We are a block of fifty flats and our landlord has told us he is going ahead to remove a safety hazard from the roof without following the usual consultation process "due to the urgency and the large costs that the development would incur".
My understanding is that even with urgent works he needs to get authorisation to bypass the section 20 process in order to speed things up. Has there been a change in the law?
Also, when he wrote the letter the hazard had been stabilised so there was no immediate danger, but even if there were surely it is his responsibility to nullify it in the first instance and then follow the process? If it remains a danger, then to get permission from a tribunal to move ahead speedily?
I would be grateful for your help in the matter because it strikes me that he could claim safety hazard for any works he doesn't want to consult on.
Thank you for your enquiry.
Assuming that the cost of roof works amounts to more than £250.00 for one or more of the residential lessees, Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act will be engaged.
As such, the landlord must either follow the consultation process prescribed by Section 20 and associated regulations (requiring the service of at least two notices upon the tenants) or obtain dispensation from the consultation requirements. Failing this, the landlord will be able to recover no more than £250.00 from any leaseholder in respect of the cost of the works.
As you have identified, there has been no change in the law in the above respect (and there is no exemption in respect of works which abate/remove a safety hazard).
Applications for dispensation of the Section 20 requirements are made to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).
From your enquiry, it appears that the works have not yet been carried out. If your landlord is experienced (or seeks legal advice), you will most likely receive notification of a dispensation application shortly. Any such application will probably be accompanied by directions (from the Tribunal) informing you how to object to the application.
The effect of recent case law is that the Tribunal will often grant dispensation, albeit sometimes on terms. Examples of terms which the Tribunal may attach to dispensation are that only a certain percentage of the cost of the works may be recovered via the service charge or that the landlord is to pay the tenants’ legal costs of dealing with the application.
The leading case on dispensation is Daejan Investments v Benson. This case establishes that the key question which the Tribunal must consider when deciding whether to grant dispensation (or on what conditions to grant dispensation) is whether the tenants have been prejudiced by the landlord’s failure to follow the usual consultation process. If you receive a dispensation application, you should give some careful consideration as to whether you feel that the lack of consultation prejudices you – perhaps the landlord is paying in excess of the market rate for the works or there is a more effective way of removing the hazard.
Richard Owen, Associate Solicitor at JB Leitch