The current threshold of £250 per unit for major works on leasehold blocks, at which S20 notices have to be posted to leasehold residents who would be expected to pay, was set 10 years ago and it is at the centre of one of the campaigns of the Federation of Private Residents’ Association. They are asking their members to write to their MPs to ask for this figure to be raised and in a model letter they have suggested raising it to £1250.
The issue of S20 is particularly difficult for small resident management companies because they feel it adds huge bureaucracy to their responsibilities of day to day maintenance of their buildings. There is considerable truth in this observation and this campaign is likely to attract support from leaseholders and managing agents alike.
Mainly to spare the directors of the resident management companies the cost and time involved in applying to the FTT for dispensation of S20 for what are very often mainstream repairs for which money has been set aside, they hope to have MPs approach the Secretary for Communities and Local Government to make a simple change on existing powers.
There is certainly truth that if they succeed in this campaign it will be easier for resident directors to get on with major works which are needed on a site and particularly when they are an emergency.
However, S20 was put into the legislation to stop unscrupulous landlords from making repairs or improvements for huge costs on their buildings and then expecting the residents to pay the bill. In instances of emergencies such as a flood or a roof blowing off, the dispensation is there to be used when time is important. Where the repair is not an emergency S20 can add at least 60 days to the delay and forces directors to consult and get quotes from any contractors suggested by the leaseholders and to reply to any queries raised in response to the notice.
When the resident management company becomes the landlord, they too have to follow the requirements of S20 even though their directors will pay their share of the cost.
There is something to be said for S20 having less protective importance when directors will also have to pay for repairs and improvements, as opposed to a Landlord who will have their own reasons for the improvement and could even add commission onto the bill.