By Martin Boyd
The contrast between day event for professionals in leasehold and the evening event for ordinary leaseholders could not have been more stark. Paupers and kings might be a good analogy.
While the day event saw the most talented in the leasehold world speak on a range of specialist topics, the evening event saw speakers at a very different level in their careers.
The professionals at the day event, who had paid £300, got:
Siobhan McGrath, President of the Residential Property Tribunal Service, set out the new procedures for the Property Chamber which will take over July 1;
Philip Rainey, QC, head of Tanfield Chambers, discuss the implications of the worrying Supreme court decision in Deajan v Benson and contrast it with the even more concerning Philips v Francis case;
Professor James Driscoll on the development of the law since 1993, and Katherine Holland, QC, on the role of experts in courts and tribunals.
The evening workshop got young professionals who are best not named.
The session entitled “Leasehold valuation Tribunal” at times descended into chaos. The speakers, who were not LEASE staff, set out the most basic of ABC guides to the types of issues that can be taken to the LVT.
They became unclear when asked which sections of which laws leaseholders should use to bring actions to replace the manager (s24 LTA 1987), or dispute the non provision of accounts (whole range of options, but s27 LTA 1985 is the main redress option, with maybe with a s24 case to remove the manager).
At one point the answer to a question were words to the effect “that’s not covered under a specific clause in the law”.
I was horror-struck to hear one speaker suggest that leaseholders should withhold service charges payment if accounts had not been provided!
LKP readers, and a number of the audience, are aware that non- payment of service charges is very dangerous. It opens leaseholders to the risk of huge “administration charges” and even potential forfeiture of their home, as per the Jackson case.
There are only very few circumstances where withholding payment should be recommended, and even then it should only be done under expert legal guidance. Pay first, dispute second should be the rule in 99.99 per cent of cases.
Anthony Essien, a barrister and head of LEASE, had to intervene to sort out this car crash.
The speakers were unclear on the new property chamber rules, which start in July as the replacement for the LVT.
They said that under the new system the costs limit will be removed and it may be more like a normal court where the winning party can be awarded costs. This is wrong.
The new rules do raise the costs limit, but only if the Tribunal rules one party has acted unreasonably.
The clear intention of the new procedures as set out by Siobhan McGrath earlier in the day, is that the new Property Chamber remains predominantly a no-cost environment. Each side will pay its own costs unless one party has acted unreasonably, in which case the Tribunal may award appropriate and even unlimited costs.
It has to be conceded that the young solicitors heading these workshops were also wrong-footed by older leasehold litigants, who wanted to air their grievances.
Next year’s event – and we hope that a leaseholders’ event is held next year – would benefit from firmer chairmanship and higher-powered professionals at its workshops.
As a taxpayer-funded body, LEASE cannot offer the finest legal minds in leasehold to freeholders and managing agents, and those just starting out to leaseholders.
Also, it was not really fair to the young professionals taking part, to whom I wish to give no offence.