My Lords, we have no plans to review the working of the leasehold valuation tribunal. However, later this year, the tribunal will transfer into the newly established property chamber in the First-tier Tribunal, in line with our recently published administrative justice strategic work programme. In addition to improved deployment of judicial resources, the tribunal will operate under new procedural rules, which will continue to ensure that all parties will have greater access to an efficient, proportionate and fairer system of justice.
Is the Minister aware that in the Housing Act 1996, when the leasehold valuation tribunal was set up, the aim was to make it within the reach of every leaseholder to be able, for the amount of £500, to bring his case to the tribunal? Is he aware that now many landlords—whether they win or lose, even if they have no hope of costs—are charging their heavy legal expenses back through the management schemes in the blocks of flats?
I pay tribute to the noble Baroness’s long campaign on this issue. She was an active participant in the Bill that became the 1996 Act. She is absolutely correct that the right of the managing agent to claw back costs of litigation can be written into leases. This can be countermanded by an application to the court under Section 20C of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, but that has to be a proactive action by the leaseholder. We are looking at ways to make leaseholders more aware that, if such a clause is written into their lease, they have this power to take action to have it set aside by the tribunal.