Denied Access To Meter Cupboard

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    Denied Access To Meter Cupboard

    I own a rental property where the new tenants need access to the distribution point to have broadband installed. The distribution point is located in the electricity meter cupboard which the director of the residents’ association put a lock on a year or two ago.

    The director of the RA has denied my tenants access due to a disputed amount she claims I owe.

    My question is does she have the right to refuse access to the cupboard?

    #2
    Have they accepted the validity of your lease in other ways? Is the amount in dispute more than £350 or been owing for more than 4 years?

    Does your lease give you a right to access the cupboard, and to install your own equipment there?

    Does the lease make any easements conditional on paying all rents and charges?

    You don't have a right to access the cupboard unless the lease gives you one, and if you are in breach of the lease, the freeholder could stop doing anything that acknowledged the existence of the lease, in preparation for taking action to forfeit your lease (actual forfeiture is very rare).

    Incidentally, I think you mean a person who just happened to be a director put the lock on on behalf of the company. It is the company that authorises the work. DIrectors don't do actual manual work as directors, they only make decisions on behalf of the company.

    The lock itself is likely to be advisable on safety grounds.


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      #3
      Also, the request for access should be coming from you, not your tenants. Your tenants will have no contract with the management company.

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        #4
        The owners and fire brigade should have access for emergency use, as well as electrician for replacing the consumer unit.

        People are storing stuff in communal cupboards, but they have never put padlocks on them.

        What sort of internet are your tenants putting in?

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          #5
          I would think it was illegal act they have conducted, if there is a dispute between the managing company of the estate and the landlord of a flat, then they need to dispute the issue in the normal way. I would suspect this to be a form of harassment. I would get a solicitor to write a strong letter to the RA of their duties, saying that you need to weigh up the cost of a solicitor and the amount in dispute.

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            #6
            Either you have a right to access the cupboard or you do not. Whether you owe money does not come into it - unless, as indicated above, the lease makes the exercise of rights conditional on paying the service charge which would, in my experience, be unusual. Even if that is the case, I would suggest that the fact that money is owing has to be acknowledged by the leaseholder or proved by the landlord before any right can be suspended.

            So, do you have a right to access the cupboard? If your lease is standard it will have rights to use the service media in the building. In the absence of express rights they will be implied. If you have a right you have all ancillary rights necessary to ensure that the right can be exercised. It follows therefore that you must have a right to access the meter box. I would go so far as to suggest that there is no right to put a lock on the cupboard without the consent of all the leaseholders or providing each leaseholder with a key.

            Point out the above to the director and advise her that denying acces is a criminal offence under section 1(3) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977

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              #7
              Originally posted by Flashback1966 View Post
              The owners and fire brigade should have access for emergency use, as well as electrician for replacing the consumer unit.

              People are storing stuff in communal cupboards, but they have never put padlocks on them.
              There are standard solutions to providing access to fire brigades and electricians, but as they involve a large element of security by obscurity, I'd suggest asking the local locksmith about them, rather than detailing them here.

              Non-lockable cupboards, being used for residents' storage, opening onto communal escape routes, are like to cause alarm bells to ring during fire risk assessments. In fact such cupboards probably should have "keep locked shut" notices on them. The exemption from these generally only apples to flat entrance doors, under the mistaken belief that people would naturally keep those closed.

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                #8
                Thank you very much for your replies.

                In reply to the questions asked above:

                - the lease gives me permission to use the cupboard as it is part of the communal areas.
                - the lease does not make the exercise of rights conditional on paying the service charge.
                - I have been refused access to the cupboard as well as my tenants.
                - the validity of my lease has been accepted in other ways inasmuch as I have been billed and paid service charges (although the demands are never set out as legally required). It is just one particular bill I have disputed and not paid.

                The 18 leaseholders of the block (including me) bought the head lease about 10 years ago and have since managed the block ourselves via a residents’ association (ltd company). The lady refusing access to the cupboard has been a resident director since the company has been set up and she runs the company as she sees fit, usually with no input from other leaseholders/company members, principally because their input is not invited and also because most members are happy to leave it all to someone else. The outcome is that she manages the building as she sees fit and almost always to her own benefit.

                i will write to her as suggested by Lawcruncher and see how it goes. If she continues to deny access or ignores my email then is there any issue in my getting a locksmith to open the cupboard door?

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                  #9
                  I wrote to the director as suggested by Lawcruncher, pointing out that denying access to the cupboard is a criminal offence under S.3(1) of the Protection of Eviction Act 1977 and gave a deadline by when to open the door. I had a negative reply, the deadline has passed and the door remains locked.

                  I called the police to report that a criminal offence had been committed. They suggested I contact the freeholder as he is ultimately responsible for the building. As we hold the head lease which has the responsibility of managing the property then can anyone advise if the freeholder would ultimately be liable to ensure access to the cupboard or would this responsibility lie with the head leaseholder or
                  the person who denied access
                  ?

                  My tenants have already had two failed appointments to have broadband installed because they cannot gain access to the cupboard (for the distribution point) and they have another appointment due tomorrow.

                  Since access is still being denied then would there be a legal issue in getting a locksmith to get the door open (which may entail damaging the lock)?

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Self-help is tricky. A practical problem is that if the police get involved they have a tendency to arrest the wrong person.

                    As to the law I quote from Megarry & Wade:

                    "Provided that no more force is used than reasonably necessary, that there is no injury to innocent third parties or the public, and that the circumstances are not likely to lead to a breach of the peace, the owner of the easement may abate any obstruction to its exercise without notice to the servient owner, e.g. by breaking open a locked gate or removing boards interfering with his light. But the law does not favour abatement."

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                      #11
                      Is the padlock of a modern design, or is it of an old fashioned style. I would expect the latter, in which case I would, furthermore, suspect that the locksmith with have the key readily to hand. (If that isn't the case, I think there are safety issues, and you might want to check the fire risk assessment.)

                      However self service is likely to make your relationship with the head leaseholder even worse.

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                        #12
                        It’s a mortice lock but its not the standard one electricity companies use, I’ve tried one of those keys already.

                        The police told me today that they are going to call the director of the residents’ association to try to persuade her to open the lock - so I don’t think our relationship can get much worse no matter what now.

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                          #13
                          Posted 13th October 18:58:
                          Originally posted by ABC123 View Post
                          i will write to her as suggested by Lawcruncher and see how it goes.
                          Posted 15th October 12:59:
                          Originally posted by ABC123 View Post
                          I wrote to the director as suggested by Lawcruncher, pointing out that denying access to the cupboard is a criminal offence under S.3(1) of the Protection of Eviction Act 1977 and gave a deadline by when to open the door. I had a negative reply, the deadline has passed and the door remains locked.
                          I very much doubt that one day would be considered sufficent notice.

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                            #14
                            According to Megarry & Wade no notice is required - see post 10.

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