Work that never happened or poor quality -how to prove to FTT

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    Work that never happened or poor quality -how to prove to FTT

    Hello all,

    I’m a leaseholder in a Victorian building which contain several flats, mostly owner-occupiers. After several miserable years with terrible property managers (PM) (e.g. high prices, poor service and quality ), we finally convinced our freeholder to move us to a new PM.

    leaseholders are now ready to launch FTT proceedings in relation to the poor service and quality and high charges we suffered under our old PM (though of course, we actually take our freeholder to FTT). The new PM have let me look through the accounts, receipts and invoices for 2018 and into mid 2019 (up until we moved PM) and I now have two queries I’m hoping people might be able to help with:

    1. work that never happened
    In early 2019, the old property managers started a “second” section 20 consultation about new water pipe work. They had launched a “first”section 20 on the same issue in 2018 and collected monies (£2000) but spent this elsewhere on the building. The “second” (2019) version of the section 20 was aborted half way through (March) as we prepared to moved from this old PM to the new one. In the invoices handed over to the new PM, it seems the old PM have charged a fee for their work in relation to both section 20 notices, but neither reached fruition. Was old PM right to charge for this, even though S20 work did not happen? Do you think we can challenge this at FTT seeing as there were two S20s, neither of which completed?

    2. Work that we are sure did not happen
    amongst the same invoices, there are charges relating to drainpipe and gutter cleaning, said to have happened in December 2018. Notably, the ivoice is from the old PM company, that is, the gutter cleaning was in-house service. Leaseholders are certain that this work did interest happen. Gutters were blocked and leaking over winter, and rubbish was in there the whole time. Gutters also overflowed and leaked into my flat during this time,, which would indicate they were not cleared and clean. How can we prove to FTT that the old PM did not do this work? Is the overflow into flat sufficient evidence? How does one probe work was not done?

    We also have multiple incidents of poor service / quality in relation to cleaning, ground maintenance etc which I have lots of photos of (garden full of rubbish after gardenrs had been, dirty hallways immediately after cleaner been). So we want to prove this was not of reasonable quality for price paid. Are photos the appropriate way to try and prove that this was work was not done properly/ of poor quality?

    many thanks in advance - replies very much appreciated!


    #2
    I have been in a similar situation, old PM just invoiced and took money, no notice etc. But the point is you cannot go after the PM, you are not their customer, you have to go after the FH, he then he can choose to go after the old PM.

    Your FH has been decent enough to get rid of the old PM, do you want to risk turning him for the sums in question?


    Comment


      #3
      Thanks Paulamis. Yes, I know, as I say in my post, we will take freeholder to FTT over unreasonable costs / quality of maintence carried out by the PM they allowed to manage and neglect the building. We have paid literally thousands in major works (which were awful and not done properly), fees, etc and then, as I say above em additional issues of work not done, work not properly, and stuff they never fixed so we had to pay to fix ourselves. So it is worth it for us to ask FTT if they think the monies spent (£100,000 in one year for 7 units) is reasonable. But I am not sure what FTT want to see/ how to prove work was not done.

      Freeholder is major uk-wide freeholder, so we have no relationship with them whether we FTT or not (it took 6 months and threat of FTT new appointment of PM to get them to move us).

      Comment


        #4
        Take some photos of bad workmanship and finish or work has not been done, to prove your point when you make application to FTT.

        Check past FTTdecisions for same freeholder or managing agent company at the LVT & FTT records held by LEASE ( www.lease-advice.org ).

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Fifilinka View Post
          So it is worth it for us to ask FTT if they think the monies spent (£100,000 in one year for 7 units) is reasonable. But I am not sure what FTT want to see/ how to prove work was not done.
          If you are the applicant to the FTT (with or without other leaseholders) you will be expected to show that each of the charges that you dispute were unreasonable. If you fail to show that there is reasonable doubt that the work was done to a reasonable the freeholder won't have to prove anything, but if you provide reasonable doubt it will then be up to the freeholder to show that the costs were reasonable.

          You may also be expected to provide evidence that you haven't accepted the charges as reasonable. Simply having paid demands should not be seen as acceptance, but any communication from leaseholders that show acceptance of costs might be used as evidence that the costs were considered fair for the work that was done. The best situation for you would be if you can produce copies of letters/emails that clearly show you challenging the costs or stating that you were paying under protest.

          Evidence that you can use includes photos (especially if you have photos taken before and after work), witness statements, surveyor's reports if you have any, communications sent to, or from, the freeholder or their managing agents, etc. - basically anything that you think helps make your case.

          Comment


            #6
            Have you asked the freeholder to take action to recover monies from the managing agent? Are you willing to accept the costs of him taking that action?

            Proving work was not done will not be easy if the managing agent insists that it was, the burden of proof lies with you. Pictures will assist and the Tribunal will inspect the property. At the hearing, the Tribunal will listen to the evidence and it will depend how persuasive the representatives argue their case. A freeholder is likely to be represented by Counsel at your expense so you do not start with a level playing ground.

            With regards to s20 works, you are entitled to an explanation why they did not proceed at the time. There may be a simple explanation. The freeholder is required to account for the monies which he has collected. Whether or not you can claim that the charges are unreasonable is another matter, all the freeholder would have to say is that the works will be carried out at some stage or that the monies are required for something else.

            Comment


              #7
              I had a very similar case where I was charged for a number of roof repairs which included gutter cleaning, but only one or two of the items on the list that I paid for were actually done.

              In my case, I asked a roofing company to give me a quote to fix the roof, and provide a report which detailed the defects (this was one year after the 'repairs' had been done). The tribunal commented that while the roofing company was not independent, the report was damming enough.

              I think it's helpful to remember that the tribunal looks at things on the balance of probabilities (i.e. is it more likely something did not happen that it did) - if you get one or two independent quotes from reputable companies which are members of some trade body, and then other evidence of the gutters leaking, on the balance of probabilities it's likely the tribunal will find that the works were either not done, or done to such a poor standard that it's not worth paying more than £250 for (at least that was my experience).

              I would also add, you have to give the freeholder the opportunity to correct the defects that you have identified (so they need to be given the opportunity to clean the hallway for example without further charge to you) before you start your case as the freeholder could argue he wasn't aware of the issues so couldn't correct them.

              Comment


                #8
                Thanks all. This is sooooo helpful. I was doing some of the right things under old PM in terms of sending queries, taking photos, etc.

                I have gazillions of emails of us questioning the quality and conduct of the works (lots of charges added on later, etc), paying under protest,querying if and when works have actually taken place. With the major works, we weren't given chance to give a snag list after all the works were completed either, and never actually given notice that works were complete, and so we only realised later that stuff had not been done/ done of poor quality.

                I have some before and after photos, so i am pleased they can be seen as suitable evidence for FTT.

                We made freeholder aware of issues (part of the reason they moved us from old PM to new PM, i think) but never directly asked them to remedy or correct issues because we were always communicating directly with the old PM / the building contractor (both of whom were appalling cowboy rip-of merchants!). Freeholder was asked to intervene with old PM in terms of "can you get PM to chase this, etc" but it never really worked and nothing was really remedied that way. Maybe freeholder will argue they have tried to remedy by moving us from old PM to new PM, but surely that doesn't change issue of unreasonable costs/ poor quality? We have still been done over!

                I have enquired as to whether to get another surveyor to look at the building (i.e. after major works), to prove that the works were of poor quality but someone advised me that it will not been seen as independent (as ManchesterPat indicates from their roof report issues).

                Thanks all again, really do appreciate it!

                Comment

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