Monthly Archive June 2014

ByMichael Morrison

Do you HAVE to Pay Residential Service Charges to your Landlord?

All residential flat owners on long leases are faced with the usually bi-annual hurdle of paying service charges to their landlord but are they actually payable?

Leases contain clauses that permit the landlord to recover service charges in this manner on production of accounts certified by an accountant. However these accounts are prepared generally on an accruals basis and are of very little use to the tenant if they really wish to know when they are paying for an item, what they have paid and exactly how much was paid.

Existing legislation however permits the flat owner to force the landlord to produce a summary of costs incurred which also has to be certified by an accountant. This is enshrined in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, section 21. Failure of the landlord to produce such a detailed summary of costs to a private tenant is a criminal offence and can be prosecuted through the magistrates courts by the local housing authority. In practice, though, this is not enforced by many local authorities.

So how does this ‘reveal all’ mechanism work?

Firstly the tenant has to request such a summary of costs in writing either directly to the landlord or to the managing agent. The request can also be made on the tenant’s behalf by the secretary of the tenant’s association if desired. The summary has be to supplied to the tenant either one month after the request or within six months from the date of the end of the usual annual accounting period.

The summary must set out the costs in a way showing how they have been or will be reflected in demands for services charges and, in addition, shall summarise each of the following items, namely:
(a) any of the costs in respect of which no demand for payment was received by the landlord within the period
(b) any of the costs in respect of which:
(i) a demand for payment was so received, but
(ii) no payment was made by the landlord within that period, and
(a) any of the costs in respect of which:
(i) a demand for payment was so received, and
(ii) payment was made by the landlord within that period,
and specify the aggregate of any amounts received by the landlord down to the end of that period on account of service charges in respect of relevant dwellings and still standing to the credit of the tenants of those dwellings at the end of that period.

 If the service charges are payable by the tenants of more than four dwellings, the summary shall be certified by a qualified accountant as:
(a) in his opinion a fair summary complying with the above requirements, and
(b) being sufficiently supported by accounts, receipts and other documents which have been produced to him.

Therefore a clear breakdown of the costs and when they were incurred and paid for has to be produced and certified by an accountant. This would make an inspection of the supporting accounts, receipts and other documents as provided by section 22 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985  a transparent exercise.

The actual text of the section is:-

21. Request for summary of relevant costs

(1) A tenant may require the landlord in writing to supply him with a written summary of the costs incurred;
(a) if the relevant accounts are made up for periods of twelve months, in the last such period ending not later than the date of the request, or
(b) if the accounts are not so made up, in the period of twelve months ending with the date of the request,
and which are relevant costs in relation to the service charges payable or demanded as payable in that or any other period.

(2) If the tenant is represented by a recognised tenants’ association and he consents, the request may be made by the secretary of the association instead of by the tenant and may then be for the supply of the summary to the secretary.

(3) A request is duly served on the landlord if it is served on;
(a) an agent of the landlord named as such in the rent book or similar document, or
(b) the person who receives the rent on behalf of the landlord;
and a person on whom a request is so served shall forward it as soon as may be to the landlord.

(4) The landlord shall comply with the request within one month of the request or within six months of the end of the period referred to in subsection (1)(a) or (b) whichever is the later.

(5) The summary shall state whether any of the costs relate to works in respect of which a grant has been or is to be paid under section 523 of the Housing Act 1985 (assistance for provision of separate service pipe for water supply) or any provision of Part I of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (grants, etc for renewal of private sector housing) or any corresponding earlier enactment, and set out the costs in a way showing how they have been or will be reflected in demands for services charges and, in addition, shall summarise each of the following items, namely:
(a) any of the costs in respect of which no demand for payment was received by the landlord within the period referred to in subsection (1)(a) or (b).
(b) any of the costs in respect of which:
(i) a demand for payment was so received, but
(ii) no payment was made by the landlord within that period, and 
(a) any of the costs in respect of which:
(i) a demand for payment was so received, and 
(ii) payment was made by the landlord within that period, 
and specify the aggregate of any amounts received by the landlord down to the end of that period on account of service charges in respect of relevant dwellings and still standing to the credit of the tenants of those dwellings at the end of that period.

(5A) In subsection (5) “relevant dwelling” means a dwelling whose tenant is either:
(a) the person by or with the consent of whom the request was made, or 
(b) a person whose obligations under the terms of his lease as regards contributing to relevant costs relate to the same costs as the corresponding obligations of the person mentioned in paragraph (a) above relate to.

(5B) The summary shall state whether any of the costs relate to works which are included in the external works specified in a group repair scheme, within the meaning of Chapter II of Pt I of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 or any corresponding earlier enactment, in which the landlord participated or is participating as an assisted participant.

(6) If the service charges in relation to which the costs are relevant costs as mentioned in subsection (1) are payable by the tenants of more than four dwellings, the summary shall be certified by a qualified accountant as:
(a) in his opinion a fair summary complying with the requirements of subsection (5), and 
(b) being sufficiently supported by accounts, receipts and other documents which have been produced to him.

 

Many residential landlord companies in London produce certified accounts that bear an accountants certificate with the accountant declaring that the attached accounts comply with section 21 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 when the attached document is just a plain set of accounts produced in an accruals format with some misleading wording taken from the Act. Therefore the accountants ‘misdirect’ themselves.

If such accounts did in fact give all the required information as required by a summary of costs (and given your right to inspect all of the supporting documents  i.e. everything that the accountant saw) would the accountant actually be able to certify them at all?

 

For advice on leasehold issues including enfranchisement contact us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833.

 

 

 

 

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ByDavid7SB

Employment Law– Right to Request Flexible Working

Employment Law is always changing, and this year is no exception. These changes normally come into effect in April or October. This year, however, there does seem to be a variety of changes coming in outside of these times. Notably, after a short delay earlier this year, on 30th June 2014 the modifications on the Right to Request Flexible Working come in to effect.
The changes in themselves are not comprehensive, but could have substantial effects for some businesses.

Exactly what is Flexible Working?

Flexible working is where, as an example, hours of work are varied or staggered. Requests might not always be in the form of a decrease in working hours to a company, as employees could not want or have the ability to afford to decrease their pay, so it could be, for instance, flexi working, compressed hours, working from house or yearly hours; there are numerous options available.

What are the main modifications?

Flexible working will now be available to ALL employees, with certifying service.
As of the 30th June, all employees who certify can make a formal written request for flexible working. The existing statutory procedure is being gotten rid of and companies will now be needed to hear requests in an affordable manner. The previous business grounds for declining requests will remain.

Exactly what should an Employer do if they receive a request for Flexible Working?

On receipt of all formal demands, employers ought to always act fairly and regularly. Preferably following the summary steps below in an affordable way.
– Employers ought to organize to meet with the worker to discuss the formal request in more information, in line with their company’s Flexible Working Policy
– After the meeting, the company ought to take time to think about the request and conversations, which took place during the course of the conference
– The employee must then be notified of the result. This can be done in person first, and then follow-uped in writing.
– The worker has the right of appeal ought to the request be decreased
Summary
As a company, you could now get formal flexible working requests from ALL staff members with qualifying service. All applications should be treated fairly and regularly, and be taken care of in a sensible way.
As a company you will want to ensure that you have all the right paperwork in place to support your business at present and in the future. Therefore if you have issues or want to discuss your current and future contract of employment you ought to consider getting in touch with an employment solicitor. WhichSolicitor.info can suggest the best solicitor in your area.

For a recommended employment solicitor in London contact us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833.

 

Original Article

Recommended Reading

flexible-workingCOVER1[1]

Advice leaflet – The right to apply for flexible working (for requests made before 30 June 2014)

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ByMichael Morrison

How to Cut the Cost of Moving – Cut Fees Not Corners

SOLICITORS conveyancing fees range dramatically. The Solicitors Information Service (020 7483  4833) provides a list of recommended solicitors.
The Solicitors Information Service says: “it is most important for you to find someone who is competent. Anyone charging less than £400 may not be offering a particularly good service, but very expensive firms are probably not any better than moderately priced ones.”

The Sunday Telegraph (May 1999) and The Times (October 1999)

 

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ByMichael Morrison

Moving – and Shaking at the Thought of the Cost

In the past, solicitors based their conveyancing fees on a percentage value of the house, but now, because of cut-throat competition, most offer a flat-rate fee . But be careful the cheapest are not necessarily the best, says Michael Morrison, director of the Solicitors Information Service. The service has a database of reliable solicitors and those on whom they receive negative comments are withdrawn from the list there are some firms who offer cut-price conveyancing and are known to you secretaries to do some of the work. They rely on volume and can afford the odd slip up. Just don’t let that slip up be you.

The Daily Telegraph (May 1999)

 

For a recommended conveyancing solicitor in London contact us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833. formation Service on 020 7483 4833.

 

 

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ByMichael Morrison

End Of The Nightmare?

Two legal rulings will help thousands of flat owners caught up in service charge disputes with their landlords.
Two judges have now confirmed that service charge disputes between flat owners and their freehold landlords should be heard by a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal’s (LVT’s) not by county courts, in landmark judgements that should help thousands.
The second case involved Michael Morrison, who owns one of 133 flats in Oslo Court, Prince Albert Road, Regent’s Park London NW8. The freehold is owned by City and Country Properties, part of the Freshwater Group, one of the biggest landlords in London.
Morrison refused to pay a service charge demand for more than £6200 claiming that the cost of the works was unreasonable, and resulted from the landlords’ neglect of the property over many years.
Morrison, who runs the Solicitors Information Service, represented himself in court against Freshwater’s barrister, who opposed the case being transferred to the Tribunal. But Judge Lawrence had no hesitation in ordering that the case be heard by the LVT and awarding costs against Freshwater.
Solicitors are hoping that these judgements will begin to stop landlords using threats of expensive court action

Evening Standard (March 1998)

 

For a recommended solicitor in London for landlord and tenant, leasehold and enfranchisement matters contact us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833.

 

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ByDavid7SB

Number of cases began in family courts in England and Wales (first quarter of 2014 programs) dropped by 6 %

The number of cases began in family courts in England and Wales in very first quarter of 2014 programs 6 % drop year on year, according to mention

The Ministry of Justice has posted the most up to date stats on kind and quantity of cases that are received and refined through the court system of England and Wales in the very first quarter of 2014 January to March.

family-law-3

This report offers stats on activity in the county, family, magistrates’, Crown and other courts of England and Wales. These stats focus on 4 major categories: civil instances (omitting family members), household cases, criminal situations and judicial reviews. For this version there is also additional yearly details on the Appellate Courts and the Judiciary. The figures themselves offer a summary review of the quantity of situations dealt with by these courts gradually, with statistics likewise broken for the main kinds of instance entailed. The data are utilized to check court workloads, to assist in the development of policy, and their succeeding monitoring and assessment.

For this (June) version, extra yearly information exists for 2013 including the workload in the Appellate Courts, cases under the Mental Capacity Act, work in the Offices of the Supreme Court and varieties of magistrates and sitting days for the judiciary.

Family Cases

In January to March 2014, breakup composed 45 % of new situations in family courts, with private legislation contributing 19 % and economic solution 16 %. In overall, partnership failure instances make up over four-fifths of the courts’ caseload. A comparable photo is additionally viewed for the situations ended.

 

For a recommended family or divorce solicitor in London contact us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833.

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ByDavid7SB

Land Registry – Changes

Land Registry widening its powers and take on local land charge searches

Land Registry is making it easier to register a property in England and Wales.
It is to become the sole registering authority for Local Land Charges (LLC) in England and Wales, leading to a standardised national fee for the first time and an end to the existing ‘postcode lottery’.

The changes will also lead to an improved, standardised and digital service and will result in better access to property information and a more streamlined conveyancing process. Preparatory work will begin from April 15 for a phased migration of the LLC service to begin later that year.

LandRegistry[1]

Work will begin on a phased migration of the LLC service to Land Registry from April 2015.

The announcement was made as Land Registry unveiled the results of its consultation into extending its powers and assuming statutory responsibility for a digitised LLC register for England and Wales.Ed Lester, Chief Land Registrar and Chief Executive, said:

“The proposals will provide a “one stop shop” digital LLC search service, which will improve and standardise the service through faster turnaround times. This is consistent with Government’s digital by default agenda and will ease the process of buying property.”

“We have listened to the consultation feedback on LLC and have made a number of changes to the original proposals. For example, the period covered by a LLC official search will not now be limited to 15 years.”

 

For a recommended conveyancing solicitor in London contact us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833.

 

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