What is the ‘Leasehold Valuation Tribunal’?
Negotiating a lease extension with your freeholder can sometimes be difficult and if the situation becomes too much, then the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) might be able to help.
It’s worth noting that recently the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal has undergone a name change – technically it’s now to be known as “the First-tier tribunal – Property Chamber (Residential Property)”, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll continue to call it the LVT – which, unsurprisingly, is the name that most people currently stick to.
How can the LVT help you?
Almost all disputes between freeholders and leaseholders can be handled by the LVT. Common disagreements that wind up at the LVT include:
- The fair level of legal and surveyors costs which a leaseholder has to pay to the freeholder when extending a lease
- The premium payable for collective enfranchisement [ ie freehold purchase]
- Building insurance disputes
The tribunal can help decide what the right level of payments should be for the above list, and whether or not what you are being charged is deemed reasonable. Bear in mind that the figure reached by the tribunal may not be what you expect or indeed hope for, but in many instances it can be a lesser figure than what the freeholder has requested.
It is important to remember that the tribunal can’t order a freeholder to refund any money that has already exchanged hands; this includes legal costs. Any issues regarding existing payments will need to be taken to the small claims court.
One situation often dealt with by the LVT is where the relationship between the freeholder or management company and the tenants of a block of flats deteriorates to a huge extent. In such circumstances you can ask the LVT to replace a current building manager or appoint a new one. In doing so, the freeholder does not lose the ownership of the freehold, but transfers across to a group of leaseholders the right to manage the premises.
The LVT can also help deal with disputes arising out of leasehold ownership of a block of flats, including arrears of service charges and disputes over the level of ground rent payable.
How is the the LVT made up?
The standard LVT will usually consist of a three-member panel, a solicitor, a non-specialist layperson and a valuer. The whole premise of a three-man panel is that things remain independent, impartial and completely unbiased. It takes the form of a court or tribunal hearing but on a smaller and much less formal scale. In many instances it is common for individual leaseholders to handle their own case and win – even in situations where they are taking on experienced freeholders with full legal representation. However, it is all is a good idea that you seek specialist legal advice before even thinking of commencing action in the LVT.
The LVT is open to applications from freeholders and leaseholders alike.
Hearings do not always take place at a designated LVT office. In some instances they may be moved to a location nearer to the premises in question, such as a local council office or offices that are accessible to the public. If you have decided to forego legal representation, it’s always a good idea to take the opportunity to view a LVT hearing before representing yourself – it will give you an idea of the processes involved, especially if you can find an LVT hearing involving a similar issue to that in your case.
The tribunal process
Before attending a tribunal hearing you will need to gather the evidence, that the LVT panel will need to consider in making a decision. Also remember that both sides will have the chance to present their side of the story, which means the freeholder will present their own evidence.
The LVT panel will then ask questions of both parties and any expert to attend and look into both the arguments presented, with both parties being allowed to respond to any accusations and allegations. You won’t get an immediate decision at the end of the case – you will normally have to wait for several weeks at least, before receiving a written tribunal decision in the post. LVT hearings are often oversubscribed and as a result, you may face a long waiting list – so be warned that the LVT process from start to finish may take anywhere up to twelve months.
Can you appeal a LVT decision?
If you wish to challenge an LVT decision, you will need to make a formal appeal.. However, appeals are normally only available on the basis that the LVT acted unfairly or ignored proper hearing protocol. You can’t simply file an appeal solely on the grounds of disagreeing with the decision.
How much does it cost to apply to the LVT?
Application costs differ, depending on time, region and case specifics, but a typical fee will be between £300 and £500. However, whatever that you have to consider the costs of legal representation, the cost of any expert evidence used to present, not to mention the time taken in preparing your case and attending the LVT – which can all add up. In some cases the LVT may order the freeholder to refund your application costs.
If you are receiving benefits or government welfare you may be entitled to discounted fees or possibly have your entire costs covered.
For specialist LVT Legal Advice you can rely on – contact us today
Our expert property team can advise you on LVT application wherever your property is based in England and Wales – we can take your instructions by e-mail, phone and Skype video:
- Just call us on  422300 for a FREE initial phone consultation
- Complete the contact form below
Comments or questions are welcome.