Service Charge Disputes - A Building Surveyors view

The history of modern Landlord and Tenant law goes back to the middle ages so it’s no surprise that Landlords and Tenants can find themselves at each others throats –. In those days the parties to a dispute would just run each other through with a broad-sword. Nowadays they face off at the LVT!

Having acted in respect of many disputes over the years it seems to me many of them come down to the same issues. Here are my top 4 with a few thoughts on how the involvement of a Chartered Building Surveyor may help:

1.         Landlord’s Improvements


            Sometimes the landlord blatantly improves a property and seeks to charge the costs to the service charge.  In such cases it can often be easy to identity the improvements and the value of them so they be discounted for service charge purposes.  Sometimes the line between a legitimate repair and an improvement can sometimes be harder to define – for example where old building elements can no longer be repaired, and need to be renewed. In some cases this is allowed but it can be difficult to know without specialist help. In such cases the advice of a Chartered Building Surveyor will assist you in understanding the degree of improvement that has taken place, the reasons for it; and if in dispute, the value of the improvement works.

2.         Quality of Repairs

            Many disputes arise with a Landlord carrying out poor or inadequate repairs.  I often hear stories where repeated, low quality repairs have been made to a building eventually exceeding the cost of a proper repair in the first place!  Sometimes the quality of a repair can be too high with a Landlord seeking the cost of more extensive repairs than are necessary, or with inappropriately expensive materials or methods.  A Building Surveyor will be able to advise you as to the reasonableness of a repair in terms of its cost and quality.

3.         Cost of Repairs

            There is no legal obligation for a Landlord to carry out the cheapest repair possible, but what is done, must be reasonable given the particular circumstances. This is probably the most common source of dispute regarding building repairs and it is vital to obtain professional advice as to the reasonable cost of repair or maintenance works carried out if in dispute. It will almost certainly be impossible to pursue a case at LVT for example without expert evidence on the levels of costs charged.

4.         Consequences of Disrepair

            Whilst in some cases disputes arise because of works the Landlord has done in other cases disputes can arise because of a lack of attention and repair. If a building is not professionally evaluated and maintained regularly small defects can escalate causing damage and leading to expensive repairs becoming necessary.  A Building Surveyor will be able to advise as to the consequences that may arise as a result of a failure to repair (or failing to repair properly). They will be able to assist you in evaluating what works should be done and the reasonable cost of those works.

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