Property disputes can be some of the most stressful of cases for everyone involved and can happen for all sorts of reasons. Maunder Taylor offer expert property dispute advice to clients in Whetstone, Totteridge, Potters Bar and the surrounding areas. Here we outline five of the commonest property disputes and how we can help you to avoid them.
Residential Service Charge Disputes
These are occasionally in the news as leaseholders challenge them in the courts. The charges are payable to the landlord for providing day-to-day services such as maintenance (particularly of communal areas), any repairs to the property, gardening costs and buildings insurance. It is separate from any rent that is paid from the tenant to the landlord.
Usually, the charges apply to leaseholders in blocks of flats, but they can levied on freeholders whose homes are built on private land. Here a management company (rather than the local council) will provide the services.
Tenants can complain on several grounds, including:
- The charges are too high
- That they haven’t been shared equally between all the leaseholders
- That they weren’t informed properly about them when they originally signed the lease
- They aren’t getting the services they paid for
Whatever the reason, disagreements about residential service charges can easily end up in court.
You might need a property valuation for reasons of probate (calculating the value of an estate), for business buyout (one partner wants to purchase another’s share) or for personal or domestic reasons (families splitting up and one or more members moving out of a shared home). Unfortunately, assessing the value of a property can be a subjective affair and often one party won’t agree with the final figure.
It is important to get this settled as quickly and as fairly as possible as valuations can have knock-on effects in other areas too such as capital gains tax calculation, loan security assessment, rental value assessment, stamp duty assessment and end of tenancy liability.
Lease Termination Disputes
According to the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1954, tenants should have the right to renew their leases on the same terms as the existing one, subject to the rent being adjusted to current market levels. However, landlords often want to move in – sometimes as an owner-occupier or because the premises are being redeveloped. Equally, landlords may want to get another tenant in who is a more reliable rent-payer and may wish to terminate the agreement before it is due to expire.
Tenants may want to terminate the lease agreement early as well; for instance, if they have found somewhere else to live or to operate their business from.
If a break clause has been inserted into the contract, then terminating the lease should be a relatively straightforward matter. However, if there isn’t one in the lease and neither party can agree terms, the dispute can easily end up with a legal hearing. At Maunder Taylor we can give lease negotiations advice to landlords and tenants in Hertfordshire and North London.
Commercial Rent Level Disputes
Commercial rents are now typically reviewed every three to five years. The increases can be based on the ‘open market’ principle or the Retail Price Index (RPI) or the business’s turnover. Some commercial leases contain an ‘upwards only’ clause which allows for automatic rises in rent at specified intervals.
Disagreements can easily arise if there is a big difference in the final figure, depending on which method is used. For example, a tenant could refuse to pay a rent increase if he finds that the ‘open market’ value of his rent is lower than that which has been stipulated in an ‘upwards only’ clause.
On major building projects, disputes can easily arise, particularly if the completion date has been delayed. There may also be issues over outstanding payments, any time extensions, damage to property or poor-quality work and penalty clauses. It can help to ensure both parties are clear on the expectations of the project beforehand. Depending on whether alternative dispute resolution is successful, you may need a specialist to advise when disputes arise and represent you in any legal action.
Property Dispute Advice in Whetstone from Maunder Taylor
At Maunder Taylor, we always prefer to settle any disputes by negotiation rather than see any issue end up in court. This means encouraging a constant dialogue between the parties involved, whether they are landlords, tenants, freeholders, leaseholders or residential block managers. This saves everyone involved a lot of time and money.
If the matter cannot be resolved, then we would encourage using the alternative dispute resolution process (which involves mediation or arbitration, rather than litigation).
However, if this still fails to settle the issue, Maunder Taylor’s partners can give fair, independent evidence (sometimes, due to our breadth of knowledge in all areas of property law, as an ‘expert witness’) to any court, hearing or tribunal which is acting as the final arbiter. If you would like to know more, follow this link.