Being manoeuvred out of my tenanted council flat?

Being manoeuvred out of my tenanted council flat?

11:22 AM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago 21

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I bought a flat in 2008 in a block owned by the local council. It was rented out to two lovely tenants who stayed with me for many years and eventually left to buy their own home.

New tenants moved into the flat and business carried on as usual. I attended to all repairs and maintenance, usually plumbing decorating replacing broken washing machines cookers etc or any other issues when they arose. I get great satisfaction from moving very quickly to get work done.

If any repairs were needed outside the property, guttering, glass, drains, I would contact the local council and politely let them know. They had a great system, and it worked very well.

Downstairs there was one other flat, the ground floor flat, which had remained empty for many years. Although it was council-owned it needed major upgrades to get it habitable.

In 2017 an individual bought the freehold from the council along with the downstairs flat. I did not receive any notice from him like a contact telephone number or address or demand/ invoice regarding ground rent insurance or service charges.

This person split the downstairs flat into two separate flats and rented them out. He contacted me by phone and asked if I would like to have a guaranteed rent for 3 or 5 or 7 years and that he would find tenants to pay the market rent or perhaps more and that he would handle everything for me.

No, thanks, I said, my tenants are happy, I modestly do the best I can to fulfil all my responsibilities and take care of them. A few months later he called me asked if I would like to sell my flat for 25% below its market value. I declined the offer. He contacted me again and told me that I would have to change the number of my flat as it did not suit his plans for his flats downstairs.

I explained that it is registered on The Land Registry with that number and my mortgage deeds held with the lender have that address and that it will not change ever.

The front of the building has an entrance to the two flats that were created, and the new owner of the building did not include my flat number to the outside of the building, it sounds trivial, but its overall implication is not, this entrance leads to the hallway and then the staircase leading upstairs to my flat on the first floor, it’s almost as though he was trying to erase the identity of my flat.

Of course, this has now caused confusion with post and people trying to find the address. I have worried whether an emergency Fire Ambulance or Police would be able to locate it.

In 2018 I asked for a copy of blocks insurance. I have a BTL loan on this property and I try to keep my paperwork in order, after much ranting about how busy he is and how inconvenient my request was I eventually received a copy of the insurance. Since then, I have heard nothing.

There is a flat roof, which is part of my flat, but structurally it is part of the building, it started to leak, my tenants alerted me to this, I called and told him the flat roof is leaking and needs urgent attention. He said it’s your problem. Well, at least at last he was right on something.

I had a choice whether to chase up legal opinion employ solicitors try and figure out where he lives, serve papers and wait while water poured into my flat or fix it. I chose the latter, called some respectable local contractors they came along with all the kit and repaired it. £1000 later and the costs of some repairs to the damage inside, I was back where I started except, I was out of pocket.

During this time, I have not received anything whatsoever from the new owner of the block.

I feel I am being coerced by him and that he’s attempting to place me in a vulnerable position financially. His actions and attitude towards me are always aggressive and non-supportive. A bit like whenever you call someone, and they are always angry, short and rude. It’s impossible to communicate in any civil way, Whatever.

Last year in 2021, I had a call from the tenants, the main roof of the building was leaking into an upstairs childrens bedroom. No problem, I know a good roofer I thought. I called the owner and said the main roof is leaking and water is coming into the property, his predictable response was well you own the flat upstairs it’s your problem. It was a Friday after all and after 5pm.

I called the roofer and he popped round at about 7 pm, he said that it’s a small job a few roof tiles had slipped down he could repair it but would have to hire a scaffolding company to erect scaffolding outside the building as his ladders would not reach that far. Monday morning the scaffolding goes up the repair is carried out Monday afternoon the scaffolding comes down. I paid out almost £500. The roof is fixed, my tenants are secure. My responsibilities are fulfilled.

2022, I am close to retirement, I am selling off some of the properties I own. The couple renting from me have been there for 8 years. They are a smashing couple, and I am very fond of them.

I have emailed him asking for a copy of the block insurance. No response.

I sent another email asking him to verify the position with the ground rent and service charges. No response. I have written to him and asked via a letter for a copy of the block insurance, the ground rent and service charge details. No response.

The estate agents have asked me to provide those details, but due to matters beyond my control, I cannot currently provide them.

Is there any legal requirement for a freeholder to provide a lessee with the block insurance details?

Is the freeholder responsible for repairs outside the property? Roof drains inside outside lighting etc?

What should be my best course of action?

I think underlying all this is that I think that he is trying to manoeuvre me into a position where it is very difficult or even impossible to sell or that he may offer me some ridiculous amount for the purchase. I’m very stressed by all this, and it is affecting my health.

Many thanks

Richard

 



Comments

by John Daley

12:52 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Hi,

This is not for amateurs.

Go see a good solicitor and put the case in their hands this sort of thing has all sorts of pitfalls for the unwary.

It will cost some money but you have already spent on repairs the freeholder should have paid for.

by JB

13:10 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

I presume the council served a section 5 notice to the leaseholders giving them the right of first refusal to buy the freehold? If not I believe they are at fault and you should seek redress.

by Darren Peters

13:23 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by JB at 14/03/2022 - 13:10
Unfortunately councils are not subject to this.

From here:
https://www.lease-advice.org/advice-guide/right-first-refusal/#s-3

"The landlord
The RFR does not apply to the following landlords:

most housing authorities (local Councils, New Towns and Development Corporations);
registered social landlords and fully mutual housing associations which are not registered;
charitable housing trusts; and resident landlords who live in the building where the following two conditions apply:..."

by Richard Mann

13:53 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by John Daley at 14/03/2022 - 12:52
Hi thank you for your response. I’m happy to visit a Solicitor, it’s a specialist area though, I’m anxious about finding someone that has the correct knowledge. Most high street solicitors are happy to do conveyance jobs this kind of thing I’m not sure.

by JB

14:32 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Richard Mann at 14/03/2022 - 13:53
You could try Bernie Wales for some initial advice - he's not a soliciter but he has a lot of property knowledge and experience. Google him for his website.

You could also try http://www.lease-advice.org for free government advice for lease holders. You have to book a call to them. I've used them and they are very helpful.

by JB

14:33 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Darren Peters at 14/03/2022 - 13:23
Why does that not surprise me!!

by Richard Mann

15:02 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Thank you for posting this. I’ll have a look for Bernie Wales and the lease advise. Org website. I’ll start to look for a good “Freehold” Solicitor too.

by Freda Blogs

15:06 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Darren Peters at 14/03/2022 - 13:23
However, Councils are under a duty to obtain 'best value' and whilst they may not have had an obligation to consult the other flat owner on the title to establish if there was any interest, there may have been an element of marriage value to be negotiated - and I don't just mean from extending the lease.

The freehold should also have been advertised on the open market - we do not have any info as to whether this happened. If none of this occurred the Council may have a case to answer, but whether the OP will obtain any satisfaction for its failures to carry out its statutory duty remains to be seen.

by Darren Peters

15:39 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Freda Blogs at 14/03/2022 - 15:06
I looked up the rules earlier as some years ago my local council sold off a Freehold from under the tenants noses and were very cagey about the deal & the price paid leading to a lot of criticism in the local press. It struck me as one of those situations where it would take more money in legal fees to dig into what happened than the Leaseholders would be able to muster.

In my case and OPs I wonder what 'Open Market' means. For tenders councils advertise in the 'European Journal' or somesuch and it's deemed 'open market' legally but not really something the general public or even small traders know about.

by Freda Blogs

16:08 PM, 14th March 2022, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Darren Peters at 14/03/2022 - 15:39
It is defined in S123 Local Government Act 1972 which I believe is still current, but there have been various challenges re definitions and particularly where where Councils are suspected not to have adhered to the legislation.

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