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.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            So the section 20 consultation is being carried out. I've submitted my feedback to the stage 1 and asked for a complaint to be raised over the way this is being handled.

                            Their response is to state categorically that the window replacements are going ahead, I will be invoiced and that they refuse to acknowledge the complaint because they don't feel they've done anything wrong.

                            I can't help thinking that the point of a section 20 is to "consult", not state that the work is going ahead regardless without even distributing the stage 1 responses to all leaseholders. Also, I can't help thinking that any landlord should have a complaints process that at least involves a complaint being referred to someone else within the organisation for review (even if they do nothing!).

                            Comment

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