My council is playing Mr Nasty

Our lawyer Katharine Marshall advises on the rights of leaseholders in flats owned by borough councils
Legal cartoon
© Merrily Harpur (
Question: I am a leaseholder in a flat owned by our borough council which, in the 10 years I have lived here, hasn't undertaken any repairs at all. This has left the building in an awful state (we even recarpeted the hall ourselves as it was so bad).

Two or three years ago the council embarked on a repairs programme, but kept putting off the start date on our building.

Now it has written to me and my neighbours saying that our building is not to be refurbished because we were offered the freehold to buy in 2008 but declined to buy it. Surely this is unrelated? Is the council obliged to repair our building as laid out in the lease?

Answer: Your right to buy the freehold of your flat is unrelated to the terms of your lease. Therefore, your refusal to buy the freehold should have no bearing on your landlord's compliance with the terms of the lease. If the lease obliges the council to carry out repairs to the building then it must do so. If it is refusing to comply with the terms of the lease then it will be in breach of its terms.

If you have spent money carrying out repairs that the council was obliged to do, you may be able to claim this back under the terms of your lease or via other legal remedies. You should contact your council and try to resolve this amicably. But if the council refuses to carry out repairs you should explain that you are within your rights to take legal action.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Katharine Marshall please email, or write to: Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5EE.

We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here.

Katharine is a solicitor and director at Pitmans Solicitors (

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