UPVC Windows and Service Charge Disputes

UPVC windows have numerous advantages – they improve insulation in a room, and thus reduce heating costs; they are easy to maintain and don’t have to be re-painted every other year; and they provide better home security than a wooden frame window. For these reasons many private home owners have had UPVC windows fitted with double glazing. Doing so also generally increases the value of a property. Landlords of leased properties in the UK are often keen to increase the value of their investment by having UPVC windows installed. This can frequently lead to disputes if the landlord covers his or her costs by raising the money for the improvements by increased service charge bills.

Service Charge Disputes are fairly common in the UK. Many people lease flats and as part of their lease they are required to pay a service charge for the upkeep of communal or reserved premises. Part of the problem is that there is no one fixed way of setting out a lease agreement. Moreover, there are several relevant acts of parliament regulating service charges.

One common scenario is when the landlord has new UPVC windows installed and then re-charges the cost to the leaseholders by a service charge. In this scenario the lease states that the landlord may raise money to ‘repair’ or ‘maintain’ windows. Changing wooden frame windows for UPVC windows is usually considered more than maintaining, but rather improving. If the lease doesn’t mention the right to ‘improve’ reserved areas the leaseholder may be able to successfully challenge a landlord in a First Tier Tribunal to stop the charge.

There are several cases dealing with this issue. It is not always clear that the court will decide that putting in UPVC windows is an ‘improvement’ rather than a ‘repair’ if the landlord can show that making the change was a reasonable way to repair very damaged windows.

The issue is complex and both leaseholders and landlords should be careful regards this potentially litigious action regarding changing windows.