What should a landlord do if faced with a tenant not paying his or her service charges?
The landlord may well think that if the tenant is not prepared to pay then why should he or she receive the service? However, landlords are advised to think again if considering cutting off services to their tenants.
A recent High Court case, Winchester Park Ltd v Sehayak, decided that a landlord was not entitled to shut down a lift service in a building because the tenant had failed to pay his service charges.
The tenant was a leaseholder in a fairly upmarket block of flats. A dispute had arisen over the service charges and this had rumbled on for some time. The tenant was refusing to pay the service charges. The landlord thought it would be a great wheeze to “convince” the tenant to pay by shutting down the lifts which serviced the tenant’s flat. The landlord clearly believed that the prospect of climbing the stairs would be sufficient to persuade the tenant to pay.
However, the tenant had other ideas. So, eschewing the health benefits of the increased exercise he would receive from using the stairs, the tenant applied to Court for an injunction. The injunction was dealt with prior to the hearing because the landlord restored the service, but the Court still needed to decide whether the landlord was entitled to take that action in settling the issue of who paid the costs. The Court found against the landlord and determined that the landlord was wrong to stop providing the lift service.
The law in this area is complicated and even if your lease makes the provision of services conditional on payment of service charges by the tenant you may still be legally required to provide services even if the tenant doesn’t pay. It is important for landlords to seek legal advice before taking any step to cut off services to your tenant because you could end up with a significant costs order against you.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter.