Claiming costs of works from freeholder?

by Readers Question

16:00 PM, 20th September 2020
About a month ago

Claiming costs of works from freeholder?

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Claiming costs of works from freeholder?

I am the leaseholder of a first floor flat where the freeholder owns and lives in the ground floor flat.

I recently carried out a refurbishment of my flat and whilst doing it, some urgent problems with the exterior of the building were noted and remedied by my builder. The lease says that such costs should be shared 50/50, but the freeholder is refusing to pay, just giving excuses and generally being difficult and is impossible to reason with.

I cannot deal with this person any longer, but really want to recover his share of the costs. I can only think that I should do a money claim online unless anyone has any other bright ideas?

Thanks in advance

Wits End


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Neil Patterson

16:06 PM, 20th September 2020
About a month ago

Please check out the Leasehold Advisory service >> https://www.lease-advice.org/

However, most Q&As are about leaseholders unhappy with repair charges not the other way around.

Ian Narbeth

14:57 PM, 21st September 2020
About a month ago

Hi Wits End
Did you notify the freeholder about the urgent problems with the exterior before carrying out the repairs? Did the freeholder agree you could do them or at least acquiesce in the work being done?
I fear you may be treated in law as having "made a gift" of the works to the freeholder. It is unheard of for a lease to provide for the landlord to reimburse the tenant. I fear you may be left having to rely on the freeholder's sense of fair play.
If you are going to make a MCOL (which I do not recommend absent facts that distinguish this case from the standard lease) you will need to cite the relevant provision in the lease that requires the freeholder to reimburse you. It will not be good enough to assert that because he can charge you 50% for repairs that he carries out, you can do the same.

Windsor Woman

22:18 PM, 21st September 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Narbeth at 21/09/2020 - 14:57
Thanks for your reply.

Yes, the FH was consulted but we did not have costs initially, pending a proper roof inspection, and once the roofer got up there, the roof and chimney stack in particular were in such poor condition that works had to be carried out immediately, particularly as there was a very bad storm forecast, hence from safety (falling bricks from the chimney stack) and water penetration perspectives, the works had to be carried out there and then. Photos and explanations were provided to the freeholder. We (the builder and I) tried several times to arrange meetings but the requests were always denied.

Also the access and configuration of the roof were such that it made no sense for the works to be stopped and restarted, as the roofer would go off site and it would cost more to get him back.

The FH was very difficult throughout the project and we could never get a straight answer or agreement to anything.

I was basing my assumptions of repayment for liability from the charges register as follows
"1. The duty for the benefit of the owner or occupier of the lower maisonette to keep the roof and chimney stacks of the building in a proper state of repair and in connection therewith the duty to permit the owner or occupier of the lower maisonette or any person duly authorised by such owner or occupier at all reasonable times upon giving reasonable notice in that behalf to enter upon the upper maisonette in order to inspect the said roof and chimney stacks PROVIDED ALWAYS that the expense of maintaining the said roof and chimney stacks together with the gutter and rainwater down pipes shall be borne in equal proportion by the owners or occupiers of the upper maisonette and of the lower maisonette respectively.
2. The right of protection of the lower maisonette from the upper maisonette as the same is at present enjoyed.

I do hope there will be no reliance on 'fair play'; there has been no evidence of it to date. Quite the opposite in fact.

Shirley Harvey

9:50 AM, 22nd September 2020
About a month ago

I had exactly the same situation as you, being the leaseholder with the freeholder living in the downstairs flat (who were obstructive at every turn with anything to do with my property), with a 50/50 split of any repairs. Our roof was in the same condition as yours. I obtained quotes, the freeholder eventually agreed to the repairs (after several threats of legal action). However, when the roofers turned up to do the repairs, they allowed the actual roofing ones, but refused to allow vents to be placed on the outside walls at ground level (I had damp in my flat from the chimney breast they had blocked up downstairs so no air could circulate). I engaged a solicitor and ended up spending nearly £4000 in legal fees trying to get them to agree to the remaining work being done. They then stopped communicating with my solicitor altogether. I claimed against them using MCOL and when it went to court, the judge found in their favour as they were Polish and made out they couldn't understand English (which was complete rubbish). He said there was nothing in the lease that showed I had the right to claim back legal fees from them and that I should have been more reasonable dealing with them because of their language difficulties! After the hearing, the freeholders wrote to me agreeing to the vents being installed - I couldn't believe the cheek of them. Luckily I sold the flat shortly afterwards and the purchaser was fully aware of the difficulties with the freeholder, but was happy to take that on. Never again would I purchase a leasehold property.

Ian Narbeth

10:01 AM, 22nd September 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Windsor Woman at 21/09/2020 - 22:18
Hi
That wording puts a different complexion on it. It would be necessary to review the terms of the lease to see if there is an obligation on the freeholder to reimburse. Contact me privately (I am a property lawyer) and I may be able to help.

Windsor Woman

18:16 PM, 22nd September 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Narbeth at 22/09/2020 - 10:01
Thank you Ian, I would appreciate that. I will look you up.


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