Freehold co. blocking sale after service charge debacle and CCJ?

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2 weeks ago

Freehold co. blocking sale after service charge debacle and CCJ?

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Freehold co. blocking sale after service charge debacle and CCJ?

I purchase a leasehold flat in late 2005, during the several years I lived there and for the following 5 years it was let, never at any time did I received correspondence from either the Freehold Co. or their Management Company.

During this time or the first 2 years there were numerous letters addressed to the former owner, all from the same company. I took these to the estate agent whom I bought through to enquire if they held a forwarding address or could contact the company. The letters kept coming, several times I returned to sender with “No Longer at this Address” written on the envelope.

In 2014 in my absence I was presented a bill for outstanding service charge arrears for £6,500 approx. As I was working abroad and the tenants/letting agents were too slow in contacting me, I was unable to enter any defence. So a CCJ was enter by default.

Since 2014 I have been challenging this and at no time have I, nor my solicitors been able to obtain any letters, invoices, service charge demands or such like that were served to my flat in my name prior to 2010.
I have made several thousand pounds in payments to reduce the sum, never accepting and always “under protest” awaiting documentation.

From when I purchased in 2005 there were a number of Residential Management Co. employed, before the current ones took over in April 2010. Both previous companies were dismissed under non too convivial circumstances, both no longer exist. One of them had a serious fire destroying its offices in 2007.

The current RMA had to do a “Trace of Ownership” with the Land Registry in July 2013 to find the identity of the leasehold/owner for the County Courts I assume. Then paid a further fee as “Registration”. This does seem to indicate that they were unaware of who owned the property.

But they maintain that from 2010 they were sending correspondences to the flat in my name. But have failed in all this time or been able to provide any proof of these.

The earliest correspondence they have provided which showed an Open Balance of nearly £3,000 from the period 2005-11, when the management was conducted by the two other agents. However the Freeholder should have the copies, right?

Now I am selling the property and although initially they made an offer in final settlement for £1442, but when my solicitors requested how this figure was deduced and would they mark the CCJ as “satisfied” on payment, the Freeholder who then having got wind of my pending sale, withdrew the offer increasing it to £3,000…..But again without anything to quantify this figure.

Many thanks

Brian



Comments

Neil Patterson

2 weeks ago

Hi Brian,

May be a stupid question, but can I ask if your were paying any service or management fees before you received the first outstanding bill for £6,500?

BB

2 weeks ago

Hello Neil, Thanks for the response. Not a silly question or I don't think so.
No, I was never made aware of whom to pay or presented any demands, like I said in nearly 8 years.

Neil Patterson

2 weeks ago

Ah if you have made no regular or annual payments for management fees or service charges then you are on the back foot I am afraid.

A judge probably ruled or may rule again, as in the CCJ, that it would be reasonable to expect to pay a charge or investigate why one was not asked for.

Derek t

2 weeks ago

Pay the money and then raise a case with the first tier tribunal at least you can complete the sale and remove the ccj leaving you free to fight the charges and lack of evidance in the court room
Is what I would do In This case.
Also Did your solicitor register your purchase with the freeholder at the time of purchase and supply them with your correct correspondence address ?

BB

2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Neil Patterson at 09/07/2018 - 07:33
Thanks Neil but I have now realised that at the time of purchase, the Service Charge fees had gone into a new quarter. My solicitor paid this to the then RMA, charging this to my account. Furthermore,m I have never previously owned a leasehold property why should, or would I have known
this, who to contact or chase?
Surely it was for the Freeholder or its agents to contact me, right? As my solicitors at the time of purchase made all the correct documents and I have now been supplied the new lease and my name was registered on it with a month of purchase.

BB

2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Derek t at 09/07/2018 - 07:50Many thanks Derek for the advice, yeah that looks like my onky option given the timescale involved. I started the process today with an apucation for it to be "set aside" requesting the N244 form.
Read what I ve wrote in reply to Neil's comments, this kind of answers your point.
My main argument is there was no service charge demands no Pre action Protocol followed with Letters before Action.
Many thanks any way to you and Neil.

silversurfer2017

2 weeks ago

Unless you were completely ignorant of how leasehold works then after six months of purchase date, if you had had no correspondence addressed to yourself from both the management company in the form of service charge demands and from the freeholder in terms of ground rent demands, you should have followed this up without delay. Getting no bills for service charges or ground rent is not good news! Often penal fees are charged for late payment and also as you have found life becomes very difficult if you want to sell. I would advise you to pay the money they are asking for, (confirming this is a full and final payment), if you don't want to lose your sale and perhaps be a bit more circumspect in future.

silversurfer2017

2 weeks ago

Following on from my previous post - It may be that at least some of the increase from the £1442 to £3000 may be due to preparation of the seller's 'leasehold pack'. As you probably know whenever you sell a leasehold property this is an expense for the owner to bear. (the buyer will also have registration and other expenses to pay for concerning the lease and the management group).
Sometimes the lease pack can take several weeks to prepare and it is a good idea to apply and pay for the seller's leasehold pack as soon as the property goes on the market. If a cash buyer comes along wanting a quick completion then this avoids any delay.
The sellers lease pack besides giving full details of the lease also provides several years audited management accounts. The pack also details any arrears of either the ground rent or the service charges. (The buyers solicitor will need any arrears cleared before contracts can be exchanged)
It seems to me that perhaps you and maybe your solicitor aren't communicating effectively with the freeholder or the management group. All management groups must have at least one meeting, the AGM, each year. Have you ever attended any of these to find out what is going on and how your money is spent for the services charges you are paying, or in your case not paying?
Leasehold property may not need so much maintenance from a practical point of view compared with a freehold property. However as you have seen, it is not just a buy it and forget it investment from an admin point of view. You need to keep up to speed on the paperwork side regarding the lease terms, the ground rent and management issues and service charges.

BB

2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by at 09/07/2018 - 10:08
Thanks Silversurfer but you missed a vital point my solicitor both registeted the change of name of leaseholder with the freeholders AND paid the first quarter SC fees to the agents.

Lets be fair about this yeah, if it had have been the electric, gas or phone company who provided a service and never sent a bill !?!? Who would be running around asking all the providers wheres my gas coming. from?

BB

2 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by at 09/07/2018 - 11:08Sellers pack applied for and payment of £360 made last month, accepted by RMA prior to this debacle. Both parties agreed at £1442 as the sum in arrears to be paid on completion. This was then withdrawn when the Freeholders were informed of the sale pending. Random springs to mind.
I emigrated Overseas full time 2009 so no I ve never attended AGMs or such like. Once I was made aware of this matter and all my countless efforts since 2014 to resolve this and my requests for all the relevant documents is SC demand compliant with LTA and Letters before Action have been ignored. Equally the current solicitors requests too.
They sent copies of said correspondences dated back to 2010, but this is or was impossible, as they did not discover who the owner was until 2013 when they, the RMA conducted the Land Registry "Trace of Ownership".
Its pretty plain to myself to see what happened between now and 2005 there were 3 changes in RMA, one of which coincided with my purchase, this company was dismissed, hence the flat's lease was still held in the previous owner's name, hence Ms B for many years was having mail sent addressed to her, not myself.

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