INTRODUCTION TO LEASEHOLD DISPUTES
These disputes are determined by local Leasehold Valuation Tribunals ( LVTs) which follow the processes described below.
Types of dispute that Leasehold Valuation Tribunals can resolve:
- decide the price to be paid when a leaseholder wants to buy (enfranchise), extend or renew the lease of their home and the value cannot be agreed with the leaseholder;
- vary estate management schemes under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993;
- adjudicate in disputes about the right of first refusal procedure (which gives leaseholders the right of first refusal to buy the freehold when the landlord wishes to sell it) and the compulsory acquisition of the landlord’s interest in blocks of flats;
- decide liability for payment of service charges and can settle disputes about the landlord’s choice of insurer.
- decide applications on dispensation of service charge consultation requirements, administration charges, the right to manage, the appointment of managers, the variation of leases and estate charges
There are in many cases a number of preliminary steps that must have taken place before an application can be made to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. Some applications may require the payment of application and hearing fees. For these reasons you are urged to read the detailed Guidance Notes before making any application.
Making an application
The various types of application require different application forms. These are available in the Forms and Publications section of this site. Alternatively you can obtain forms from the regional Rent Assessment Panel for your area. The forms contain information about what additional material you may need to supply together with details of fees where they are applicable.
Sometimes the application will be transferred to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal from the County Court. This will usually happen if the County Court is dealing with a case that includes issues which the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal can deal with and the judge decides to make an order transferring those issues to the LVT. The claimant in the County Court becomes the applicant to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. Any fees payable will be adjusted to take account of any fees paid to the County Court before an invoice is issued.
Processing an application
When an application is first received, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal will assess the best approach for progressing the case. The Clerk will write to the parties advising them of the next steps and enclosing copies of the application to any party who is not an applicant.
The majority of cases will involve a hearing, where the parties and their witnesses attend to give oral evidence and to explain their case. Some cases can be decided without a hearing (a paper determination) when all sides agree that the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal should consider documents and written representations alone.
If the case is relatively straightforward involving simple disputes about a limited number of issues, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal may ask the parties whether they are content for it to be determined without a hearing. Alternatively, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal may decide that the case is suitable for the fast track, which aims to move the case to hearing within 10 weeks of receipt. The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal may issue directions setting out the steps to be taken by the parties to ensure that all the necessary information about a case is provided.
If the case is a complex dispute involving a large number of issues, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal will decide to deal with the case on the standard track. The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal may hold a pre-trial review (PTR) to try and identify the issues in the case and to see if any part of the dispute can be resolved by agreement. After the PTR the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal will issue directions requiring the parties to take specified steps to ensure that all necessary information about the case is provided. Directions may be given for any type of case.
In some cases there may be uncertainty about whether an application is valid or whether the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal has jurisdiction in respect of an application. In such instances, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal may decide to hold a preliminary hearing to consider the issue. If it does decide it has jurisdiction, it will go on to consider the main case on the same date or at some future date to be arranged.
Attending a hearing
The Clerk will write to the parties giving details of when and where the hearing will take place. Hearings usually take place in meeting rooms as close to the property concerned as possible, for example in the local Town Hall or in a church hall. Hearings organised by the London Panel generally take place at the panel offices in central London. These hearings are open to the public. Sometimes, for example if a tenant has restricted mobility, hearings can take place at the property itself if the tenant agrees.
Hearings are kept as informal as possible. Parties can state their own case if they wish or they may have someone to speak for them, for example a friend, relative or professional expert. Leasehold Valuation Tribunals seek to ensure that both sides have a fair chance to state their case, especially when one party to a case is professionally represented but the other party presents their case in person. Parties should not produce documentation for the first time at a hearing; otherwise the hearing will need to be adjourned to enable the other party to consider the new evidence.
Whether or not there is a hearing, in many cases the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (generally accompanied by the Tribunal Clerk) will wish to make an inspection of the property. Usually they will need to inspect the exterior of the rental property and the common parts. Internal inspections can only be made if the tenant agrees that the Tribunal may enter the property. Inspections may take place before or after the hearing, and are generally on the same day but may occasionally be on another agreed date.
Leasehold Valuation Tribunals do not normally take representations from parties or their representatives during the inspection, although limited exceptions may be made where both parties are present at the inspection and agree to the representations being made.
Landlords and their representatives may attend internal inspections if the tenant agrees. However, they must arrange this with the tenant before the date of the inspection. If the tenant does not agree, the landlord or their representative cannot enter the property.
Evidence supplied by the parties should generally be included in a “bundle”. This is a set of numbered documents relevant to the issues in the case and should be prepared in accordance with the directions. In some instances the parties will be asked to agree a single bundle which contains all documents that they wish to refer to. Alternatively, each party may be asked to provide their own bundle. It is crucial that bundles are supplied in good time for the hearing to prevent unnecessary postponements or adjournments.
The decision and after
In most cases, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal will issue a document containing its decision and the reasons for it as soon as possible after the hearing or paper determination and usually within six weeks. As a general rule the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal cannot order one party to pay another’s costs but it can order one party to reimburse any fees paid by another.
Some leases allow for a landlord to recover legal costs as part of the service charge and the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal does have power to make an order preventing the landlord from doing this using what is known as a section 20c order. A tenant may ask for a section 20c order either in their application form or, if they are a respondent, in writing to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal
The decision of an Leasehold Valuation Tribunal is binding upon the parties although there are rights of appeal to the Lands Tribunal.