Advice on claim for legal expenses by landlord over missing Ground Rent

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    Advice on claim for legal expenses by landlord over missing Ground Rent

    Hello, I'm hoping someone can offer some advice to help me and my sister. We inherited our Dad's flat a couple of years ago and I have been bills as and when they come in. Unfortunately, it seems that the landlord has been sending Ground Rent bills directly to the flat and we haven't seen these at all. They are now demanding a large sum of money in legal and admin fees in addition to the missing Ground Rent. Of course, we will pay the Ground Rent, but do we have a defence for not paying the other fees, as the invoices were sent to either of our own addresses? Thanks.

    #2
    You most likely haven't got a defence, unless you informed them of your correspondence addresses. You need to update your details with them, and you might want to provide an email address so that you can get any information via that as well.

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks for your reply, although that is disappointing news. It's just frustrating that I would have paid it straight away if I'd known.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by ash72 View Post
        You most likely haven't got a defence, unless you informed them of your correspondence addresses. You need to update your details with them, and you might want to provide an email address so that you can get any information via that as well.
        Sorry, but the above is not correct advice without asking a few questions.

        The first question is whether the demands were made in the correct form.

        Second, does the lease allow a charge to be made for late payment?

        What sort of sums are being asked for the administration fee?

        Are the legal charges justifiable and, if they are, are they reasonable?

        After probate was notice of the change of ownership given? If it was, were the addresses of the new owners given?

        What we have here happens a lot. Send demands to the property. When they are not met it is suddenly discovered where the tenant lives so that outrageous demands can be sent.

        In this case the property was inherited. The agent knows who the new tenants are and where they so either they were given notice or they took the trouble to find out.

        Comment


          #5
          I suggest you conduct a search of the names of your freeholder and agent at LEASE website ( www.lease-advice.org) in the records of past FTT /LVT Judgements . Also check name of freeholder at the LKP website .

          Did you register yourselves as the leaseholder of the flat with freeholder ? ( after transfer of property title to your name by Land Registry )

          Comment


            #6
            Lawcruncher,

            I believe the demands were in the correct form. The lawyer has provided them to me now and they look to be in the same format as the ones my Dad had received previously.

            They have quoted a clause which states that the lease does allow for a charge to be made.

            They've asked for £145 for Admin fees and £720 for legal costs.

            I'm not sure how to determine if they are reasonable, but they sound very high to me. Particularly the legal costs.

            Do you mean, did we give notice of the change of ownership after probate? I did email to tell them of the new names to contact, but I don't know if they replied acceptance of this. I used the same email address that I was using when paying for my Dad's Ground Rent when he was still alive. They have said it was treated as a new account when we inherited so they wouldn't have continued to use the same email address. I didn't give them my address though, I didn't know I had to because we had communicated via email.

            I feel that they did have the means to contact me if they had tried, but they only contacted me at my home address once they started legal proceedings, which can't be right. If they could contact me now, why couldn't they before?




            Comment


              #7
              I am very sorry that you are in this situation and freeholders such as yours give a bad name to those in the business who do their best to be fair and reasonable. Generally the demised property is good service unless you gave them another address from which to correspond. What was the address on the register?

              Comment


                #8
                Please quote the clause. It may not cover the admin fee.

                How much rent is outstanding?

                Comment


                  #9
                  The lease probably has a clause which has an "address for service" and if they sent the demands to that address, then they will have served them appropriately. Realistically, you should have organised to collect post from the flat, if the flat address is the address for service, or set up a redirection.

                  The lease should also cover what charges are permitted to be added to the amount you owe if you fail to adhere to the lease provisions, which non payment of the ground rent is.

                  At the end of the day, if the landlord has invoices for legal expenses that he has incurred because you failed to collect the post and to pay the ground rent on time, if the lease says you have to pay for these, then you have to pay for them.

                  You own the flat, and you have a copy of the lease, and the need to pay ground rent would have been set out clearly in the lease - to be honest, often even without sending a demand for ground rent, you have to pay it, just because it says so in the lease. It really should have tinkled a bell in your mind that you hadn't paid any ground rent and you should have investigated your need to do so on a timely basis.

                  Sorry x

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Covent Garden Girl View Post
                    You own the flat, and you have a copy of the lease, and the need to pay ground rent would have been set out clearly in the lease - to be honest, often even without sending a demand for ground rent, you have to pay it, just because it says so in the lease. It really should have tinkled a bell in your mind that you hadn't paid any ground rent and you should have investigated your need to do so on a timely basis.

                    Sorry x
                    Really! See the following;

                    https://www.lease-advice.org/faq/my-...correct%20form.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I am struggling to understand why you did not receive the ground rent demands. Did you not collect the mail or make arrangements for mail to be forwarded to you? I agree that you should notify the freeholder or its agent where to send demands and correspondence.

                      That aside, you should check the terms of the lease carefully. to see what exactly may be charged to you. In addition, s166 notice should accompany the ground rent demands and a summary of tenants rights should accompany the demands for administration charges and legal fees, so there could be technical reasons why the amounts are not payable, I agree that if the administration charges and legal fees are payable, they appear to be unreasonable, so you could offer to pay a reduced amount or you could pay the amounts and apply to the First Tier Tribunal to determine if the amounts are payable and are reasonable.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        We didn't arrange something specifically about the post, but the agency we are using to rent out the flat said they would pass on any post addressed to us. It is probably that the tenant didn't tell the agency about the post. At most, the agency could tell the tenant that they should have told them but I don't think there's anything there that would help us with the position we in now.

                        I'm considering if we should pay the Ground Rent that is due now (£875), while we continue to contest the charges?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by L.Dina View Post
                          I'm considering if we should pay the Ground Rent that is due now (£875), while we continue to contest the charges?
                          That is exactly what you should do and without delay. Send a remittance for the amount of the ground rent to the agents stating clearly that is in settlement of the ground rent.

                          You also need to write to the solicitor. What you say depends on what the admin fee/costs clause in the lease says. Please quote in full.

                          It pays not to give in to unreasonable costs demands. Take comfort from this thread: https://forums.landlordzone.co.uk/fo...tration-charge.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Thank you for your help. I must admit, my sister and I are struggling to find the time between jobs and children that it takes to take on this case. However, this is the clause they are using from the lease:

                            "To pay all reasonable costs charges and expenses (including legal costs and fees payable to a Surveyor) properly incurred by the Landlord and Head Landlord in or in contemplation of any proceedings or the service of any notice under sections 146 and 147 Law of Property Act 1925 including the reasonable costs charges and expenses aforesaid of and incidental to any inspection to ascertain whether any notice has been complied with and such costs charges and expenses shall be paid whether or not forfeiture for any breach shall be avoided otherwise than by relief granted by the Court."

                            Can we say that we shouldn't pay for the charges because they did have other means to contact me? The lawyer wrote to me at my home address. Therefore, the legal charges didn't need to have been incurred.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              The clause quoted does not cover (a) an administration fee or (b) legal costs arising in connection with arrears of rent. Section 146 does not relate to rent as provided in subsection (11).

                              If you email me the solicitor's letter I will draft a reply. See my PM for my email address.

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