Housing Act 1996
The Housing Act 1996 is the fourth of the five main Acts of Parliament specifically concerned with leasehold management.
The extension of the enfranchisement rights created in 1993 had led to a number of anomalies in an Act that was widely considered to be poorly drafted Act. This was despite the fact it had made amendments to areas of both the 1985 and 1987 Acts.
So instead of getting a completely new Act, powerful lobbying and the prospect of another General Election resulted in considerable amendments being made to the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993. The result? The Housing Act 1996 came into force on the 24th September.
The Act made amendments to the 1985 and 1987 Acts by the following:
- Made it easier for leaseholders to challenge unreasonable service charges by taking their freeholders to the LVT.
- Whilst if they are ruled as fair then they are subsequently payable, if they remain in dispute then under s81 (restriction of termination of tenancy for failure to pay service charges), until it has been established that the charges are reasonable (by agreement, admission of the leaseholder or by the decision of a court or tribunal), the freeholder is prevented from forfeiting the lease. However, under s82 of the Act, by granting notice under s146 of the Law of Property Act 1925 the landlord would be indicating that whilst he has elected to forfeit the lease, such a notice has to contain certain information drawing to the attention of the tenant the effect and provisions of s81.
- The Right of First Refusal (introduced in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) is strengthened by making it a summary offence to sell the freehold to a third party without having first offered it to the flat owners and the rights of leaseholders to collectively enfranchise (buy the freehold) are further extended.
- It provided a right for leaseholders to appoint a surveyor to require landlords to provide access to buildings, accounts and other documents, in turn enforceable by court order. This is a direct follow-on from the right of leaseholders to obtain a management audit in the 1993 Act.
The next main Act is that of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002