Freeholder threatening to cut water off

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    Freeholder threatening to cut water off

    I was hoping you would be able to help. We own a ground floor flat LLH(970 yrs remaining). The freeholder owns the house and lets the flat upstairs on an AST.

    The freeholder currently undertaking works including replumbing. We have been on a shared water supply and we connect through their flat. The freeholder wants to change this so that both flats are metered separately. He told us about this on Monday and wants us to change our whole system by Friday. He is telling us he will cut our water supply on Friday. Our lease says we must have free and uninterrupted passage and running water.

    The works he is proposing will be very costly and disruptive.

    Can we stop him? who do we turn to? We have a young baby at home and clearly cannot go without water.

    #2
    Your freeholder isn't going to take notice of a few forum comments - he is more likely to take notice of a solicitors letter.
    My views are my own - you may not agree with them. I tend say things as I see them and I don't do "political correctness". Just because we may not agree you can still buy me a pint lol

    Comment


      #3
      The installation of the new pipework can be done before the water supply is temporarily cut to enable the existing water supply to be connected. There is no reason why you should be without water.

      If he is proposing to charge you for this work, have you been given notice of it

      Comment


        #4
        He told us about his intentions Monday 18th October and intends to cut the supply on Friday 22nd.

        He is saying the separating of supplies will go through the service charge and we will be responsible for any cost / works required within our flat. This will involve ripping up floor boards as our current connection is at the other end of the flat.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Disraeli-LLH View Post
          Our lease says we must have free and uninterrupted passage and running water.
          Does it?
          I expect that it probably says something requiring the freeholder to ensure that you always have free access to your property, and that services (including water) are maintained, but I doubt that it's worded exactly how you put it.

          Regardless, the freeholder hasn't given you sufficient notice of something that is likely to cause significant disruption, and cost you a significant amount - even if the lease does allow him to make this change.

          Unless your lease specifically includes a requirement for you to contribute towards the cost of improvements to the building, I would think that it will be unlikely that he can require you to contribute anything towards any of the work required to make this change (although that will depend on exactly what it says in your lease). Also, even if the lease does require you to contribute towards improvements, it is likely that any costs involved for work within your flat would need to be split according to the terms of the lease - so they may need to contribute to these costs.

          If, as is quite likely, the lease obligates the freeholder to ensure that you have a supply of water to your flat, he cannot cut off your water supply for any longer than is strictly necessary for any maintenance work. This wouldn't mean that you can't potentially be left without water for a day or two, perhaps even longer in exceptional circumstances in an emergency (although it shouldn't be that long), but it would be completely unreasonable for him to carry out planned work that left you without water for longer than perhaps, at most, a few hours. As 'sgclacy' has said, any necessary alterations within your flat should be completed before they even think about cutting off your water supply for something like this.

          If you can, I would suggest that you seek urgent legal advice regarding this (try someone like Citizens Advice or Lease if you can't pay for advice).

          Comment


            #6
            The freeholder is in breach of the lease, it is implicit, even if there is no specific term within the lease, that you must be allowed quiet enjoyment of your flat and denying your water supply without providing or allowing suffiicient time for an alternative is a clear breach. I agree that you need a strongly worded letter from a solicitor.

            I also agree that whether or not the freeholder may recover part of the costs depends on the wording of your lease. If so, the total costs to be shared would include the cost of changing the water supply within your flat.

            Comment


              #7
              Thanks for the advice. We are trying to get a legal opinion but we our up against it time wise.

              I have attached sections from the lease. eagle2
              Attached Files

              Comment


                #8
                Also attached this part of the lease
                Attached Files

                Comment


                  #9
                  I suggest that you contact your freeholder and advise him that you consider that he is breach of the lease, you will not be able to meet his unreasonable deadline and you are seeking legal advice.

                  Your lease appears to confirm the breach but you should take it to a solicitor or Citizens Advice per #5.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by eagle2 View Post
                    I suggest that you contact your freeholder and advise him that you consider that he is breach of the lease, you will not be able to meet his unreasonable deadline and you are seeking legal advice.

                    Your lease appears to confirm the breach but you should take it to a solicitor or Citizens Advice per #5.
                    I agree.

                    The snippets of the lease that have been posted give very little information, but they do confirm that the leaseholder has a right to have a supply of water (as well as other services), and that the "lessor" (i.e. the landlord/freeholder) would be in breach of the lease if they do anything that cuts off the water supply.

                    You DO need to be prepared to allow the water supply to be cut off temporarily, for whatever period is reasonable necessary for plumbing work to be carried out on the other flat. However, since this is not an emergency they should have given you as much notice as possible of this and should ensue that the water is cut off for as short a time as possible (a few hours, perhaps even as much as half a day, would potentially be reasonable, but no more).
                    If you haven't already contacted the freeholder, I would suggest that you do so immediately (preferably telling them that you will follow up by putting it in writing), telling them that, while you can manage without water for a few hours, if they tell you precisely what period the water will be off, you believe that they will be in breach of the lease if they cut your water off for longer. Personally, I would also consider pointing out that, if you end up needing to temporarily move out, you will potentially seek to recover all costs that you incur from them via the courts.

                    If they want both properties to have separate water supplies, I would think that this would be considered completely reasonable, so you may ultimately have to consent to allowing this. However, as I have previously suggested, if your lease doesn't allow for improvements, they may need to cover the cost of all work required for this (including any work within your flat) themselves and be unable to recover any share of the costs unless you agree to pay a share.

                    If you have been unable to get any proper legal advice, word any communication with the freeholder carefully, making sure that you make it clear that you will be taking legal advice with the intention of potentially taking legal action against them, but you might want to consider falling short of directly accusing them of having done anything wrong (instead use phrases such as "I believe...", "You may be in breach...", etc.).

                    Good luck!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Thanks for the help.

                      We have tried to reason with the freeholder but he is still coming to cut our water supply tomorrow. He has offered a temporary fix (at our cost) with a surface pipe running through our flat from the communal lobby.

                      Our solicitors advice:
                      It is clear that the Landlord, by threatening to terminate the water supply, is interfering with your right to water under Clause 2 of the First Schedule of the Lease.

                      The Landlord is not being reasonable in the circumstances; you have offered alternatives to the work and these have not been accepted. The Landlord has effectively given you less than 5 days to arrange an alternative water supply or will turn the water supply off.

                      It is also the case that the work that the Landlord is arranging is not urgent or beneficial to the Property.

                      By cutting off your supply of water, the Landlord is interfering with your easement and this is actionable as private nuisance.

                      I would advise to arrange a quote for the work in line with what the Landlord has suggested and then carry out the work, if this is possible. Alternatively, it may be appropriate to proceed with the work being carried out the plumber the Landlord has instructed to carry out the Works.

                      The costs incurred in carrying out the works can subsequently form a case against the Landlord for interference with the right and be recovered through a claim for damages after the costs have been incurred.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I am surprised that your solicitor does not appear to have mentioned that you are entitled to be consuited under s20 regarding works the cost of which are intended to be included within your service charges, He/she does not appear to have addressed the question of whether or not it is valid service charge expenditure and the phrase "beneficial to the Property" is rather odd and appears to be irrelevant, The lease will normally state that the freeholder is only entitled to maintain the existing installation.

                        If the freeholder carries out his threat, you should keep a record of any additional expenses which you incur eg cost of bottled water and the cost of any travelling expenses to obtain it. You should keep receipts etc. I agree that you should obtain a quote but I suggest thar you use a different plumber to the one proposed by the freeholder and that you enquire if there are alternative ways of providing the water supply to your flat at a lower cost.

                        Have you contacted the water supplier?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by eagle2 View Post
                          He/she does not appear to have addressed the question of whether or not it is valid service charge expenditure and the phrase "beneficial to the Property" is rather odd and appears to be irrelevant, The lease will normally state that the freeholder is only entitled to maintain the existing installation.
                          This is possibly by far the most important consideration, in my opinion.
                          If the OP's lease doesn't allow 'improvements' to be charged to service charges, the freeholder cannot require them to contribute anything towards the costs, and would therefore be something that they would have had no choice but to consult the OP about.

                          Whether or not it is "beneficial to the property" is subjective - but I personally don't think that it would be very difficult at all to argue that it is better to have separate water supplies to each flat.
                          If the lease allows for improvements, and leaves these to the freeholder's discretion, I don't see that the change can be disputed, although the complete lack of prior consultation definitely can be.

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