If you live in a leasehold flat, you can take control of your block through ‘right to manage’

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If you live in a leasehold flat and your managing agents aren’t doing their job properly, you may be able to take control of your block through ‘right to manage’. How does it work?

What is right to manage?

If you own your leasehold flat you have the right to take over the management of your block (the rule is called ‘right to manage’) in most circumstances.

In broad terms, ‘right to manage’ means:

  • You can take over the management of the leasehold block you live in. You don’t need to get your landlord or freeholder’s permission to do this. But you do need half of the leaseholders in the block to be in favour.

SAVVY TIP: You don’t even have to show that the landlord was negligent or incompetent — you just need to meet the qualification criteria, get enough fellow leaseholders to agree and you can appoint a manager or run it yourself.

  • You don’t have to run the block yourself. You can appoint your own firm of managing agents to look after things on a day-to-day basis.

SAVVY TIP: If you live in a small block of flats (such as a conversion) you probably don’t need to get a professional managing agent involved. The only situation in which that might be a good idea is if you have some leaseholders who are unlikely to pay up. But if you live in a large block where there are garden and lift maintenance contracts to sort out you may be better off using a managing agent.

Taking control of your block using right to manage

The first step is to find out if your block of flats qualifies for right to manage. Although many blocks do, there are circumstances in which it’s not appropriate.

1. The block must have less than 25% commercial space. If you live in a flat above a shop you probably wouldn’t qualify but if there’s one shop within a large block you may be OK.

2. The landlord cannot be a local authority. If you’ve bought an ex-council flat you cannot use right to manage.

3. Your landlord cannot live in the block. If the landlord has lived there for the last 12 months you may not qualify.

4. The lease must have originally been for longer than 21 years. Many leases are granted for a minimum of 99 years and some can be as long as 999 years. However if you live in a property on a short lease you can’t use right to mange.

Applying for the right to manage 

The process of applying for the right to manage your block is unlikely to be free. You have to pay the freeholder’s ‘reasonable costs’ if you want to apply to take over management of the block. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing! You may save far more in costs once you’ve taken control – or just have a block of flats that’s run much better.

If you and your freeholder don’t agree about what’s reasonable you can take your case to a First Tier Property Tribunal. You can find out more information about solving a residential property dispute on the Gov.uk website.

SAVVY TIP: A property tribunal isn’t free to use but it is relatively low cost. You don’t have to be represented by a legal expert and you won’t have to pay your landlord’s costs if you lose. However, the landlord does have the right to appeal against the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal decision via the courts if s/he wants to. There’s information about using a First Tier Property Tribunal on the Leasehold Advisory Service website.

Setting up a right to manage company

You can’t take over the management of your block as a group of individuals, even if you want to use a professional management company to look after the block on a day to day basis. Instead, you have to set up a right to manage (RTM) company.

This should be relatively straightforward but it’s a good idea to take professional advice. A good starting point is the free to use Leasehold Advisory Service. Not only does it have lots of helpful information on its website but you can ring its helpline and get expert advice. In some cases advisers will give you face-to-face advice. You can find out more about right to manage companies on the Leasehold Advisory Service website.

Useful links:
There’s a downloadable guide to Right to manage on the free and government funded Leasehold Advisory Service website.

You can also find out about right to manage on the government’s Direct.gov website.

The Association of Residential Managing Agents, which represents property managers, has information on  Right to manage on its website.

If you want to find a solicitor or surveyor who specialises in leasehold matters, go to the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners

Related articles:

Buying a leasehold flat; how to avoid problems with high service charges or costly repair bills

Understanding the different types of mortgage

What ombudsman schemes are there? Who can you complain to if there’s a problem?

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