Student Lettings and Service Charges
The Upper Tribunal has recently ruled that student accommodation is not, in most cases, a ‘dwelling’ for the purposes of Section 27A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
In the case of JLK Ltd –v- Ezekwe and Others (2017) UKUT 277(LC) the Upper Tribunal concluded that where student accommodation in which the students had the right to share communal facilities, such as kitchens, lounges, bathrooms and lavatories with other students then the communal parts did not amount to a building which was occupied or intended to be occupied as a separate building.
The facts of this particular case were that the property comprised 93 units. All but 6 had ensuite facilities. The remaining six had shared facilities. The units were all let on long leases where there was an obligation to pay service charges in respect of communal facilities and which conferred a right to use communal facilities. A dispute arose and a number of students made application to the First-tier Tribunal for a determination of the amount payable.
The First-tier Tribunal concluded that all of the units were dwellings and for that reason they had jurisdiction to determine the amounts payable. The Landlord argued that this could not be the case as the units were not separate dwellings due to the shared communal facilities.
The Upper tribunal took the view that to be a dwelling a unit did not, necessarily, have to be anyone’s permanent home. It did, however, find that the units were not separate dwellings. For this reason the Upper Tribunal considered that it had no jurisdiction to make a determination as to the reasonableness of service charge.
It is important to bear this in mind where there may be other types of property which are subject to service charges but where the level of shared facilities means that each unit falls short of being a separate dwelling. This could be applicable, for example, in the case of sheltered residential apartments where there is also a high level of shared facilities.