8. FAQs

Can I carry out home improvements?

Generally, yes. Minor works such as putting up shelves or decorating can obviously be carried out without consulting us. Modernisation of kitchens and bathrooms can be done with consent if structural or common parts will be affected, but do advise your neighbours of any possible disturbance. If you intend to carry out major works, such as replacement windows and doors, taking down or putting up a wall or building an extension, you will need our written permission. Please note that the loft space in your block belongs to the council in all blocks and is never sold with a leasehold. Permission will not be granted for any loft extensions. This includes when the loft access is inside the flat. If you are doing structural work to your home, we’ll need to see plans. You should also write to us and confirm that the works will be carried out by a reputable builder and will comply with all necessary local authority building regulations and planning requirements. Please see 'Your lease explained' in this handbook for additional details, and contact us if you need advice.

Can I install a satellite dish?

Most leases restrict the fitting of satellite dishes. Our blocks have communal aerials which are being upgraded to accept the new digital signal and satellite channels.

What about installing cable TV?

In many cases this could involve digging up communal gardens or areas, and routing cables through halls and stairways. As this could disturb the communal areas and your neighbours, you must ask our permission before you agree anything with the cable company.

Can I keep pets?

You are not allowed to keep any animals if they are dangerous, or if it is unlawful to have them. Where necessary you should get your animal licensed. If your Lease allows pets they must be domestic pets or birds, in reasonable numbers. You must not allow your pets to cause annoyance or a nuisance to other people, which includes frightening or endangering them. It is important that you look after your pet, and clean up after it. Dogs must be on a lead and accompanied in all communal areas including communal grounds and gardens at all times.

Can I take in a lodger?

Yes. You are, however, responsible for them and you must make sure they keep to the conditions in your lease. You should check with your income tax office because you may be able to claim some tax benefits on the rent you get paid by your lodger.

Can I sub-let my home?

You must let us know if you intend to sub-let your home. Under no circumstances can you split your home into two or more separate homes for sub-letting. It can only be sub-let if you move out and let it all. You will still be responsible to us as the leaseholder, so it is important for us, and you, to make sure that we have your new or temporary address. As a landlord you will be responsible for annual gas safety and smoke detector checks. If you appoint a managing agent, you should provide us with their details. If you have a mortgage we would also advise you to contact your lender and get their permission. If you are a shared owner and do not own your entire home you may not be able to sub-let.

Can we buy the freehold of our flat or maisonette?

Leaseholders now have the right to group together and buy the freehold of the building if they occupy the majority of the homes within it. If this is the case in your building, you can contact us for further information about your right to buy the freehold. This is known as enfranchisement. Do get legal advice.

When can I expect to be consulted about work to be carried out to the property or estate?

If major works that will cost more than £250 per leaseholder are required or long term agreements costing £100 per leaseholder per year are entered into, we are obliged to serve notice on you of our intentions.

The notices are required by Section 20 the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (as amended) and provide an opportunity for leaseholders to be consulted. Consultation is not carried out for works under £250 or long term contracts under £100.

We will:

  • Advise all leaseholders and any recognised residents’ association of the proposed works, the specification, and the contractors who we will ask to tender for the work.
  • Ask all leaseholders and any recognised residents’ association if they want to suggest any other contractor who might be suitable to do the work, and can meet our requirements (you will be given at least 30 days to comment).
  • Provide details of the tenders received and which one we intend to use.

You will receive a statutory consultation notice and be given at least one month to provide us with comments. We will then summarise the comments received and explain how we have been able to accommodate them, or why we cannot do so. Wherever possible we will provide more information about dates of work and access requirements.

How is the decision made about the work to be done?

As professional managers of your building and estate we have the responsibility to decide what work needs to be done and when. However, we will have regard to any comments we receive from you, and whenever possible try to meet them. If a majority of leaseholders have a view which we cannot agree with, we will do our best to explain why. We may have over-riding responsibilities to other residents in the building or estate.

How is the decision made on who should do the work?

We are required to work only with contractors who can meet our criteria for experience, financial stability and quality. We will use new contractors only if they meet these standards. Commercial contractors cannot have any connection with our staff. Competitive tenders are required for major works. We will usually choose the one quoting the lowest price. If we do not do so, we will explain why.

Is there any limit to the costs?

Generally, there are no limits. However, if you purchased under the Right to Buy, there are limits during the first five years for repairs and improvements and general repairs. These were detailed in your Offer Notice which you received when you applied to buy your home. During these first five years we cannot charge more than the amounts we estimated for itemised repairs and improvements (after allowing for inflation).

How do I know if the service charges are reasonable?

It is in our interests as well as yours to ensure that all costs are reasonable.

What can I do if I think the service charges are unreasonable?

We would ask you to speak to us first to see if we can explain the reasons for the service charges. You have the right to take your case to First-tier Tribunal. The First-tier Tribunal (Ft-T) provide an accessible and relatively informal way to resolve residential leasehold disputes. A fee has to be paid by you if you want to go to the Ft-T. Proceedings at the Ft-T are semi-formal. Neither side is required to be represented, evidence is not given on oath and the usual court rules do not apply. The Ft-T hears both sides of the argument and then determines the issue on the basis of the evidence and the judgement and experience of the Ft-T members. Their decision is issued in writing as soon as possible after the hearing.

Useful contacts

Arun District Council Leasehold Services 01903 737979 Email: leasehold@arun.gov.uk

Arun District Council Housing Repairs 01903 737827 Email: housing.repairs@arun.gov.uk

Arun District Council Environmental Health 01903 737755

Arun District Council Insurance Officer 01903 737500 Ext. 37429

Anti-Social Behaviour 101

Building Insurance - Zurich Municipal 0800 028 0336 Policy Number: QLA-11H062-0113

Citizens Advice Bureau 0844 477 1171

Council Tax 01903 737752 Email: revenues.benefits@arun.gov.uk

Emergencies 01903 713976 Gas Leaks 0800 111999

Housing Ombudsman Service 0300 111 3000 Email: info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) 0207 383 9800

Payment Enquiries 01903 737500

Police 101 (non emergency number)

The Pension Services 0845 606 0265

Tribunal Regional Office 01243 779394

West Sussex County Council 08457 581232

This handbook is for general information only. Details are subject to change. Please contact leasehold management services if you have detailed questions.