Freeholder refusing to respond re: License to Alter for loft conversion

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    Freeholder refusing to respond re: License to Alter for loft conversion

    Hello. Any advice that can be provided on our current situation would be much appreciated.

    We own the leasehold to a first floor flat (Victorian terraced conversion) and are planning on converting the loft space into an additional bedroom & en-suite. Our lease states that the demise includes the roof and the structure thereof, this is not in question, but that in respect of structural alterations consent from the landlord should be obtained and such consent is given effect to by way of a Licence to Alter.

    Our solicitor has made contact with the Freeholder's solicitor regarding drawing up the License to Alter, however they have been incredibly slow to respond to anything on the matter and this has now been dragging on for close to 18 months. The Freeholder and his solicitors now do not respond at all to phone calls or emails. The Freeholder has shown no indication that he wants to stop the works, and initially provided us with the contact details for his appointed surveyor, but has now become completely unresponsive. The lease also states that the Freeholder can not "unreasonably withhold" approval. We have in the meantime received planning permission from the council and are of course happy to appoint the Freeholder's surveyor to ensure the works are being done to the correct standard / specifications. We would be liable for any damage to the building that arise as a result of the conversion.

    As some way of further background, the Freeholder has ignored us on other issues regarding communal areas of the building and has clearly neglected his duty in regards to maintaining the upkeep of the property for years. The Freeholder is also the Leaseholder for the downstairs property, which is rented out, so it is not an option to try and purchase the freehold.

    I would like to know what the suggested best course of action would be to try and get things moving - the threat of litigation? And what would this entail / would the Freeholder be liable for costs if he was found to be in the wrong?

    Any advice much appreciated.

    #2
    I suggest you consider complaining about Freeholders solicitor to the regulatory association. Advise that you will do this unless engages in dialogue. Solicitors make money from litigation, only use as last resort.
    I think you have done everything correctly so proceed with care.

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      #3
      Thanks for the suggestion, we will look into this. If anyone does however have experience with litigation in such circumstances and how this would usually work, that would be useful to know.

      Comment


        #4
        I suggest you study the SRA ( Solicitors Regulation Authority) website


        https://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/pro...ud-dishonesty/

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          #5
          Originally posted by scot22 View Post
          I suggest you consider complaining about Freeholders solicitor to the regulatory association. Advise that you will do this unless engages in dialogue. Solicitors make money from litigation, only use as last resort.
          I think you have done everything correctly so proceed with care.
          wise advice , legal action can be incredibly expensive and you could lose thousands . An architect told me recently of a boundary dispute over a few inches of fence cost 92k in costs and they ended up losing the house to pay for it

          Comment


            #6
            Of not the same case, there was a similar case in our region.
            litigation should always be a last resort.

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              #7
              I am not sure if it is possible to complain about another party's solicitor failing to take action.

              Your own solicitor really ought not to have let the matter drag on for so long. What I would suggest is for your solicitor to write and say that the delay is such that consent has been unreasonably withheld and that unless consent is granted within [whatever period your solicitor thinks appropriate] you will proceed with the work. You do not of course have to do that, but it may get things going.

              Comment


                #8
                Yes, it is possible.

                Solicitors can make a fair amount of money by keeping things dragging on.

                Perhaps caution both solicitors ? Property work is difficult enough without this pre hassle before getting going.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Thanks for the replies. I spoke to the Leasehold Advisory Service who suggested appointing an arbitrator as a less expensive option to litigation as the decision is legally binding, although this route seems to require cooperation from the Freeholder so not sure it would work in this situation?

                  Our solicitors have not been hugely helpful, however we may end up paying them further money to have a letter drawn up which threatens litigation in the hopes that this will illicit a response. If this doesn't work then we may end up dropping the matter altogether, as stated here litigation seems very costly and likely not worth our while. Very annoying!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by leaseholderloft
                    Thanks for the comments, I have spoken to the Leasehold Advisory Service and they suggested appointing an arbitrator, a lot less costly than litigation and their decision is legally binding. Fingers crossed this is a more successful route.
                    That is only a helpful suggestion if the lease contains an arbitration clause. Further, arbitration may be cheaper than going to court, but it can still be expensive. Before contemplating any form of dispute resolution you should consider the suggestion I made above.

                    Originally posted by leaseholderloft
                    Also agree re: our solicitors, we don't really feel they have been on our side much during this, we are constantly chasing them up despite being their paying client!
                    Part of the problem here is that you probably have a conveyancer dealing with the matter. Whilst it is of course the job of a conveyancer to protect his client's interest, conveyancing generally involves both sides co-operating and working towards the same end, that is to complete a deal. Some, but by no means all, are out of their comfort zone when things start to go wrong or they need to be forceful.

                    I kept all matters, big and small, under constant review and the client up to date. If I had a matter where no progress was made after a reasonable time. For a licence to alter three months is more than long enough to wait for a response. I would have discussed the matter with the client and asked them to decide if they wanted to call it a day or for me to keep pressing or start threatening.

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