Inherited Freehold

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  • Inherited Freehold

    I have inherited a leasehold flat and the freehold to the building (containing 2 flats) and I am hoping that those with far more experience may be able to point me in the right direction. Both properties are in a poor state of repair and I am working to bring them up to standard. Discussion is in progress and I have recently served the first floor leaseholders with a section 20 for some essential communal work but I feel the contentious relationship they had previously is going to make it difficult to move forwards. Additional information- the leaseholders are pensioners, have less then 70 years remaining on their lease and the mindset that they are tenants rather then owners.

    1. Both leases state the leaseholders have the responsibility 'to pay a fair and reasonable part of expenses for repaIring, cleansing, maintaining and supporting the roofs, main structure, internal maintaining etc...'. Is it unreasonable for me to expect them to pay 50% of the cost to replace the roof and repair and paint the exterior of the property? What happens at the end of the section 20 process if they still refuse to accept the costs?

    2. The leaseholders have agreed to splitting the communal garden 50:50, although until an agreement is sought for the roof costs I do not think they will let this proceed. As freeholder, if I wish to take on the cost of erecting fences giving the leaseholders 50% share of the garden do I need to follow the section 20 process or can I just formally notify the leaseholders with a view to amending both leases in the future? Once the garden is split if I wish to add a <3m extension do I have the right to do this (subject to building regs approval) if it is in my part of the garden?

    3. The leaseholders flat is in a poor state of repair and there has been an on going leak from their bathroom for years for which they refuse to accept responsibility (despite the ceiling falling down and the timber being water damaged). What can I do as freeholder to ensure they address this?

    4. The leaseholders utilities are currently located in my property. Do I have the right to move their gas supply into a communal area without their permission (again they have been informed but the roof issue will prevent me getting their formal consent)?

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    1) I would have been better if the lease had been more specific than "fair and reasonable". However, I would say that your proposal was in their favour, as some leases would make them responsible for the whole roof and painting at first floor level involves more working at heights than doing so at ground floor..

    Unfortunately, it will cost you at least £100, but I can't see how the FTT could possibly object to a 50:50 split on both of these, so you could either go for a ruling on the validity of the service charge, or, more aggressively, for breach of covenant.

    2) If you are paying, as freeholder, there is no section 20 issue. However, you ought to change the leases first. Even if the initial fences are paid for by the freeholder, make sure that the lease is clear as to who pays for their upkeep.

    3) I assume that there are repairing covenants. What you do will depend on how the lease provides for recovering legal costs, but you can either seek a ruling, from the FTT, that there is a breach of covenant, and if that doesn't scare them, start forfeiture proceedings, or you can seek a county court injunction.

    4) Do you mean internal or external communal areas. It is very unlikely that a gas meter would be acceptable in any internal communal area. Note that you need to do a fire risk assessment if you have internal communal areas. However, I'm not sure that having gas shut-off valve where the end user cannot access it in an emergency would be acceptable from a gas safety point of view. Note that, if the gas supplier condemns an appliance, they will put a blanking disk in the meter, so will want immediate access, and they will also want access to all the appliances when they next change the meter (they will be pushing for smart meters, but change them, periodically, anyway.

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    • #3
      Leaseholder64,

      Thank you so much for you response. It is really helpful. I will just make sure I follow the section 20 process to the letter and play the waiting game (whilst water continues to leak into their flat).

      Although they seem agreeable with splitting the garden I doubt I will get there formal consent whilst we have the roof issue ongoing. Can a freeholder make changes to both leases without leaseholder input?

      Regarding point 4 above- I can consult with the plumber regarding the best place to move their gas meter. Just wanted to know if I can just go ahead and do this without their formal consent.

      Thanks.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Seaes56 View Post
        Can a freeholder make changes to both leases without leaseholder input?
        No. Everyone whose lease is affected by the change must agree, as must their lenders. There will be significant conveyancing costs, but I'm not sure how much. There are special cases where a freeholder can change a lease with only a tribunal's approval, but this is far from one of those.

        Originally posted by Seaes56 View Post
        Regarding point 4 above- I can consult with the plumber regarding the best place to move their gas meter. Just wanted to know if I can just go ahead and do this without their formal consent.
        That's going to depend on the fine details of the wording of the lease, I'm not sure I'd want to more specific than that.

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        • #5
          Than you again.

          Can you advise of the best way best way for me to get both leases reviewed to bring them up to date? If I am going to pay solicitor costs to split the garden I would like to be informed of other sensible changes to make at this stage.

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