One of the things I like about Landlord and Tenant law is that it’s never dull. Or rather, if it is dull then it won’t be for long, because somebody is going to change it. Often immediately, and sometimes with retrospective effect.
This is what happened with the recent case on the protection of tenants’ deposits – Superstrike v Rodrigues EWCA Civ 669 – [my piece from 20.6.13]. The law, as it had been understood since 2007 was changed in the stroke of a key and with retrospective effect back to 2007, leaving thousands of landlords open to claims for penalties from their former tenants for failing to re-notify them that their deposits had been protected when the initial fixed term tenancy expired and the periodic tenancies began. Unless of course the Supreme Court decides that it hasn’t changed at all, or the CA decides that on reflection the decision didn’t mean quite what it looks like it means as at today. We shall see.
Well the law has been changed again, although not quite to quickly – we were warned on 29.4.13 and the change takes place from 1.7.13 onwards. However the consequences could still be messy as it has hardly been the subject of wall-to-wall publicity.
It concerns service charges and administrative charges for residential properties let on long leases. Demands for these have (by s153 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002) to be accompanied by a summary of the tenant’s rights and obligations. If not then the monies demanded are not due and can be withheld. The summary is prescribed in some detail in the statutory instrument down to the size of the print (not less than 10 point). The summaries are slightly different for service charges and for administrative charges. And they set out in a number of places the powers that the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal has to decide on disputed service charges, approve works, determine breaches and so on. All good useful stuff, although in all fairness they could have a bit more detail here and there.
Well, you are a bright lot and have an interest in this sort of thing, so you probably know that the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal, together with a number of other land-related bodies such as the Agricultural Lands Tribunal and the Adjudicator of HM Land Registry are being amalgamated into the new First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) with effect from 1.7.13. Only for England (not Wales) in relation to the LVT and the ALT, although the Adjudicator is being abolished entirely, and won’t be able to continue in exile in the valleys.
There has been quite a lot of publicity given to the new rules which will apply to the FTT(PC) – the snappily-titled Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)) Rules 2013/1169 – which will be much more like the CPR that apply in the civil courts, and the Tribunal will get power to strike cases out, award more costs in appropriate cases, and give more effective directions, with teeth. However most commentators (apart from Brady Solicitors of Nottingham) seem to have overlooked the fact that as the LVT goes it would be pretty pointless to keep their name in the summaries served with the demands. So Schedule 6 of the Transfer of Tribunal Functions Order 2013/1036 takes the opportunity of altering the prescribed notice to give the new name, and make a few other small changes.
So, if you are a landlord, or advising a landlord, do make sure you serve the new form of summary with any service/administrative charge demands on or after Monday 1st July 2013, or the charges just aren’t due, which could be embarrassing, and potentially expensive. The actual changes are set out in the SI 2013/1036 and there are forms of the revised notice on Bradys‘ website at http://www.bradysolicitors.com.
You have been warned!