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Masthead Local Govt - Property

Tower block leaseholders win case over proposed £50,000 service charges

A group of leaseholders in a tower block have won a court case brought against Oxford City Council over a £50,000 service charge.

The First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) ruled that the service charge imposed on right-to-buy leaseholders under section 27A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 was unreasonable.

Matthew Fraser of Landmark Chambers acted for the Oxford Tower Block Leaseholder Association. The set said the tribunal held almost all the items in the charge demanded were unreasonably incurred and not payable.

Only charges for lift works and external concrete repairs were accepted.

The tribunal found the council’s major refurbishment project, which cost nearly £4m plus design and management costs, went beyond what could reasonably fall within its covenant to maintain the building.

These works included new doors and windows for each flat, a new roof, new enclosed balconies, a new external cladding system, and a complete upgrade of the communal and individual flat fire safety systems.

Evidence from the association showed there was no evidence of actual disrepair that would justify such works under the covenant, and the leases in question did not allow the council to recover a service charge for improvements.

The decision is expected to be applied to a further four blocks of the same type in which similar works were performed and changes imposed.

An Oxford spokesperson said: “We are considering the judgement with our legal advisers and will respond in due course.”

Mark Smulian

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