Rights and responsibilities
If you are a leaseholder you own the lease to your home but the freeholder, usually the council, owns the land on which the building is situated.
Your lease explains the different rights and responsibilities of the leaseholder and the freeholder.
Leaseholders also have some additional rights by law:
- information: the council must provide you with their name and contact address on every demand for ground rent and service charges. Leaseholders can demand summaries of the service charges, details of the buildings insurance cover and have the right to inspect accounts and other documents
- consultation: the council cannot charge leaseholders more than £250 for major works to the building unless they consult with leaseholders first.
- Long Term Agreements: the council must consult with leaseholders before it enters into a contract for more than 12 months if the cost to the leaseholder for the service provided under the contract is more than £100 a year
- challenging service charges: leaseholders can apply to the The First-Tier Tribunal - Property Chamber (Residential Property) for a determination about whether they have to pay and whether the cost is reasonable. You can do this even if you have already paid for the service
- challenging administration charges: leaseholders can apply to the First Tier Tribunal for a determination about whether they have to pay other charges arising from the lease. They must also be reasonable. This includes charges for consent to carry out alterations, providing information etc
- extending a lease: individual leaseholders, who satisfy certain conditions, can demand a new lease from the council adding 90 years to the existing lease. The price is normally agreed between the council and leaseholder or if this is not possible is set by the First Tier Tribunal.
- buying the freehold: groups of leaseholders who satisfy certain conditions can get together and purchase the freehold to the building. This is called Collective Enfranchisement.
- varying the lease: if a lease does not make proper provision for things like repairs or maintenance of the building it is possible to change or ‘vary’ the lease. The council and the leaseholder must be in agreement or either party can apply to the First Tier Tribunal.
You have the right to:
- ask Birmingham City Council to repair the shared and structural parts of your building
- be consulted about major repairs for which you will have to pay a share
- make alterations to the inside of your flat as long as you do not remove the structural wall (or windows) or cause damage to the outside or shared part of the building
- expect your landlord to deal with problems in your building, such as neighbour nuisance, dirt, rubbish and so on
- live peaceably in your flat without interference from your neighbours or the landlord, as long as you keep to the conditions of your lease
- sell your lease
- take in lodgers or rent your flat.
As a leaseholder you have a ‘share’ in the building you live in. This means you have a responsibility to pay your share of the costs of managing and maintaining your building. The costs are called Service Charges and it is your legal duty, under the terms of your lease, to pay them.
Living with your neighbours
You have a right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of your flat, and your neighbours have the same right. We will help when people cause a nuisance to you, but equally you must not cause a nuisance to them.
You must not do anything that will damage the structure of the building or damage shared services (such as plumbing to the roof tank, electricity or gas supplies or sewerage). If you want to carry out any work that may affect the rest of the building you must get permission in writing first from the household team. This is in addition to any planning permission or building regulations required..
If you would like impartial advice and practical assistance to help you make your home a better place to live in you can contact Homeworks.
Annual Gas Checks
As a homeowner it is your responsibility to make sure the gas fittings and appliances in your home are safe. Carbon monoxide is caused by faulty gas appliances and flues. It is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas which will kill you if you breathe it in.
Help protect yourself and your family from fire by:-
- fitting smoke alarms in your home
- testing your smoke alarms once a week to make sure the batteries are working.
The council’s rights and responsibilities
The council’s rights
The council has the right to make decisions about:
- the management of the building
- repairs and maintenance of the structure and shared areas of the building
- improvements to the building
The council has a legal duty to charge for:
- ground rent
- management costs
- repairs to and maintenance of the building and shared areas
- providing services such as cleaning, caretaking, grass cutting.
Right of entry
The council has the right in some circumstances to enter your property to carry out repairs if there is a danger to other residents.
The council’s responsibilities
The council is responsible for keeping the structure and shared areas of the building in good repair (leaseholders are responsible for paying a share of the costs).
If your share of the cost of a repair is more than £250 we must consult with you first, by law.
The council has a legal duty to collect a share of the cost of maintaining and managing a building from leaseholders.
Your legal rights
If you are in any doubt about your rights and obligations in relation to service charges you should seek independent advice.
Under Section 22 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, leaseholders have the right to inspect accounts and other documentation in support of the Summary of Costs relating to service charges. Requests must be made in writing to the Leasehold Team within six months of receipt of the summary.
What you can do if you disagree with a service charge
If you are not happy with your service charge, please write to us explaining the problem and we will be happy to investigate your inquiry.
The Housing Act 1996 introduced First Tier Tribunals (FTTs) to help resolve disputes about service charges.
The First Tier Tribunals (FTTs) provide an accessible and relatively informal way to resolve residential leasehold disputes. The FTTs can:
- decide if a service or administration charge is reasonable and whether it is payable
- resolve disputes relating to insurance
- make orders, where appropriate, appointing a manager
- vary residential long leases
- make certain decisions relating to the right to manage.
The council or the leaseholder can apply to the FTT, however there will be a fee for doing this.
You can get more information about the powers of FTTs, as well as independent advice, from the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) at www.lease-advice.org.
There are several laws and Acts of Parliament protecting your rights as a leasehold tenant. If you are not sure about your rights a solicitor can advise you or you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau. You can also get independent advice from:
The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE)
2nd Floor, 31 Worship Street
London EC2A 2DX
Tel: 020 7374 5380
Fax: 020 7374 5373