The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) is an independent body which role is to facilitate the settlement of disputes between landlords and leaseholders. Its role is to provide accessible advice and offer a less formal hearing than the court proceedings as well as aim to preserve the relationships between the parties. LVT’s decision is legally binding and, if necessary, can be enforced by the courts if the parties do not accept the tribunal’s decision. There are five regional LVT offices in London, Northern Midland, Southern, Eastern and Wales.
The LVT can decide on number of issues such as:
- The reasonability of the amount of service charge: the issue arises if as a tenant you think that your service charge is unreasonably high and the landlord should reduce it or if the tenant does not think they should be liable to pay service charge at all.
- The standard of the repairs carried out: whether or not it was an acceptable standard
- The standard of services: relates to any services carried out by the landlord or his contractors
- The specifications of future repairs: whether or not they are reasonable
- Details regarding the insurance, such as its cost and suitability
- The value of a freehold or extension to a lease: LVT as an independent body will be able to present an unbiased valuation
The tribunal normally comprises of three members: a surveyor acting as a valuer, a lawyer, who often acts as a chairman and a lay member of the public. The parties can represent themselves at a hearing and do not have to be represented by lawyers but it might be useful to instruct one to handle your case.
Cases handled by the LVT
The LVTs handle a vast amount of cases such as the following:
- Matters relating to a lease such as extending it or changing some of its terms (usually arises with regards to long leases)
- Issues surrounding purchasing the freehold on property which the leasehold is already owned
- Appointing a person to manage a block of flats (the right to manage)
- Fees and charges in relation to management, administration or services provided
- Issues surrounding the purchase of home insurance.
In certain circumstances it may be worth attempting to mediate on the issues where conflict has arisen. Both parties to a dispute should try to resolve it amongst themselves or with a help of mediator who is impartial to the dispute. Hiring a mediator will incur a fee to cover their costs and pay for the premises where the mediation is held but the process often proves less stressful and easier than the legal route. If however it proves impossible to reach an agreement then the parties can appeal to the LVT.
You need to fill out a form which can be obtained online or from the Residential Property Tribunal Service in order to start the appeal process. The forms contain guidance notes and it is important to make sure that the appeal is made within strict time limits.
The cost of an appeal depends on a number of factors such as the type of hearing and the reason for the appeal. The charge can be up to £500 but it can be shared if the application is made as a group comprising of other tenants or neighbours. Reductions and exemptions are provided to those who are on state benefits. In some situations the money paid to apply can be recovered, for example after winning an appeal. It may be worth seeking legal advice before appealing to the LVT. Free legal advice is provided by The Citizens Advice Bureau as well as the Leasehold Advisory Service. You may want to hire a solicitor to represent you at appeal, as their expertise can prove very useful.