Failing to settle a dispute out of court has cost a group of tenants in Sussex dear in a case decided recently.
The dispute arose when a block of flats suffered water penetration. The tenants were obliged to pay for the repairs under the terms of their leases but considered the charges to be excessive and so disputed them. The dispute wound up at the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. The Tribunal ruled that the leaseholders were liable for the cost of the repairs, but did not make an order for legal costs. The owner of the freehold then went to court again to recover its costs.
The laws relating to when such costs are recoverable are complex and that argument ended up in the Court of Appeal. It ruled that the provisions of the leases that required the tenants to reimburse the landlord for the cost of the repairs would also require them to pay almost all of the legal costs incurred by the landlord in obtaining the notice of determination that they were liable to do so, as well as those of the subsequent dispute over the costs themselves.
“This whole issue could probably have been settled more quickly and with less expense all round had the matter been negotiated rather than litigated,” says Alison McCormack, Head of Property Management. “If you are facing a dispute with your tenant(s) over repair costs, we will be happy to advise on the best course of action to take and to assist you with your negotiations.”