Freeholder Refusing To Remove Bicycle From Communal Hallway

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    Freeholder Refusing To Remove Bicycle From Communal Hallway

    Hello, I am looking for any helpful advice on the following situation;

    I live in a Victorian house split into 2 flats under freehold and leasehold ownership, I live on the downstairs flat with my partner and the upstairs is occupied by a couple and their 2 children. When we first moved in they both kept their bicycles in the communal hallway (one on a bicycle hangar on the wall and one on the floor), we added our 2 bicycles to the floor arrangement. It soon become apparent that the man goes on morning leisure cycles 3-4 times a week, leaving at 5.50am in week and at 6.50am at weekend - it became a noise nuisance for us as our bedroom is situated next to the communal hallway, we raised it politely as we were on good terms at this point. The bicycles on the floor were a bit of an obstruction and luckily Cyclehoop storage was installed on our street, the neighbours upstairs insisted that we move both our bicycles to the storage as the bikes were an inconveinence to them and a fire risk, and they would move one but leave the bicycle on the wall hangar as they owed the majority of the freehold so were entitled to a stronger decision on the use of the communal hallway - this was 2 years ago. We continued to be woken by his movement in the hallway for his morning cycles and when raised we were told it is our problem for situating our bedroom next to the hallway (it is the only suitable room in our 1 bed flat to have the bedroom and it was situated in this arrangement when sold with the plan of the flat). After a request from them for us to pay towards their double glazing windows they wanted, we decided we needed to have a better understanding of our lease as we were sure double glazing weren't included and they were threatening to take us to court, during our legal advice investigation we were advised that we are in fact equal joint free holders with the upstairs neighbours and that infact double glazing isn't included (they still continued to threaten to take us to court however). We approached the neighbours with this information and requested that on this basis they remove the bicycle from the hallway as well as the lease stating communal areas are for access purposes only and that any behaviour should not affect the quiet enjoyment of property which we deemed his morning cycles to be (he broke his ankle and was off his bike for 4 months which meant no more mornings of being woken up). Their response to the fact that we are joint free holders equally is that they have lived there 17 years and it was an agreement that he could store his bike like that with the previous owners plus his bicycle is a hand made racing bike and not suitable for the Cyclehoop storage - we responded that we would like evidence of this previous agreement and that this agreement may have been made under the wrong assumption that they owned more of the freehold like they informed us, and that any previous agreements anyway would not be applicable to us now as new joint freeholders - we have also been told by the neighbours next door that they didn't get on at all with the previous owners so we find his claim of agreement hard to believe. He has still refused to remove his bicycle and continues to wake us up, we have requested to go for mediation to address the hallway as well as management/maintenance of the property and initially they suggested someone we agreed with but they changed their mind to a mediator that costs £2,000 per party rather than the other mediator costing £900 per party, they have now stopped responding to emails unless we go with that mediator.

    It would be really helpful for any advice on how to proceed as we seem to be stuck. I have read many articles around communal hallways if we were leaseholders and involving the landlord but there seems to be loophole for freeholders managing the property themselves particularly when it is only 2 flats.

    #2
    If there are common parts there should be a risk assessment carried out even if there are only two flats and if then the risk assessor deems it dangerous for the hallway to be partly blocked by bicycles he will have to make some other arrangement which is not a potential hazard to you. I suggest you formalise matters by insisting on a risk assessment being carried out. It is a legal obligation, I believe.

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      #3
      Is it possible to install soundproofing? I suspect it's cheaper than mediation.

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        #4
        You need to ascertain what kind of noise you're dealing with. If it's contact noise of footsteps and banging on walls etc, then soundproofing will need some kind of air gap to be in any way effective.

        We had airborne noise issues and we installed soundproofing ourselves on a party wall between our master bedroom and our neighbours' bedroom. We could hear their telly, conversations and kids talking/crying. The soundproofing consisted of insulating plasterboard with a thick layer of rubber added to it. The panels (5 of them) were about 2x2m square and went on with the supplier's recommended spray adhesive. Took about an hour to do. We didn't have any sockets which made things easier. We then had a plasterer skim and we decorated. Cost prob around £550 inc. plastering and has made a huge difference. We rarely hear anything from the other side now. Money well spent for us - but this was for airborne noise which I suspect you don't suffer from.

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          #5
          Shared freehold is sold as a benefit by estate agents.(and it often is, certainly from a money perspective). However, when you own directly on the title deeds in a small converted house there can be huge downsides if everyone is not on the same page. It doesn't even get to the stage of bad leaseholder/freeholder relations when the freeholder cannot collectively reach a decision.

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            #6
            Not my usual way but from leasehold experience being accommodating usually leads to more problems. The lease must be followed exactly, otherwise why have one.
            send a formal written notice that you consider him to be in breach of the lease by........ Refer to relevant covenant. If he doesn't remedy breach in 14 days you will consider legal action.
            it is important to be polite and firm.

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              #7
              scot22 - with a lease held directly on the deeds legal action is virtually impossible.

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                #8
                Thanks Andy for extending my knowledge. I have always thought a lease is a lease. As I why is it not possible ? Also surely any legal documents should be enforceable. I appreciate you said virtually but I'm looking to learn. Thanks.

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                  #9
                  I think what Andy is saying is that because both you and the other party are collectively ' the freeholder' you cant really issue proceedings as leaseholder against the freeholder as you would be suing yourself; likewise you cant issue as freeholder as the defendant would be your co-owner. No help to you but a good example of why even if co-owners are buying the freehold, it should be held in a separate legal entity ie a company limited by guarantee. The ideal freeholder is therefore detached and dispassionate, like an Umpire.

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                    #10
                    I find it hard to believe there is not a legal remedy. Could you not sue him in the county court for breach of lease causing nuisance and illegally storing property in the communal parts. An experienced leasehold solicitor could advise.

                    Having said that do you really want to start legal action against your neighbour? Better to try and improve the sound insulation and let things cool down. Have you tried earplugs?

                    Are your neighbours bikes insured? What would the insurer say about the bikes being stored unsecured in the communal parts? What would happen if there was a break in and the bikes were stolen i wonder?

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                      #11
                      Unfortunately it would have to be a joint effort by OP and the 'dodgy' freeholder acting jointly as freeholder who would have to take any legal action. So pretty impossible as it would involve dodgy acting against himself. (With property like this it is held in trust for themselves. Trusts need to act unanimously. So unlike most joint ownerships where one joint owner can act).

                      With some things (example maintenance arguments), pressure would be able to come to bear at Freehold TR1 signing point when dodgy tried to sell, unfortunately this 'breach' will simply be remedied on sale as he'll take the bikes with him so not a route to wait for.

                      The 'nuclear' option is to apply (as a leaseholder) for the court appointment of a manager, but here the pros of that would be vastly outweighed by the cons (rather high fees).

                      Like ATC said, arguing for a Fire Risk Assessment (required by law anyway, and with the likely recommendation of cycle removal) might be the best way to go here. along with earplugs/ possible sound insulation if possible in the meantime.

                      Or risking everything blowing up out of all proportion, the OP could find something that annoyed dodgy as much as the bikes annoy him. Might work, but could cause carnage.

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                        #12
                        Regularly visiting the site does increase knowledge. Appreciate our lease required leaseholder to indemnify freeholder for costs incurred enforcing the lease. Leaseholder can't individually enforce it. We have several directors so majority decision.
                        I think fire risk probably best line.
                        I've known pictures having to be taken off walls (smoke filled corridor feeling way along wall, glass shattering ).

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