Flat service charge payable though no services listed

Hastings houses

A tenant was found liable to pay a service charge to her housing association landlord although the landlord had failed to list the services in the tenancy agreement.

Originally, the leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT) had held that the tenant, Ms Jeanette Kahar, did not have to pay the service charge despite her tenancy agreement including a term apparently requiring her to do so. This was because the agreement failed to identify the services covered by the charge.

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) (UT) overturned the LVT’s decision, deciding that failure to list the services did not relieve the tenant of her obligation to pay the service charge.

The tenancy agreement was a standard printed form with space for details of the services to be added. But the lines where the services should have been listed were left empty.

The UT found that the absence of the services list did not appear to create any practical difficulty. When the tenancy agreement was assigned to Ms Kahar in 2014, she inherited the obligations of the original tenant and agreed to be bound by the terms of the agreement. A continuous record of the services rendered to tenants in the building and the sums charged for them was available dating back to when the tenancy agreement started in 2006. Ms Kahar had agreed to be bound by the obligation of paying the service charge and could have enquired to ascertain what services were covered.

In this case, the landlord was saved by the record of dealings before and after the tenancy agreement was assigned, and the express agreement of Ms Kahar to pay the service charge. However, it is strongly advisable to check that a tenancy agreement contains full details at the outset, to avoid ambiguity and disputes later.

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