Amendment to Lease Agreement - Please Help!

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    Amendment to Lease Agreement - Please Help!

    Hi - I hope you are all well. I have an issue that I would really appreciate some advice on. Apologies for the long post. Thanks for reading!

    In summary, I bought a flat with a mortgage earlier in the month. The flat is a long leasehold with "a share of the freehold". There is a management company and each leaseholder owns a share in the management company.

    I am currently renting a place and was hoping to end my tenancy at the end of May and move into the new flat. The new flat needed (and still needs) quite a bit of work when I bought it - nothing structural but it has not been renovated since the 80's. For example, the plastering was falling off the walls in a lot of places and needed rebonding (if this is the correct term) and it needed a new kitchen and bathroom and also had to be repained. The seller was aware that the place needed work (it was reflected in the purchase price) and I asked my solicitor to notify the management company that I would be doing these decorating works. The lease agreement only requires consent for structuring alterations but I thought it prudent to notify the management company out of courtesy.

    My contractor advised that the works would last 3 to 4 weeks and that it would be best to carry out the works while the flat is empty as they need to strip the plaster from the walls and ceilings etc which would be difficult if the flat is occupied. I decided to roll over the tenancy at my current place for an extra month while the works were being carried out. When the COVID-19 lockdown was put in place, I discussed with my contractor and we agreed that the works will now take 6 - 8 weeks in order to comply with the social distancing guidelines (i.e. not more than 2 or 3 people in the flat at the same time working in different rooms). As a result I decided to extend my tenancy for a further month.

    The builders started work last week and they have stripped out the walls, the bathroom, kitchen, heaters, light switches - basically everything. Mid-last week, the builders were asked to leave the property and the management company sent me an email which attached a letter that was sent to residents of the building in March basically stating that all contracting works in the building (even inside leaseholders' flats) were to cease and that contractors were not allowed to enter the building until April 2021. I never received this letter as I did not own the property at the time. The property was empty prior to the sale as the seller was not living in it so I would give her the benefit of the doubt that she was also not aware of the letter. I informed that management company that I was not aware of the letter prior to starting the works and that the property is no longer in a habitable condition as it has now been completely stripped. I also rent a flat in Central London and the new flat is a 2 bed flat in Central London. As you may expect, the rent and mortgage repayments are huge. I cannot reasonably afford to pay both the mortgage and rent for the next year. I also explained to the management company that, although I was not under a legal obligation to comply with the requirements in the letter (as these were not in the terms of the lease), I was willing to work with them on finding a solution on how I could renovate the flat (to a state where I am able to move in) while also considering the health and safety of other residents int he building. I also provided suggestions on how we could make this work. Just to flag that the entirety of the works is within the confines of my flat. The builders only use the common areas to access my flat from the front door. I was told by the management company that they will get back to me.

    Yesterday, a letter was sent round to the residents of the building noting that the lease agreement has been amended to include the restrictions that were set out in the letter (i.e. that all contracting works are to cease until April 2020 except they are emergency works for which prior consent has to be sought). They have done this by amending a schedule in the lease which contains "regulations" that leaseholders have agreed to comply with. There is also a clause that allows the freeholder to amend the "regulations" without seeking the consent of leaseholders. They did not respond to my email requesting a solution. I think they recognized that I was not bound to comply with the letter so they incorporated its contents into the lease agreement so that I would be in breach of the lease agreement if I don't comply.

    What do you think my position is? I really can't afford to pay both the mortgage and rent at the same time. The new flat is completely uninhabitable. Your thoughts would be most appreciated. Thank you!

    #2
    Did they agree these revised regulations at an AGM or EGM of the shareholders or members of the management company?

    I think they should have done so for the new regulations to be approved.

    Comment


      #3
      From what I gather, if such clause exists on your lease then, you are at their mercy since you signed the lease, effectively agreeing to it. That said, if the letter says contracting works are to be ceased until April 2020, what is stopping your contractors from re-starting the work now...since we are in late April?

      Comment


        #4
        Apologies, it says contracting works are to cease until April 2021 not 2020.

        Comment


          #5
          TruthLedger,

          No - the change was approved by the board of the management company. The lease agreement basically says that the leaseholder agrees to comply with the "regulations" as amended from time to time. The management company has amended the "regulations". They do not have to get leaseholder consent as the lease agreement itself has not been amended.

          I appreciate that they can amend the "regulations" and leaseholders have to comply but shouldn't there be some inherent requirement that this should be reasonable. I can understand prohibiting works until the government's lockdown restrictions have been relaxed however it seems excessive to have a prohibition until April 2021? Also, does this mean that they can literally come up with additions to the "regulations" and I am bound e.g no guests after 7 pm etc?

          Comment


            #6
            The freeholder cannot demand that you have no visitors, friends, relatives, boy / girlfriends coming into your flat.
            Rules and regulations are only for freeholder items, ONLY, and not your flat.
            ( Repeat, not your flat )

            They cannot dictate who visits your flat, to spend time there.

            Freeholder items such as
            Decided to ban all ball games in the COMMON garden due to window breakages.
            No commercial vehicles on the COMMON driveway.
            All bins to be kept clean and no rubbish outside the bins in the COMMON bin store area.
            Don't throw paint and wipes down sinks or toilets that clog up the Freeholders / COMMON underground drains.

            Your lease has not been changed, and cannot be changed restricting visitors without your agreement, and without a tribunal to certify the change, if change was allowed.

            They cannot stop you getting your flat ready for habitation.

            They can advise that it is highly recommended that you limit visitors to your "Demised flat", but cannot stop you having visitors.

            Yes, distancing needs to be obeyed, and easy for one person to check a clear path to your flat before everyone goes in or out.
            But no, they cannot make you stop having visitors


            Comment


              #7
              Your lease was agreed by the lessor ( the builder ) and the lessee ( first leaseholder ) is fixed and cannot be changed unless it is agreed by both current parties. I don't think the management company have powers to restrict access to your flat or stop you doing decorating work quietly.. They can stop you making excess noise since lockdown, almost everyone has to stay at home.

              Perhaps you can decorate one bedroom and move in at end of May. The lockdown may be lifted in June ( which is still 6 weeks away ). That way, you can avoid paying for 2 lots of accommodation through to 2021.

              Comment


                #8
                Thanks, for all your responses. It is most appreciated.

                To provide more information, in case helpful, the lease is between the Lessor, the Manager and the Lessee (who sold the flat to me). The lease agreement was originally signed in 1985 and I signed a deed of covenant with the Lessor that I will comply with the covenants in the lease. The covenants are in a schedule to the 1985 lease agreement (the covenants are called the regulations) and the Lessee agrees to be bound by the regulations as may be amended from time to time. What has happened is that the board of the Manager has amended the regulations to include a covenant that contractors are not allowed inside all flats in the building and that works cannot be carried out inside all flats until April 2021 (and this period can be extended if the Manager decides). My understanding is that by adding this restriction to the regulations, I will be in breach of the regulations if I carry out any works. Does amending the regulations mean that the lease itself has been amended?

                I spoke to LEASE earlier and they advised that the works to my flat are “essential works” as the flat is currently uninhabitable and I am unable to pay the mortgage, council tax and service charge for the flat while also paying rent and council tax on another property for a year and that expecting me to do so would be “unreasonable”. They also mentioned that, although the Manager had the right to amend the regulations to include the restrictions, doing this after I had bought the flat and started the works could be considered to be “disingenuous” and an “inappropriate” use of this right. They advised me to continue the works in compliance with the UK Government's guidance on safe distancing in order to make the flat habitable.

                LEASE also mentioned that a route available to the Manager is to seek an injunction via a tribunal and that I would need to engage solicitors at this point. This is all so stressful

                Comment


                  #9
                  As Ram says, the freeholder cannot make any sort of legitimate rule or regulation that restricts this activity. I would do the work and ignore them.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Hopeful20 View Post
                    Does amending the regulations mean that the lease itself has been amended?
                    Watch my lips.

                    Your lease has not, and cannot be changed.
                    It is the freeholders rules that have been added to ,
                    Rules and regulations that helps keep the whole property "Decent"

                    Regulations would include such things as
                    • Keep the doors to the building closed.
                    • Not to keep any animals.
                    • No clothes shall be hung from windows ( to dry ).
                    • Not to use the building for immoral / illegal nature.
                    • Not to cause any noise.
                    • Keep curtains on the windows.
                    • And much much more in the same guise.
                    The rules and regulations are for decency... and to not annoy others by your actions above.

                    They CANNOT stop you from having visitors. It is your right to have visitors, and in the current situation, if you take precautions, you are allowed to have visitors.

                    Tell them to get stuffed.
                    They have the right to keep the place up to a standard.( As bulleted above )
                    They have the right to impose rules and regulations on THEIR property, which is, for example, ( but not all shown ) driveway, external walls, roof, boundary walls, underground drains. in fact every thing that is not demised to any flat leaseholder.

                    They have no legal stance to tell you who can visit your property, assuming those persons are of good character..

                    We all understand they are trying to protect residents, but to tell you, you cannot refurbish your flat, cannot have visitors, is beyond their powers.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Many thanks for your responses, everyone.

                      This morning, I received a letter from the solicitors of the management company basically asking me to stop the works within 7 days or they might seek an injunction. Is anyone able to recommend solicitors to help me on this? The solicitors I used for the conveyancing are a bit slow at the moment.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I find the posts of ram and Andrew Dod authorative. I have 20 years experience of leasehold and agree with their views.
                        I suspect the competence of the directors. Your approach, in my opinion, has been impeccable. Is the injunction to stop you making the flat habitable !? You are not breaking any laws. My opinion is to call their bluff and do it.
                        I suspect any judge would be irritated by it. As long as you and your contractor are confident in your precautions I see no reason not to.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Thank you so much Scot22! I will carry on with the works and keep looking into getting solicitors on board just in case.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Very sensible. Is it worthwhile working out how much extra cost you would incur if they attempt to enforce a draconian measure ? Then if they are so arrogant as pursue their diktat you counter with threatening to sue them for the costs. If it is proved they are acting beyond their powers it is possible they might be personally liable.
                            my approach is to be as respectful and pleasant as possible. But.....

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by scot22 View Post
                              Very sensible. Is it worthwhile working out how much extra cost you would incur if they attempt to enforce a draconian measure ? Then if they are so arrogant as pursue their diktat you counter with threatening to sue them for the costs. If it is proved they are acting beyond their powers it is possible they might be personally liable.
                              my approach is to be as respectful and pleasant as possible. But.....
                              Yes - I have a rough idea. If I have to remain in my current rental property, my monthly mortgage payment for the new flat is about £1800. Service charge is roughly £3,500 per year and then council tax would be around £140 per month. I told them last week that I am happy to stop the works if they cover these costs. Their response was to "lawyer up".

                              Comment

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