You might feel that a Section 20 notice is some sort of mysterious rabbit pulled confusingly out of a hat. Unfortunately, it’s not actually as interesting as that! There’s no smoke and mirrors, no sprinkling of stardust, and Wishtower aren’t part of the Magic Circle – in fact, we can barely pull off a card trick between us.

Fortunately, a successful Section 20 notice is much more easily achieved than a magic trick. Like everything related to effective property management, it relies on timely, clear and detailed communication. Which is to say, it’s no different to the way Wishtower operates across the board when looking after your property.

We take this approach because, in our experience, the most successful tenant and landlord relationships are built when all parties feel fully informed. Our role is to initiate this relationship and then guide everyone through the process harmoniously. Of course, understanding the detail and knowing what’s expected from who is critical – but that’s why you have us involved, after all, making sure no-one feels left behind, and that nothing falls through the cracks.

What is Section 20?

Section 20 forms part of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Avoiding the full, dry Jargonese, Section 20 is a legal process that needs to be followed in circumstances where works to a property or a long-term contract relating to care of a property, costs more than a set monetary threshold.

As you would expect, the law was introduced to try and ensure that no-one is taken advantage of, or even feels as though they are, and that everyone is engaged. Whilst this is fantastic and absolutely right, the flip-side is that there are numerous, detailed steps that you have to follow exactly as laid out, with no slip-ups along the way. This is where Wishtower’s experience comes in; we guide everyone through the process.

A Section 20 consultation is about giving clear communication in advance of situations where you are spending what is essentially other people’s money. No prizes for guessing that the most contentious bit is often the sums involved, not the procedural details. And, of course, when large amounts of money are involved, it’s completely right for people to want to know what it’s being spent on, when charges will be presented, and whether every contractor involved really offered the best deal. At Wishtower we totally understand. We would ask the same questions, and is why we put such effort into making sure we are being transparent and clear.

By taking care of all of the legal obligations for you, Wishtower dots the i’s, crosses the t’s and generally keeps all parties informed of intended works. Of course, we do the mandated communications, but you’ll never find us hiding behind that, saying that our work is now done, because we read the rules and followed them. We are approachable and make ourselves available, we’re always happy to discuss any issues you have, over the phone or in person. There is no such thing as a silly question, you only know what you know and it’s better to get clarity than to fall foul of something later on.

We ask everyone to get involved. Part of the process involves us asking leaseholders if they would like to suggest a contractor. Whilst we’ve got an address book of contacts, Wishtower doesn’t play favourites, we look for the best solution in each situation. If a contractor recommended by the leaseholders will do a good job, communicate well, be sufficiently insured, and show that they adhere to all relevant health and safety legislation, they’ll be invited to tender. Once we have quotes and timeframes, we again liaise with all leaseholders, keeping everyone in the loop. Again, we see this as the bare minimum for communication, and are more than happy to discuss any aspect of works at any time.

All is not lost!

There are, of course, exceptions to the rules. If there’s an emergency, like water suddenly pouring through your roof after a storm, don’t worry that remedying this will be held up by process before we can get on and prevent damage from spreading.

In a moderate emergency, there’s a body you can appeal to reasonably quickly (the First-Tier Tribunal), to skip some of the processes needed for non-emergency works and enable action to be taken quickly.

When there’s a full-on emergency, it’s considered normal to just take action to fix the problem and then apply for that dispensation retrospectively.

A guiding hand saves stress

All in all, the process surrounding undertaking remedial or improvement works is quite intricate.

There are pitfalls to be aware of, and no magic rabbit, but with the right partner, nothing should feel dashed off or sloppy. Wishtower has a great deal of experience in ensuring a successful outcome, and is more than happy to guide you.

Section 20: Qualifying works and qualifying long term agreements

These are the two things covered by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Qualifying works are “works on a building or any other premises” where the contract involved specifies that the landlord can recover costs from the leaseholder.

This likely includes repairs and maintenance, and maybe also improvements. The consultation process is only required where the cost to any one leaseholder is over £250. As a point of detail, all leaseholders must be consulted, where the cost to any one of them is over the threshold.

Legal disputes have arisen about whether some extended activity is one work, or several that each fall below the £250 threshold. Resolving this is a detailed area of law, but of particular relevance to the question is whether the works are ‘close’ – in time, in connected purpose, and in falling under the same contract.

Qualifying long term agreements are similar, but are agreements that the landlord enters into with a contractor or other party that will last longer than a year. Leaseholders must all be consulted if the cost to any one of them will be over £100 annually.

This update is provided free of charge for information purposes only: it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of Wishtower or by Wishtower as a whole.