Impasse with Freeholder

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    Impasse with Freeholder

    This is a complex one but in simple terms i'm a leaseholder in an upstairs flat which has a slate roof above which essentially needs to be replaced as its seriously leaking and i have a tenant who is being very reasonable about it for now (Although it has been leaking at varying degrees over the last couple of years)

    My issue is there is no maintenance going on in the whole of property due to a longstanding dispute between the other leaseholders and the freeholder resulting in no service charges are being paid by the majority of leaseholders. I have contacted him on at least 3 occasions in relation to the leaks and more recently have offered to pay 100% towards the section above my flat with suitably qualified roofers (3 quotes of which he can choose one) to ensure issues can be rectified.

    He has however said that he wants me to arrange for all other flat owners to pay they're arrears (Some of which go back 10 years+) and he would arrange quotes and that id have to pay in advance which I'm not able or prepared to do as he has a poor reputation. I would also have no assurances he would complete the work and leave me out of pocket.

    He has advised that i'm not able to go onto the roof to do any repairs, temporary or otherwise as it would be trespassing.

    If we are at stalemate what are my rights and could anyone advise how best i should proceed?

    #2
    This is a long leasehold forum question.

    The only fully legal options are to sue the freeholder, e.g. for specific performance of the covenant to maintain the roof, or to go through the process of having a manager appointed (not a cheap option).

    Action for trespass is based on loss, so it may be fairly safe to do the absolute minimum repair to protect your property, as it will be difficult for the freeholder to argue that they lost out financially as a result.

    The softest approach would he to try and understand and mediate on the reason for non-payment of service charges.

    Comment


      #3
      You have had this problem since November 2012, 7 years ago.
      You sue the freeholder for not doing his duties,
      which are, to collect service charges from leaseholders, and to sue leaseholders that do not pay the service charges.
      Freeholder is OBLIGED to carry out maintenance even if collected charges remain unpaid.
      He does the repairs, ( using a section 21 if required -- if any one leaseholder will be billed for more than £ 250 for forthcoming repairs -- which you will be ).

      He then sues the leaseholders for not observing the lease to pay service charges.
      THAT IS HIS JOB, not yours.

      Go to the F.T.T. ( used to be the LVT ) check it out First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) - GOV.UK


      spend a day recearching your rights to make freeholder maintain the place.

      Comment


        #4
        this post should be in leasehold section.

        Comment


          #5
          I don't think the FTT handles covenant breaches by the freeholder, except as part of the appoint a manager procedure. I think you would need a County Court injunction to force them to obey the lease.

          Comment


            #6
            The Freeholder has just let things slip significantly over the years, there's no door access, internal lights (Had to have motion sensor lights installed outside mine and neighbours flats otherwise pitch black in foyer and vestibule!), no electric checks, Fire alarms, sensors or cleaning, we also have movement on the rear extension which he says the insurer won't cover. He's basically a nasty aggressive man who has allowed things to deteriorate over the years, a couple of owners have paid their backdated service charges (Which don't include any monies for repairs/improvements) the rest have just stopped paying due to his behaviour and inconsistent approach.

            He also has a history of repairs when done being completed to a poor standard and at inflated prices.

            My roof needs completely stripping back and re-slating, no repairs are going to fix it now!

            Were at a complete standoff but i have a tenant getting water into the flat!

            Comment


              #7
              I would speak to the freeholder and point out that his issues with the other tenants are none of your business, and don't affect his repair and maintenance obligations.
              If he won't go ahead, you will be forced to take legal action to get a court order for him to meet his obligations under the lease.
              That will be much more costly for him and he'll end up paying a lot of (your) costs.

              Then find a solicitor and start the ball rolling.

              If the lessees won't pay the service charges he should be taking legal action against them.

              When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
              Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

              Comment


                #8
                No internal lighting, such that is pitch black is a criminal offence. You may have mitigated this, unless your system is inadequate.

                Many blocks don't need communql smoke alarms, and their installation is contraindicated, but if you have inadequate fire safety construction, not having smoke alarms is a criminal offence.

                I'd say your choices are sue for specific performance, or go through the appoint a manager procedure (set realistic deadlines for remedying all the defects, and if that doesn't happen, find a managing agent prepared to take on the job than apply to the FTT to have them appointed manager).

                You could also try requesting the council of fire brigade to enforce the fire safety breaches, which are likely to be more extensive than you have indicated, but don't hold out much hope unless there are other factors.

                Many leases don't even require the freeholder to clean, so that will depend on the lease.

                Not sure what you mean by door access. Not having locks may be a fire safety issue, but there is nothing that says you have to have an entryphone system, unless the lease requires it. Most leases would not permit expenditure on installing one to be recovered, if the doors were already adequately secure.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Of course, if lessees not paying service charge then in breach of lease and freeholder is not obliged to repair their dwellings. Get together and work together.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Thanks very much for some excellent advice, the situation is clearly complex and we have some obstacles to overcome. I have a meeting with him next week so will see what his mindset is like

                    Comment


                      #11
                      One last question, if he agrees for my section of the roof to be replaced am I obliged to pay for it up front? I’ve never paid for work until after the job is completed and when all parties are happy with the job, he’s already said that this would be required?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by scot22 View Post
                        Of course, if lessees not paying service charge then in breach of lease and freeholder is not obliged to repair their dwellings. Get together and work together.
                        That would depend on the exact terms of the lease, in some cases the freeholder may be obligated to maintain the block properly even if the majority of leaseholders are not paying their service charges, it is only if the lease specifically makes the freeholders duties dependent on the receipt of payment from leaseholders that this is likely to be accepted as a defence for their failure to fulfil their obligations.
                        The lease will almost certainly make provision for the freeholder to take action against those who don't pay, they will be expected to get the work done and then make use of these provisions (or relevant law) to recoup their costs. If the lease doesn't make adequate provision for this, the freeholder would have applied to the FTT to get the leases amended.

                        Even if 90% of leaseholders are clearly in breach of their leases, the freeholder is still obligated to maintain the property properly or the other 10% will have a case against them.

                        If you can get other leaseholders on your side, and work with them, it will likely help - although this assumes that they are reasonable and are prepared to pay all of the reasonable costs that the lease requires them to pay. If the other leaseholders are refusing to pay even the reasonable costs of maintenance that the leases allows you might be better off taking the freeholder to court yourself to try and force them to maintain the building and take the relevant legal action against the defaulters (although you need to take into account how this might affect relationships with your neighbours if they are owner occupiers - in that case it is better to make them understand that they need to pay their share of maintaining the building).

                        Comment


                          #13
                          In the case of share of the freehold arrangements, it is almost essential to get money up front. Even in more commercial arrangements, the service fund can't usually borrow.

                          On the lights, I should have added, unless your lights have standby power, and you do the proper routine tests on them, there will still be a criminal offence.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            In this case though, the OP's comments seem to suggest that a separate freeholder is involved, not a share of freehold arrangement.

                            When share of freehold arrangements are set up consideration should be given to how the necessary funding will be received up front (which might necessitate a change of lease). If there is nothing in place requiring advanced payment of funds, there is no way that leaseholders can be required to pay in advance).

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Given your comment about freeholder neglect, I would get a proper health and safety inspection done in case there are other issues of which you are not aware. This property may not be suitable for letting until some problems are rectified.

                              Comment

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