Leasehold valuation tribunals – what you need to know

If you are trying to negotiate with your freeholder, but feel like he or she is being purposely difficult or unreasonable it may be time to seek help. Seeking solution in the form of a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) is often the most common route to take. They’re used to defuse financial disagreements, along with disagreements regarding quality of service and other issues revolving around a premise lease.

N.B. – last year the LVT was renamed as “the First-tier tribunal – Property Chamber (Residential Property)” – really catchy! However, at the moment, most people still seem to be referring to it as the LVT or Leasehold Valuation Tribunal – so that’s what we will call it in this article.

What can the LVT do for you?

No matter the dispute between you and the freeholder, odds are it can be taken to a LVT. This is especially true if your disagreement falls under one of the following categories:

  •  Building insurance terms
  •  Block management issues

Costs for the above can often be a source of contention between a leaseholder and freeholder; LVTs are there to help make sure costs for such remain reasonable. Always remember that the figure they decide upon may not be what you hope for, but it can be a lesser figure than what your freeloader has initially asked for.

When it comes to any money that has already been exchanged between the leaseholder and freeholder a LVT has little power. They will often instruct those involved to pursue small claims court and seek independent legal advice outside of a LVT to resolve such matters.

If there is a complete breakdown in communication or you feel persecuted by the freeholder, you can request that the LVT enforce the hiring of a building manager. The freeholder will maintain ownership in such instances, but they would not be in charge of building operations and in some instance they may no longer be allowed to collect ground rent. A LVT can also rectify issues regarding your lease should sections of it be unclear or easily misinterpreted.

What is the LVT?

A LVT will consist of a three-person panel, a solicitor, a valuer and a non-specialist layperson, all of which will operate in an unbiased and impartial manner. It is similar to a standard legal tribunal, but does take on a more informal appearance. It may even be possible for you to represent yourself, should you feel capable of doing so. If you take such a route it is always advised that you seek legal advice prior to a LVT in order to fully understand what is required of you during proceedings.

Either a freeholder or a leaseholder can call a LVT, but it isn’t a necessity for proceedings to take place at a designated LVT office. More often than not they will take place at a local council office or a place of public access. Before commencing proceedings, it would be advised that you attend a similar LVT in order further understand the processes involved.

The tribunal process

Preparation is key when it comes to a LVT and gathering evidence should be considered a key element. It is what the case will largely be decided upon and both sides will be able to put forward their arguments based on such. The LVT will question the parties involved and probe into both arguments. After hearing all the evidence at hand the LVT will take their time to come to a resolution. Due to the length of the process those involved may not hear the outcome of their tribunal for anytime up to one year.

How binding is a LVT decision?

How enforceable a LVT decision is can be debated, as the actual LVT itself doesn’t have the authority to force a freeholder to carry out the outcome of a tribunal. But, the decision given is legally binding and a court order can be sought if the freeholder chooses to ignore or go against the outcome of a LVT.

The appeal process

The only way to challenge an outcome of a LVT is to form an official appeal. However, this can only be done under certain circumstances, usually if you feel that the LVT panel ignored certain procedures. It cannot be done if your sole argument is disagreeing with the outcome of the LVT.

LVT pricing

The cost to apply for a LVT can vary largely on case specifics and region, but a safe prediction would be for it to cost around £400. If your case is applicable you may be able to ask the LVT to have the freeholder cover your application costs. Financial support may also be available should you be filing for the tribunal while unemployed or receiving government benefits. It is becoming increasingly common for freeholders to charge additional service costs, to cover for legal fees should they occur. If such is the case, it may be possible to ask the LVT panel to change this detail in your lease should you feel it to be unwarranted.

Leasehold Valuation Tribunal Advice ? Contact our Specialists now

Here at Bonallack and Bishop our team specialise in freehold enfranchisement, lease extension, right to manage company formation, along with service charge arrears and ground rent disputes. What’s more, we can help you wherever your block or house is in England and Wales.

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