Complying with regulations and still penalised by Freeholder?

by Readers Question

8:59 AM, 29th November 2019
About A week ago

Complying with regulations and still penalised by Freeholder?

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Complying with regulations and still penalised by Freeholder?

I have a couple of units in an old block – the Freeholder went on a blitz a couple of years ago and checked all flats against their lease floor plan and imposed large costs for retrospective consent (wooden floors, open plan kitchens etc).

They also imposed ‘fines’ on those who had installed new boilers and had to have the now needed longer flues to clear the walkways so that the flues were fixed under the walkway – and this apparently needed freeholders consent and those who did not were ‘fined’ £2000

This was not only retrospective, but also the fee for those who then applied and some put in electric boilers.

Question is can a freeholder impose this when it is necessary to comply with new regulations?

This is putting everyone off improving their flats (mine is one of the few that vents through an outward facing wall so I’m fine)

Many thanks

Harlequin



Comments

Ian Narbeth

10:04 AM, 29th November 2019
About A week ago

Hi Harlequin
With the best will in the world we can't easily answer your question. The freeholder cannot fine tenants but he may be able to charge if tenants have trespassed onto the freeholder's space. I recommend you and the other tenants consult a solicitor who can review documents and all relevant facts to establish your legal rights. Be aware though that if you get into a fight with the freeholder it will become messy and expensive and may inhibit the ability to sell or remortgage flats.

moneymanager

13:58 PM, 29th November 2019
About A week ago

"Retrospective consent, wooden floors".
Our purpose built units are on very poorly written leases and with numerous errors, deficiencies, and versions. All though show quite clearly that soft floor coverings should be on all floor surfaces which sits rather oddly with the developer installed engineered board to all non bedroom floors other than the tiled kitchens and bathrooms.

Our freeholder is of the distant corporate variety but some years ago the position improved immeasurably by our winning the right to form an RTM company, although not a route to ignore the lease it can result in a more coherent application thereof.

Puzzler

7:50 AM, 30th November 2019
About A week ago

Such fees etc have to be "reasonable" - you can apply to the FTT for a ruling on that quite easily and cheaply

Gracie

13:06 PM, 30th November 2019
About A week ago

I guess it doesn't matter whether a flue is legally necessary, it still requires his permission. He can't unreasonably withhold permission (you'd just take him to court as he's obstructing you to comply with law) but he can make you pay for the permission. There's likely nothing to say that he can impose fines, as much as there's nothing to say that he can't, and then your lease likely says that you're bound to pay his and his agents' charges...and as it turns out, of which a fine is one...whether he calls it a fine, a retrospective fee, or whatever, I wouldn't put money on winning against him.
Then there's also the fact that everyone who replaced floors, boilers moved walls whatever, without permission, are all in contravention of their lease, and risk forfeiture. Unless your lease remarkably doesn't allow for forfeiture? So is he unaware that he could go to court to just take everyone's flats, or is he not willing to risk it because he realises it's a pathetic archaic bullying system that needs changing and if he has a judge with common sense he may not score some free properties but instead get lumped with legal fees & only be able to charge all leaseholders a retrospective fee for amendments... Of course there have been cases of people losing their properties down to idiotic reasons, minor infringements, & judge's upholding the feudal leases. Horrific.

Puzzler

14:22 PM, 30th November 2019
About A week ago

Very unlikely that forfeiture is ever awarded, more likely an order to comply. Fees and charges still have to reflect the cost to the landlord, see abundant case law.

As to whether they can charge and what for it depends on what is in the lease.

Gracie

14:32 PM, 30th November 2019
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Puzzler at 30/11/2019 - 14:22
Forfeiture HAS been awarded a few times, for ridiculous reasons. I have read the interviews of the people turfed out of their homes yet still have responsibility for their mortgages - baffling. According to some, common sense's hands are tied by leases, until laws are changed, which will then override these leases. Others, perhaps they see a way around it, perhaps they just refuse to uphold the ridiculous lease and order both parties to be reasonable. Problem is, you never know which judge you'll get.

Michael Barnes

20:23 PM, 30th November 2019
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Gracie at 30/11/2019 - 14:32
Forfeiture can be appealed, so it is not just one judge.

The only cases of forfeiture I have heard of where there were not significant failings of the leaseholder are those where the leaseholder has failed to take part in the legal proceedings.

Perhaps you could give us some links to the cases to which you refer?

Ian Narbeth

9:41 AM, 2nd December 2019
About 6 days ago

Reply to the comment left by Gracie at 30/11/2019 - 14:32
" I have read the interviews of the people turfed out of their homes yet still have responsibility for their mortgages - baffling. " Not baffling at all. The law in this country is not that you can "hand back the keys" to the lender and walk away. When you take out a loan to buy a property the mortgage is the lender's security for the debt. It is extremely rare for a leasehold flat to be forfeited and it usually only occurs because the lessee wilfully refuses to pay ground rent or service charge or refuses to remedy breaches of the lease. The courts recognise it provides a windfall for the landlord and bend over backwards to help tenants. In may cases the freeholder contacts the mortgagee who pays off arrears and adds the cost to the mortgage debt.

Gracie, I agree with Michael Barnes. Please cite specific cases where lessess have been "losing their properties down to idiotic reasons, minor infringements, & judge's upholding the feudal leases".

Gracie

10:19 AM, 2nd December 2019
About 6 days ago

Reply to the comment left by Michael Barnes at 30/11/2019 - 20:23
Who said anything about "one judge"? Just because it's infrequent it's not right. Infrequency doesn't matter to the few people who are affected. Both of your responses are extremely telling.

I'm not a solicitor fighting someone case, therefore I do not watch / read / listen to the accounts of people's experiences for my job / career / studies therefore I do not sit there taking notes of dates, people's names, MA names, freeholder names, property values, data or web pages. I'm a normal person. I read a person's account of their experiences or the reporter's story, I apply common sense to know that maybe it's a little emotional & could possible be a little skewed but it's obviously a valid situation, I don't immediately jump up and suspect the person of pure fabrication, and I take what data is given & made my judgement on that. I decide that yes, they're stating the obvious that the lease terms have been broken so technically the forfeiture is valid, the point is that the terms of the lease are archaic &unfair and people often cannot afford ridiculous demands, made purely for MAs benefit (I am not talking about cases where people need to pay for needed important works and don't) and/or are taking a stand against the unfair terms.
These cases are real & some freeholder / MA is taking full advantage of an unfair though legal contract, and laws need to be updated, THAT is the point. Whether or not I've noted down links to supply to you is irrelevant, I am not interested in arguing each case point, that doesn't remove my or anyone else's right to mention stories / gist of or to have an opinion about them.

Puzzler

11:41 AM, 2nd December 2019
About 6 days ago

Reply to the comment left by Gracie at 02/12/2019 - 10:19
So really just hearsay from press reports then? You're right in your view to an extent but people must consider the other owners not just do what they want.

The poster won't be forfeited unless they do nothing. They should apply for the fees and work to be assessed. The decision is then taken out of the freeholder's hands.

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