LEASEHOLD VALUATION DISPUTES
Content applies to England
If you have problems negotiating with your freeholder, a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) may be able to help. They can settle most financial disputes, and may also be able to sort out disagreements about the quality of services provided.
What problems can the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) help with?
Most disputes between leaseholders and freeholders can be taken to an Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. This might include disagreements about:
- insuring the building
- how much you have to pay in service charges
- the quality of services provided
- how much you have to pay to extend your lease
- how much you have to pay to buy the freehold of your building
Leasehold Valuation Tribunals can decide whether the amount you have to pay for services or repairs is 'reasonable'. This won't necessarily be the price you were hoping for, but can often be less than the freeholder has asked for. The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal can't usually force the freeholder to refund any money you have already paid, or order her/him to pay your legal costs. If you have problems like these you may need to go to court instead, so get professional advice.
If your building is being managed very badly, you can ask the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal to appoint a manager. The freeholder would still own the property, but would lose the right to manage it. S/he may also lose the right to collect ground rent.
If what your lease says about maintenance, repairs, insurance or service charges is unclear or unfair, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal may be able to change it..
How do I apply to an Leasehold Valuation Tribunal?
You can get an application form from the Leasehold Advisory Service website, or directly from your local Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. Check to make sure that you don't have to do anything before making an application. For example, if you want to appoint a manager for the property, you normally have to give the freeholder a certain amount of written notice before applying. You can get advice from the Leasehold Advisory Service, a solicitor, a housing aid centre, citizens advice bureau or other advice centre in your area. Use the Advice Services Directory
to find one.
How do LVTs work?
LVTs are a panel of three members: a solicitor, a valuer, and a non-specialist lay person. They are independent and impartial. They are a type of legal hearing, but are less formal than going to court. Many people have presented their own case and won, even if the other person had a solicitor. However, it is usually worth getting professional advice before you start.
Problems can be taken to an Leasehold Valuation Tribunal by either the leaseholder or the freeholder. Hearings do not always take place at the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal's own offices. They are often held near your home, such as at the local council's offices and are usually open to the public. If you are thinking of asking an Leasehold Valuation Tribunal to settle a disagreement, you may want to go along to see a hearing first. Your regional Leasehold Valuation Tribunal office will be able to tell you when and where a hearing involving a similar problem will take place.
What happens at the hearing?
You need to gather evidence before the hearing. The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal will make its decision based on the information you and the freeholder provide. Both sides will have the chance to present your side of the story. The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal will ask questions, and you will have the opportunity to question the freeholder and any witnesses. You will probably have to wait for several weeks after the hearing before a written decision comes through the post. Many Leasehold Valuation Tribunal's have waiting lists, so the whole process often takes up to a year.
Is the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal's decision enforceable?
Most freeholders will follow the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal's decision. If s/he refuses, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal doesn't have the power to force her/him to comply with the decision but the decision is still binding and you can apply for a court order to force her/him to do so. If you are in this situation, you will probably need help from a solicitor.
What if I don't agree with the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal's decision?
If you think the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal's decision is wrong, you may be able to appeal. This is normally only possible if the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal acted unfairly, or didn't follow the correct procedures. You can't appeal just because you don't agree with the decision.
How much will it cost?
Application fees vary from £300 to £500. If you win, the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal may be able to order the freeholder to refund this. If you (or your partner) are on benefits, you may get a discount or may not have to pay any fees at all. If the problem affects more than one leaseholder, you can apply together and share the costs.
However, you may have to pay a surveyor, property manager and/or a solicitor. You can't usually claim these back. Some freeholders try to include her/his legal costs in future service charges. Check your lease to see if it says s/he can do this. If it does, ask the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal to make an order preventing her/him from doing so.