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Breach of Lease for Residential Properties
Disputes concerning breach of covenants in a residential lease arise when one party, either the landlord or the tenant, has breached the terms of one or more of the clauses in the
lease that govern the relationship between the parties.
Examples of breaches of lease covenants include:
- A failure to pay ground rent or service charges
- Alterations to the property without the landlord's consent
- Using the property for a purpose that is not permitted by the lease
- Failure to keep the property or the communal areas (if the property forms part of a wider building) in repair
- A breach of a leaseholder’s right to peaceful and quiet enjoyment of the property
How JMW Can Help
We act for both landlords and tenants in making and defending claims for breach of lease covenants in residential leases. Across the team, we have vast experience of representing parties in such disputes, both before and after legal proceedings have been commenced.
Action for breach of covenant in a long residential lease (for example, a long lease of a flat) is different to a shorter tenancy, such as an assured shorthold tenancy. Please click here for more information on disputes concerning short-term lettings.
If you have a query with regards to a breach of lease, please call 0345 872 6666 and one of our real estate litigation solicitors will be happy to discuss this with you. Alternatively, fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.
Advice for Landlords
If a tenant has breached a covenant in their lease, the remedies available will depend on the type of breach committed by the tenant. Generally speaking, the options available will include:
- A claim for damages for any loss suffered as a result of the breach
- An injunction to prevent the leaseholder from committing or continuing with the breach or forfeiture of the lease
Forfeiture involves terminating the lease and taking back possession of the property. Various procedural steps must be followed before being able to forfeit a residential lease.
If you are contemplating such action, our team can assist in assessing whether you are able to do so and advise you on the steps involved.
Advice for Tenants
If you have been accused of breaching your lease, the first step is to consider the terms of your lease and to assess whether you have in fact breached your lease. Often there are questions of interpretation involved with lease covenants, and it is important to consider these carefully when faced with an allegation of breach.
If you landlord is seeking to forfeit your lease for a breach of covenant, various defences are available, including whether your landlord has followed the correct procedure and whether they have waived their right to forfeit the lease.
Service Charge Disputes
Service charge disputes can arise between landlords and tenants of residential property. Leases usually contain an express provision relating to service charges, and landlords can only recover what has been incurred in the process of carrying out those express services.
While there is no obligation for a landlord to minimise any costs incurred during this process, a landlord must act reasonably, and any work or services charged for must have been carried out to a reasonable standard.
We take instruction for both landlords and tenants where they believe a valid dispute exists, and we have experience in guiding clients through pre-action negotiations and any Tribunal proceedings, if they prove necessary.
How much does it cost to pursue/defend a breach of lease action?
Each case is different and therefore the estimated costs of making or defending an action for breach of lease will vary and will depend on the nature of the breach and the remedy being pursued.
However, most modern leases contain a covenant by a leaseholder to reimburse the landlord for costs the landlord incurs in taking action against a leaseholder for breach of covenant. Our team can advise on whether your lease has such a clause.
How does a service charge claim work?
Firstly, a leaseholder should request sight of a detailed breakdown of the service charge accounts incurred in the last accounting year. Subject to a valid request, a landlord is under an obligation to provide this to a tenant within six months of the end of the last accounting year, or within one month of the request; whichever is later. The lease may also oblige the landlord to provide you with copies of the relevant accounts.
Once the summary has been received, these can be analysed by an expert who can establish whether the charges are unreasonable or whether further information is needed. We work closely with accountants and surveyors who we can personally recommend to review your accounts.
My tenants have disputed recent service bills raised on their account - what should I do?
Firstly, check the provisions in your lease. You should ensure that any bills raised only account for work recoverable as a service charge under the lease. Secondly, if you have been served with a valid notice requesting a summary of the accounts from any leaseholders of the building, it is important that their request is dealt with within the statutory period to avoid being held liable for a summary offence and potential fine. We can provide you with guidance on complying with your statutory obligations, and advise you on your obligations under the lease.
How much does a service charge claim cost?
Each case turns on its own facts, and the cost of running a case to the Tribunal can be expensive. If you are a leaseholder, you should consider speaking to others in your building who are concerned about the cost of service charges, and consider collectively bringing a claim to reduce costs.
When a tenant raises a dispute in relation to service charges at the property, can they stop paying for services?
A lease will contain details of a landlord’s remedy in circumstances where leaseholders do not comply with their obligations under the lease; such as paying service charges for works
carried out at the property. If a leaseholder stops paying service charges that have been validly demanded, most modern leases provide that the landlord can take remedial action to recover the sums demanded and, usually, the costs of taking action to recover the sums due. If you have a similar concern, please get in touch and we can review your lease to properly advise you on what remedies may be available to you.