Payment of lease extension completion statement did not oust LVT’s judgement on costs

By section 60 of Leasehold Reform Housing Urban Development Act 1993 (the 1993 Act) it is the enfranchising residential tenant who must pay the costs of the extension lease. Where those costs are in dispute there is a mechanism for completion to take place without resolution of that dispute. This is provided by section 56(3) of the 1993 Act.

Whether the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) has jurisdiction depends, to some extent, on section 91(1) of the 1993 Act. It says the LVT only has jurisdiction “in default of agreement” as to the amount of costs recoverable under section 60.

In the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) case of Friends Life Ltd & Anor v Jones [2014] the central issue was whether a binding agreement as to the amount of the solicitors’ conveyancing fees occurred, or was made, when the residential tenant’s solicitor paid, without demur, the completion monies requested by the intermediate and head landlords, at completion of the extension lease, on 22 March 2013.

The Tribunal determined that there was no agreement as to costs because by its surveyor the residential tenant had five weeks earlier issued an application in the LVT under section 92(1)(d) of the 1993 Act seeking determination of the reasonable costs payable and, a week prior to the completion of the extension lease, the LVT had issued directions without hearing requiring the intermediate and head landlords to send a detailed statement of the costs which they sought under section 60(1) of the 1993 Act.

Seen in that context, the payment of the completion monies could not amount to an unequivocal acceptance of the 22 March 2013 cost figure. Rather, the payment of the full completion fees accorded with section 56(3) of the 1993 Act, which requires that where the amount of costs is not agreed the tenant cannot require completion of the extension lease without tendering the amount “so far as ascertained” of the costs for which the tenant is liable under section 60. Here the amount of the costs was “ascertained”, and full payment had been tendered and made, even if the amount of the costs had not been “agreed” because any costs in excess of £722 plus disbursements and VAT were disputed as was clear from the residential tenant’s surveyor’s section 92(1)(d) application.

In short, the payment of the costs on 22 March 2013 was merely the provision of full “security” so as to enable completion of the extension lease to take place pending the outcome of the residential tenant’s surveyor’s section 92(1)(d) application to the LVT. The fact that the tenant was acting by two representatives, or agents, did not affect that conclusion. Their separate acts were to be treated as the joint acts of the principal i.e. the residential tenant.

So the LVT had jurisdiction to decide the cost issue. That jurisdiction had not been ousted by any “agreement” as to the amount of costs recoverable under section 60.

This blog has been posted out of general interest. It does not replace the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.