In a decision of great importance to landlords of student accommodation, a tribunal has found that bed-sits with communal facilities are not separate dwellings. The ruling meant that the tribunal had no power to consider an attempt by a group of students to have their service charges fixed by law.
The case concerned an old fire station that had been converted into student digs. It contained 96 bed-sits, most of which had en suite shower rooms. In common with most student accommodation, tenants had access to communal living areas and kitchens and only their bed-sits were fitted with locks.
A number of students who lived in the block applied to have their service charges fixed at a reasonable level under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (the Act). If the Act applied to them, service charges could only be levied in respect of sums reasonably incurred for works or services of a reasonable standard.
The landlord would also be required to provide information to tenants and consult with them before major works were carried out. There would be time limits set on the recovery of service charges and tenants would have access to the tribunal system for the determination of disputes. All those protections would, however, only be available if the bed-sits were separate dwellings, within the meaning of the Act. The First-tier Tribunal (FTT) found that they were.
In ruling on the landlord’s challenge to that decision, the Upper Tribunal (UT) found that, in order to qualify as dwellings, the bed-sits did not have to be someone’s home. However, in upholding the appeal, it found that the extent of the communal facilities meant that the bed-sits were not occupied as separate dwellings. The FTT thus had no jurisdiction to consider the tenants’ application.
JLK Limited v Ezekwe & Ors. Case Number: LEX/29/2017