Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 a group of leaseholders who hold houses or flats on tenancies/leases from the same landlord upon similar terms now have the right to establish a recognised tenants association. The RPTS (Residential Property Tribunal Service) defines a tenants/residents association as ‘a group of leaseholders that pay variable service charges – service charges that the landlord can vary from year to year, depending on running costs in the building’.The RPTS says that the legal rights of an officially-recognised tenants association include the right to:
Note: The RPTS calls these groups tenants associations because, according to English law, leaseholders are tenants.MembershipMembership may be extended to other individuals with a common interest (for example sub-tenants) but they will not have voting rights and cannot be party to the proceedings of the association because their rents are fixed rather than variable.Membership will not be open to landlords personally or, in the case of company landlords, their employees or directors.A management company (including its directors, employees, Members or shareholders) which has purchased the freehold on behalf of the tenants (lessees) cannot be a Member (s) of a Tenants Association, because on collective enfranchisement (buying the freehold) the company effectively becomes the landlord of the building.Applying for Official RecognitionA residents association can begin functioning as soon as it has been set up, even if it only has two members.However, it is only when it has been officially recognised that it has the full legal rights to be consulted by the landlord on major repairs and other works, and to obtain certain information from the landlord.There are two ways for a residents association to gain official recognition.
The RPTS states that the Panel cannot accept any documentation that is sent with the words ‘without prejudice’ or ‘in confidence’. An application form can be obtained from a Panel office and the Association will need to supply with its application the following:A residents association must send:
In the first instance the Case officers who comprise the administrative staff of the Panel will deal with the application along with all correspondence.They will continue to deal with the paperwork until the final decision is reached.Case officers are able to advise on the process and procedures relating to the application but they cannot provide legal advice about the law relating to your application.Note: It’s the Panels practice to pass copies of documentation received from a party to any other interested party and for that reason correspondence that is sent with the words ‘without prejudice’ or ‘in confidence’ cannot be accepted.When applying for recognition by sending a letter and relevant enclosures to the Rent Assessment Panel, these are normally copied and sent to the landlord asking him to explain in writing why he is refusing recognition and the Panel copies these to the residents association.When all comments have been received the Case officers will place the application and any comments before a Member of the Panel for consideration. The Member of the Panel will have been nominated by the Panel President or Vice President and he will decide whether recognition will be granted. The Member will be a qualified lawyer or a valuer (a surveyor with experience of the management of housing property).Granting Official RecognitionWhen deciding whether to grant official recognition, the Rent Assessment Panel will look at several factors, including the number of members.The Panels also look at whether the association is run in a manner that is ‘fair and democratic’, including whether it has proper rules regarding the following:
The Panel has discretion as to whether recognition should be granted and will need to be satisfied that the Rules of the Association are fair and democratic.It will also have to be certain that the actual Membership of the Association will represent a significant proportion of the potential Membership. The RPTS says that the Rent Assessment Panels usually expect at least 60% of qualified residents in a building to belong to the association.In very exceptional circumstances, if a dispute of fact cannot be resolved by correspondence, the Member may arrange an oral hearing.If the Panel grants recognition it issues the association with a Certificate of Recognition usually valid for 4 years and when the Certificate expires the Association can apply for renewal. The Panel can also cancel a certificate at any time if it considers that the association no longer merits recognition.The issue of recognition is normally decided purely by correspondence and there is no charge for the application although both parties must meet their own costs.Landlord Refuses RecognitionHowever, if the landlord refuses to recognise the Association then private leaseholders can apply to a Rent Assessment Panel (RAP) for recognition. RAPs are part of the Residential Property Tribunal Service, which also has responsibility for the Leasehold Valuation Tribunals that can adjudicate on a range of leasehold disputes.
While this website is constantly checked and updated for accuracy, the information and articles provided by Leasehold Life and it's guest contributors are not to be construed as legal advice.
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