HL Deb 03 June 1998 vol 590 cc29-30WA
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will make a further commencement order in respect of the Housing Act 1996, enabling disputes over the reasonableness of service charges between landlords and long leaseholders on which court proceedings began before 1 September 1997 to be transferred to leasehold valuation tribunals. [HL2083]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman)

Today we are publishing for consultation proposals which should be welcome to a number of those leaseholders who have not so far been able to take advantage of the improved arrangements for dealing with service charge disputes under the Housing Act 1996.

Section 83 of that Act allows a residential tenant or landlord to go to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) rather than to a civil court when seeking a decision on whether or not service charges are reasonable. It also gives the court discretion to transfer to the LVT any question relating to the reasonableness of service charges which falls within the tribunal's jurisdiction. This provision came into effect on 1 September 1997 but it has not so far been applied to cases where court proceedings had begun before that date. Representations have been made that this exclusion is unfair.

Under the further Commencement Order proposed today, the court's discretion would also apply to cases where proceedings had begun before 1 September 1997. This would allow the courts to consider whether the interests of justice would best be served by transferring a service charge dispute in such a case to the LVT.

Subject to consultation, the proposed further Commencement Order should bring these new measures into effect in August 1998. Tenants involved in proceedings which started before 1 September 1997 may wish to take legal advice about the implications of these proposals.