Case Study 3: Repairs, leasehold service charges

Mr A was a leaseholder of a flat in a purpose built block. He complained that his landlord did not consult him about upgrade works to the block’s communal aerial.

Mr A’s lease confirmed that he was liable to pay a service charge for the communal aerial, so he was obliged to contribute to the cost of the aerial upgrade. Permission previously given by the landlord to Mr A to install a satellite dish did not exclude him from complying with this condition of his lease.

The landlord rejected Mr A’s complaint, explaining that it was required to carry out an aerial upgrade to comply with the government’s digital switchover programme. The landlord also explained that it was not required to consult with leaseholders because the works would not cost more than £250 per year/per household- the legal threshold for consultation to be carried out.  Although we verified this, it was not clear from the breakdown of Mr A’s service charges.

In addition, we noted that although the landlord hadn’t mentioned this in its complaint response its website explained that it had entered into a 20 year contract for the leasing and maintenance of the equipment; and the individual cost to leaseholders would be unlikely to exceed £50 per year.

We found that the landlord had taken appropriate action to resolve Mr A’s complaint but criticised it for failing to provide him with accurate information about the works, and its communications with him. We recommended that it established systems that ensured it would provide clear and detailed information to leaseholders in future.

In response the landlord told us what changes it had introduced as a result of the case; this shows that even when there is no maladministration a landlord can still learn from a complaint and take action to avoid similar situations arising with its other residents.