A group of 14 leaseholders in Cwmbran have won an important legal battle to stop their landlord, Bron Afon Community Housing, from charging them for work the Housing Association did to their property. The works, which the leaseholders said were unnecessary and excessively expensive, were carried out to Monmouth House in Cwmbran town centre.
Bron Afon carried out the work in order to comply with their obligations under the Welsh Housing Quality Standards (“WHQS”). This requires all Welsh social housing stock to meet certain standards in relation to issues such as state of repair, safety, heating, fuel-efficiency, and insulation, by 2020. However, Bron Afon sought a contribution towards the cost of these works from the private leaseholders, some of whom were being expected to contribute as much as £27,000 each.
Many of the leaseholders are elderly and on low incomes and simply could not afford such payments. They argued that much of the work amounted to improvement, rather than mere repair, and that they were not obliged to contribute to the cost of improvements under the terms of their leases. They also argued that the improvements were unnecessary and too expensive.
The LVT agreed with the leaseholders. The disputed work amounted to improvement rather than repair, so Bron Afon was not able to charge the leaseholders. Moreover, the LVT decided that the cost of the works was not reasonable either, and criticized Bron Afon for failing to consider all the options carefully.
This decision represents a major victory for the leaseholders, but it is also likely to be significant for all social landlords in Wales. It is clear that, even though social landlords will be expected to comply with the WHQS, they cannot do so whatever the cost and expect private leaseholders to foot the bill.
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