About Amanda Gourlay

tanfiel0070Welcome to Law and Lease, a blog recording and commenting on decisions made by the Lands Tribunal and courts of record in England and Wales about residential service charges.

I am a barrister called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2004. I am a member of Tanfield Chambers, a set of barristers’ chambers located in central London.

Tanfield Chambers authors “Service Charges and Management: Law and Practice”, published by Sweet & Maxwell, now in its second third edition, and runs an annual service charge summit, normally at the end of September, in conjunction with News on the Block.

I started this blog because I found that the search facility on the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) website did not cater for the searches I needed. Whilst the major legal databases provide comprehensive search facilities, it seemed to me that it would be a good and useful thing to write a blog recording decisions given by the Lands Chamber and courts of record because by reporting those decisions, I would be furthering my own knowledge and producing a growing database which would be practical and useful to landlords, tenants and their representatives.

My service charge practice began in 2008 when I represented the Respondent landlord in an application to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal by a disgruntled tenant who took issue with fourteen years of service charges. The technical meaning of service charge, limitation, the quality of services provided and management fees were among the disputed issues.

My practice has expanded since then. I have represented landlords, tenants and managing agents in cases covering disputes ranging from the interpretation of leases to historic neglect, and from dispensation from the requirement to consult for major works to the interface between the Decent Homes programme and service charges.

As I write this in the twilight of 2014, Law and Lease is over two years old and is a finalist in the Best Services Provider category of the Property Management Awards. It has been more rewarding than I imagined it could be: I know my service charge law pretty well now, but I also know many of the characters on the service charge stage, and the broader issues affecting them as landlords and lessees.

I hope you enjoy my blog. If you have any suggestions for its improvement, do please email me at law@lawandlease.co.uk.

16 Comments

  1. Susanne Busbridge says:

    Thank you for this informative and helpful blog. Briefly I am representing my partner as a non lawyer in a case which covers both historic neglect and ‘improvements’ versus ‘repairs’. I am particularly interested in the issue of what constitutes an improvements which might reasonably be expected to prevent future repairs. Eg’ the introduction of a waterproof membrane under steps which is something new as opposed to a repair but without it the structure of the steps is in jeopardy. If you have come across anything like this and would care to post it, I would be very interested. Thanks again for the time and trouble you have taken to post all this information.

  2. Dear Susanne
    Thank you for your comment.
    I do not give advice on specific cases on my blog, but my next post may be of interest to you in connection with historic neglect. Improvements and repairs are regularly at the heart of service charge disputes and I have no doubt will feature at some stage soon in my posts.

    • Susanne Busbridge says:

      Thank you for that – I didn’t hope for a comment on the case specifically but direction towards cases of interest so that is kind of you, thanks again! I will look forward to your future cases. Kind regards.

  3. Robert Dean says:

    Dear Amanda,
    I have just disciovered your blog in specific reference to the insurance Sadd v Brown [2012] UKUT 438 (LC).

    We are about to apply to vary some leases, about 100 out of 185 to correct this particular defect so the information was very timely and informative, and reinforces our decision to make application to vary. Thanks for your help!

    Regards

    Robert

  4. Dear Robert

    Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you found my blog useful. It’s good to know that it is serving its purpose.

    Kind regards

    Amanda

  5. Many thanks for this blog, and my only regret is that I don’t have time at the moment to read all the posts that interest me, but I’ll be back!

    Such clarity and degree of detail are extremely rare on leasehold law sites, but to my mind, precisely the qualities that make your blog so fascinating and helpful.

    Please don’t stop!
    Best,
    G

  6. David says:

    I have today discovered your blog for the first time and I’m bowled over. Your guide to the First Tier Tribunal Rule (God save the soul of whoever thought this name up) is probably the best out there whether online and anything I’ve seen in print. While the Jackson reforms are chewed over endlessly these changes appear to have gone almost unnoticed.

    Do you do any seminars on the subject? If so, please can you put details on the blog so that I can sign up.

    Just one comment on costs (rule 13): Other than the removal of the £500 cap is it really so revolutionary. The rules are more detailed but it is still limited to where a party has behaved unreasonable and in my experience such awards under the old rules were relatively rare. And as to levelling the field between landlords and tenants, s.20C LTA 1985 give the power to disallow costs even if due under the lease so how have matters changed under the new rules?

    Keep it up!

    • Dear David

      Thank you very much for your comment – my rule-a-day guide to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) Rules was quite an undertaking, but I found it more than worthwhile. I have given seminars on the rules: they last just over an hour – if you and your colleagues are interested I would be very happy to speak to you.

      On the costs points:

      1) The old rules required that a party behave “frivolously, vexatiously, abusively, disruptively or otherwise unreasonably”. I think that the first four require conduct beyond the unreasonable. “Or otherwise unreasonably” was considered in Halliard Property Company Limited v Belmont Hall and Elm Court RTM Company Limited (LRX 130/2007). At paragraph 36, HHJ Huskinson said:

      “36. So far as concerns the meaning of the words “otherwise unreasonably” I conclude that they should be construed ejustem generis with the words that have gone before. The words are “frivolously, vexatiously, The word “otherwise” confirms that for the purposes of paragraph 10 behaviour which was frivolous or
      vexatious or abusive or disruptive would properly be described as unreasonable behaviour. The words “or otherwise unreasonably” are intended to cover behaviour which merits criticism at a similar level albeit that the behaviour may not fit within the words frivolously, vexatiously, abusively or disruptively”.

      In the new world of the First-tier Tribunal, a party must have acted unreasonably. Unreasonably is unqualified by any other adverb. In principle I think that this should broaden the gateway for a costs order, but I agree that the LVT was reluctant to make costs orders, and it may take time for the new rule to bed down.

      2) On the levelling of the playing field – the lessee can now recover costs against the landlord to an unlimited amount if the unreasonable behaviour criterion is fulfilled. Previously the best a lessee could hope for was £500. To quote a Jackson-ism, the new rules do not bring in complete costs-shifting in line with the CPR, but they do help – a little.

  7. LHA says:

    I would add that while an leaseholder can seek to argue this, if the lease allows for the landlords to recover costs in the service charge, that they might first concentrate on s20c to argue the scope and amount of costs under the broader criteria. The high profile cases aside, a landlord for example might have acted foolishly without malice, or ill advisedly, but might not meet the criteria for costs to be awarded as discussed above. This is particularly relevant under the new regulations where mediation or discussion might have resolved the issue or the landlords was deaf to the LH’s claim especially if the issue arose out of ignorance.

    Moreover, after Daejan, the Court supported the notion of a leaseholder claimaint seeking their costs as part of the determination.

  8. PHILIP JACOBS says:

    Wot a wonderful picture of snow! Trouble is we’re at home on Boxing Day!!

  9. Paul Brown-Constable says:

    I would welcome details/references of cases you have represented in the last 12 months (2017) and the outcome of those cases so we may fully appreciate both your valued comments made regarding idecisions made on other cases alongside your success or otherwise in defending or prosecuting clients in the past 12 months via your Chambers.

  10. Alex Quinn says:

    An excellent site for tenants !!
    We are looking for reference cases on what migt constitute a forged service demand. ie: a document presented at a County Court containing key information clearly not included on the original document ackowledged as received by the lessee, in an earlier year. Those later inclusions pave the way for the claim of a defective demand, ie: eligibility for remedy with a demand in the prescribed format at a later date.
    In any case what allowable purpose is there to present to Court altered evidence, without declaring it altered and for what fair purose for both sides?

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