If you’re thinking about going Right to Manage, have you thought if it is right for your development? Have you looked at the alternatives? Leasehold Life is very pleased to be able to reproduce the following article with the kind permission of the author, founder of the excellent website Service Charge Help.
RTM gives a group of leaseholders the right to take control of the management of their block without having to prove their manager is at fault. Leaseholders will exercise this right by forming and becoming members of a Right to Manage Company which will work just like a Residential Management Company.
Leaseholders will gain full rights over the service charge, how much they will all pay, what it is spent on, what contractors to use and what Managing Agent to appoint. However every development is different; each has a different layout, different number of units, different mix of tenures, different mix of properties and a different service charge. Sometimes RTM is not the answer, there are alternatives.Collective EnfranchisementIn plain English the leaseholders in a block collectively buying the freehold. Where the freeholder has the responsibility of the service charge this will instantly grant the leaseholders management of their development. By buying the freehold, leaseholders will have control over ground rent and lease extensions. This means further savings can be made and they will significantly increase the value of the lease they own. The downside to collective enfranchisement is that it can be hard to organise and very costly. If you can get the capital together to go down this route, then I suggest you do, hands down this is the best option out there.Residents Association Offers leaseholders a chance to maximise their rights under the terms of their lease. A strong, well-represented association will also give leaseholders a much better position in the event of conflicts with the landlord or agent. Once a recognised residents association is in place, the landlord is entitled to consult the association on service charge and management issues. Further to this, the association can require the landlord to consult with them on the appointment of a managing agent. The problem here is that the freeholder still remains in control of the management and if the association is not recognised then its powers are non-existent.LVT Appointing a Manager If leaseholders are not happy with the management they are receiving they can apply to the LVT who will consider their application. If successful the LVT have the power to appoint a new manager to the development. The obvious issue with this route is that fault on the part of the manager has to be proved and therefore a case will need to be put together.Just like RTM the alternatives are not perfect and all have negatives. However each has a place and should be considered along with RTM before leaseholders make a decision. Let’s look at some of the situations where RTM can fail.Mixed Use DevelopmentIf you live on a development that has a mixed use, most likely some of the block is used for commercial purposes, then it is possible RTM can’t be entered into. In order to qualify for RTM the block must have no more than 25% of the floor space in non-residential use.If this is the case on your development then RTM is a complete non-starter and you will need to consider the other options.Large DevelopmentOne of the main problems with RTM is that it requires 50% of the leaseholders in a block to agree to it. In larger blocks with a high percentage of sub-let properties this can be close to impossible to achieve. If you are having trouble getting 50% of leaseholders to acknowledge you, then perhaps one of the other options may be more suitable. Multiple BlocksSome developments will consist of multiple blocks of flats all paying into the one service charge fund which presents a decision when thinking about RTM. Do you try and take the whole development RTM or just individual blocks, setting up several RTM Companies. Both will work, but both have their problems.If you scoop up all the blocks into one large RTM then the blocks will not be able to separate at a later date. RTM can’t happen on a block which already has a RTM in place. Blocks going RTM individually would eliminate this problem but present others. RTM can only be exercised on the areas contained within the freehold footprint of the block or the areas specifically serving that block (e.g. gardens). Sometimes the lease will not distinguish the external managed areas by block, meaning that you cannot legally state which areas specifically serve each block. The leaseholders would end up paying two service charges. One to the RTM company for the management of the block and the second to the freeholder for the estate areas. This could increase the charges the leaseholder pays; therefore the RTM would not make financial sense. These situations of double service charges can occur frequently with RTM companies and it is a real problem you should look out for.Freehold PropertiesIt is not uncommon for freehold properties to pay a service charge. However RTM is only a process that can be used by leaseholders, as are the alternatives I have mentioned as well. Unfortunately there is no current legislation where freeholders have the power to take over the management of the service charge they pay. This is in my opinion something that needs to be looked at very seriously by the government. However I would say that most often when freehold properties pay a service charge they do so via a Residential Management Company. All of the examples I have given above have been in the context of the service charge being paid to the freeholder. But it is more and more common today that Residential Management Companies are drawn into Leases. Residential Management Companies (RMC)If you pay your service charge to a RMC then in my opinion there is no point in looking at RTM. The whole purpose of a RMC is that each member will have the right to become a director and therefore have the same rights as if the development was RTM. If you have any issues with the management of your development, look to become a director of the RMC, you will then have full control of the service charge without having to apply for RTM. There may already be residential directors in place, so find out who they are and discuss your issues with them. If there are no residential directors in place then you will need to have a general meeting convened with the purpose of appointing them. SUMMARYTo summarise I think that RTM is a fantastic idea; unfortunately it has been poorly executed in legislation. If you have a development that qualifies, can get the 50% of leaseholders to agree and makes viable financial sense to go RTM then I suggest you do. Just don’t do it if you already have a RMC in place, there really is no point. If you are not lucky enough to be suitable for RTM or are struggling to get the 50% agreement needed, then I hope some of the options I have mentioned give you some direction. Unfortunately as you will have noticed they also are not full proof. It really is about doing your homework, taking good advice and working out which option works best for your development and the leaseholder’s collectively.If you require any information please get in touch here.Disclaimer. The information in this article is for general guidance on your rights and responsibilities and is not legal advice. If you need more details on your rights or legal advice about what action to take, please contact an advisor or solicitor.
While this website is constantly checked and updated for accuracy, the information and articles provided by Leasehold Life and it's guest contributors are not to be construed as legal advice.
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