Freeholder absent (or has dementia) = works not approved

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    Freeholder absent (or has dementia) = works not approved

    Hi all - first time poster, but I am in a very stressful situation and with a baby on the way in six months I could do with some advice from this community.

    1. We purchased a flat (one of four in a converted Victorian house) in Nov 2018 - knowing the lease was short 71 years, but having negotiated a section 42 extension, which was approved by the freeholder.
    2. We quickly noticed odd goings on with the freeholder. She's an elderly lady who has no contact details at all. We found an address for her and went round and her house is dilapidated - there's a car on her drive with a tree growing out of it! And she answered the door and was irrationally spikey with us (glad I bought her chocolates now!) We said we had plans for a kitchen extension that needed minor alteration to an internal wall - and wanted to replace all of the windows with expensive double glazing in keeping with conservation rules. We would keep her in the loop as long as she approved the work. She said she would think about it.
    3. Months go by - nothing. We go back and she refuses to answer the door.
    4. We go back a week later and she has boarded up the door.
    5. We writer her a letter. Nothing. We write her lawyer a letter...he says "I can't get hold of her".
    6. Bizarrely the next door neighbour chats to us over the fence - he is her son. His brother converted the house into flats and has told his mum not to approve any work until he checks the foundations (WHAT?) So we call him, he comes from Bournemouth, checks the foundations and says they are fine and he will tell his mum to approve the work.
    7. More months pass. No word. We can't contact her - so we start contacting him.
    8. We start investigating option to buy the freehold - but not every flat is on board and we can't afford to take on 50% ourselves - so that's not an option.
    9. We investigate litigation...but are informed it will be mega expensive, and at the end of it she will still be your freeholder, and the grudge that would inevitably develop will cause problems going forward.
    10. So we hassle the son - he tells us ANOTHER flat has complained about his mum, and via their lawyers, has forced her to have a dementia test - everything's on hold until then.
    11. My partner discovered she is pregnant. We now have 6 months to do the work before the baby - a freeholder who wont approve the work and MAY have dementia. A son who seems to be some sort of unhelpful Iago-style adviser. A weird older brother next door watching our every move.
    12. Some lawyer recommends we get indemnity insurance and just carry out the work. Another lawyer warns us we won't be able to sell and the insurance my not be fool proof in terms of protecting us against being sued.

    In conclusion...
    Missing/dementia ridden freeholder won't approve works (out kitchen is TINY and we cannot live with it. The baby room is FREEZING and needs double glazing)> The fact the lease says she cannot unreasonably withold consent doesn't appear to be helping us...we still need her consent!
    My questions are:
    - HELP! What can we do? How can we force through the work?
    - If she has dementia - what happens to the freehold? Will it pass to her equally unhelpful son?
    - We have a letter saying she agreed the section 42 lease extension valuation - and we paid a ten per cent deposit. But we never paid the rest as we were holding out to check the freehold purchase options. Does the section 42 agreement (and deposit) expire? Or can we just pay the rest whenever.
    - Why do we feel so vulnerable in this situation? Shouldn't the law be on our side? It's our first house and we have nothing but good intentions for the place. We want to raise a family and make it a home - instead it's a stressful nightmare. Any advice?

    I suggest do the works (quietly asap) then execute the lease extension. This 'wipes the slate' regarding any consents, as it is effectively a surrender and regrant.


      If she has dementia ownership of the freehold will stay with her. If she has nominated an attorney (Lasting Power of Attorney), the family may request the attorney take over her financial affairs, otherwise, if requested, the courts appoint a receiver, who may well be from the family.

      I don't think it was a good idea to take on a leasehold on the basis that you expected to be able to get licence to alter.


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