I'm a leaseholder and need some advice
Repairs to your home and shared facilities
Many leaseholds only last for a fixed period of time, after which the ownership of the accommodation returns to the freeholder. This time period is set by the freeholder - they may sell a flat with a 99 year lease, which means that 99 years after this sale ownership of the flat will return to him/her. If the freeholder sells the lease of the flat to 'Mr Smith', who 10 years later sells it to 'Mr Jones', then Mr Jones (and his family) will only own the flat for a maximum of 89 years. This is the time remaining on the lease at the point of sale from Mr Smith. Although Mr Jones can subsequently sell the lease, its value may decrease as the length of the lease shortens.
The owner of a lease is responsible for the repair and maintenance of the property as described in the leasehold agreement. This agreement should also set out the responsibilities of the freeholder to maintain, service and insure those parts of the building which are outside the lease and defined in the freehold. In addition, the agreement will set out the payments that the leaseholder will have to make to pay for these matters.
The leasehold agreement is a contract between the leaseholder and the freeholder; it sets out the responsibilities of both parties and it may include actions that can be taken if the agreement is broken. The leasehold agreement is a civil contract, and can only be enforced by one party taking the other to court to obtain a judgement. A failure by a leaseholder to comply with the agreement may result in them losing the property.
The freeholder of the building will usually be responsible for fire safety under the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order 2005. This requires that he carry out a fire safety risk assessment, and takes appropriate action. More information is available on the Communities and Local Government website. Freeholders should also undertake an asbestos risk assessment.
Repairs that leaseholders are responsible for
Nearly all leases say that the leaseholder is responsible for looking after their part of the building. This usually includes repairs to:
- all internal decoration, including carpets and paintwork
- furniture and appliances
- internal plumbing and wiring
Repairs that freeholders are responsible for
The freeholder is usually responsible for repairs to:
- the building structure, including the roof, guttering and external render
- any below ground drainage
- shared parts of the building, such as lifts and communal stairways
They are only responsible for these repairs if they know they are needed. The freeholder doesn't have to inspect the property to check, but some do - particularly in large blocks of flats.
A leaseholder who is aware of repairs that the freeholder is responsible for should write to their freeholder as soon as there are any problems and give details of the repairs that are needed. The freeholder should be given a realistic deadline for completing repairs. It is important to put a date on the letter and keep a copy.
In some cases freeholders are responsible for any Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing. You should contact the HMO team to find out more.
I'm a leaseholder so why has the Council has served a formal Housing Act 2004 Notice on me for works that the freeholder is responsible for?
The recent Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) case of Hastings Borough Council and Braear Developments Limited has set case law for Councils regarding whom they are required to take formal action on in cases where repairs are required to remedy health and safety risks in the home.
In many cases where works are required to the common parts of a building, whilst the leasehold agreement states these are the responsibility of the freeholder, the Council is required to serve the formal notice on all the leaseholders of the building collectively. In such cases leaseholders should follow the procedure outlined in 'Repairs that freeholders are responsible for'.
Who pays for repair work on a leasehold house or flat
Leaseholders usually pay for repairs that are stipulated in the lease.
Leaseholders may have to pay some or all of the costs involved. Freeholders must consult with leaseholders if this is the case. This is explained in more detail on the leasehold advisory service website and is often referred to as a Section 20 consultation (as the procedure for consultation is set out in Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985).
The freeholder's buildings insurance may cover all or part of the cost, for example, if the damage is caused by an accident but where something needs to be done that isn't covered by the insurance, such as replacing a worn-out lift, each leaseholder normally has to pay a share of the total cost.
If the freeholder refuses to do repairs
A freeholder is breaking the conditions of a lease if they refuse to carry out repairs they're responsible for.
Leaseholders should get specialist legal advice if this happens as they may be able to take the freeholder to court to force them to do the work. The court may also be able to order freeholders to pay leaseholders compensation. Hastings Borough Council is unable to provide this level of advice and you should use the gov.uk Legal Adviser Finder to find a legal adviser in your area.
If other leaseholders don't pay
The freeholder can still get the work done even if one or more leaseholders refuse to pay for essential repairs. The freeholder can't use this as an excuse to put off the repairs. This is usually the case even if your lease says that the freeholder doesn't have to organise the work until the leaseholders have paid for it.
As long as the freeholder has consulted the leaseholders about the work and the costs are reasonable, the freeholder can include them in the service charge. If any leaseholder refuses to pay the service charge, the freeholder can take that person to court.
Freeholders can't ask any leaseholder to pay more than their share. You should get specialist legal advice if this happens.
I'm a homeowner