By guest writer Sonia Reid
I live in a block of 12 flats in Lewisham which are owned and managed by Hyde Housing. From September last year. We started the Right to Manage (RtM) process to make sure that Hyde will no longer be in charge of services for our block, and will not have access to our block’s Sinking Fund.
Our future now looks much brighter.
It’s been a stressful journey and won’t be for everyone. First, we had a zoom meeting with a Property Management company who we checked out on Trustpilot and had excellent reviews.
We had to get 50% of leaseholders to agree but most leaseholders didn’t attend so we then had to send them the recorded link and set a deadline for them to vote by. Only five leaseholders voted by the deadline, but the sixth leaseholder came back to us later.
Then the Property Management company informed Hyde and they had one month to respond according to the RtM legislation. They gave in surprisingly easily and quickly but again, we have to wait until 15th June before we become self-managing because of the legislation. We also had to find volunteer directors, luckily four came forward.
One of the triggers for exercising the Right to Manage was repeated failure to get the service charging right or reasonable.
Our communal electricity metres are faulty as the readings swing up and down illogically. I sent them timed and dated evidence of this for a few months, but eventually gave up as they failed to respond except for seven useless emails stating that they could not deal with enquiries about 2020/21 service charge queries, even though I was asking about 2021/22.
Another trigger was when Hyde proposed cyclical works which would have meant wiping out our sinking fund. The sinking fund is a pot we all pay into and helps cover the cost of maintenance.
For example, their proposals included work on all our windows and internal and external doors which were only replaced last year. The cost would have used all of our sinking fund and they wanted to charge us £1,600 each on top. Thankfully, the cyclical works will now be decided by leaseholders, and we will control who is selected, as well as monitoring their work.
Right to Manage
According to Shelter, the right to manage is a provision in the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002. It currently applies only to leaseholders, and is further restricted to those living in flats, not houses. If you are on an estate with both houses and flats, the right to manage applies to leaseholders in each individual building with flats but not to any of the houses.
The government website advises that there are two options for leaseholders unhappy with the management of their building services. One is to ask a tribunal to appoint a new manager and the second is to take over management responsibilities yourself, known as ‘Right to Manage’.
If you go to the tribunal and ask them to appoint a new manager, you have to prove bad management, for example that you have to pay unreasonable service charges, or because the landlord hasn’t complied with an approved code of management practice. They also advise that you can only apply to the tribunal if you’ve sent the landlord a Section 22 notice, which gives them a chance to fix the problems.
Exercising the Right to Manage (which is what we chose to do) lets you and the other leaseholders take over certain management responsibilities from the landlord without having to prove bad management.
Leaseholders can manage the building collectively or pay a managing agent to do it. Initially we’ll all have to be involved in shaping the services but once that’s done, the company we’ve employed will just liaise with Directors although any of us can call them at any time to fix anything that crops up.
Both the Leasehold Advisory Service and government websites have useful resources, guidance, and information, but it’s a complex legal procedure that we couldn’t have achieved without the Property Management company.
A Brighter Future
For our Lewisham estate leaseholders, the future looks much brighter. After June, our repairs will be carried out swiftly and give value for money. Anyone who wants to sell should be in a better position too. I would recommend this route for any development where there is a strong Residents Association, or where there’s effective collective organisation that could be formally made into an Association.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if all housing association leaseholders in blocks of flats took this action?
Further information on Right to Manage
- Leasehold Advisory Service guidance on Right to Manage
- Government website guidance for leaseholders
- Shelter guidance on Right to Manage
16 March 2022
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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.