Freeholder asking leasholder to pay for repairs on his side of the building?

Freeholder asking leasholder to pay for repairs on his side of the building?

9:42 AM, 8th April 2024, About 2 months ago 9

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Hi, apologies if this is a dumb question but my wife is the leaseholder on one of the fout flats in a converted double fronted terraced property.

The freeholder also owns one of the other three flats. The frontal layout of the building has a central door with two flats on either side of the door (1 flat upstairs and one downstairs – on each side).

My wife’s flat is on the left, the freeholder’s flat is on the right.

When we first purchased the flat over 10 years ago, the then Freeholder advised us to get our own buildings insurance. My wife and at least one other leaseholder has had their own buildings insurance for their flat since they purchased the flat.

The current freeholder got in touch recently to advise that he has had an ongoing subsidence claim with his insurer for the past 30 months. This is the first time we or the other 2 leaseholders have heard about this.

Based on the photographs etc, the damage appears to be a 1-1.5m crack from the right side of the building running from the freeholder’s flat window down the window of the flat below.

The freeholders insurance company is refusing to pay for the repair – the reasons are unclear – the freeholder has been not clear on this, despite several requests for clarity.

The freeholder recently shared a copy of structural survey which he commissioned around  4 months ago. This report advises that there is no sign of subsidence – just movement (thermal related) in common with many other properties of similar age and on the same street.

The freeholder has had a quote done for £4000 for stitching the crack (including scaffolding hire etc) and is expecting the all the leaseholders to pay 25% of the repair cost.

Now, my question – should my wife be expected to pay towards the repair – given that the damage is localised to the left side of the building and the freeholder’s insurer is refusing to pay up.

There is some evidence to suggest that the freeholder underinsured the property and that the insurance company is refusing to pay on the basis of ‘temporal issues’ – i.e. he did not report the damage in a timely manner. We cannot be sure as the freeholder has not shared any correspondence related to why the insurer refused to cover the repair.

Common sense would suggest my wife is not liable and this is all on the freeholder’s shoulders (and possibly the flat beneath his).

Any advice appreciated.

Thanks,

Umer


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Comments

NewYorkie

12:36 PM, 8th April 2024, About 2 months ago

The freeholder is legally liable for buildings insurance, and the leaseholders pay a share in the service charge. I don't how a leaseholder can be given buildings insurance when they are not liable for the fabric of the property.

You need to know more about why the building insurer won't pay. Also, if the policy covers the whole building, which it should.

Graham Bowcock

13:30 PM, 8th April 2024, About 2 months ago

There are two issues here.

Firstly, I entirely agree with new Yorkie about the insurance. How can you insure a flat as stand alone? Who covers the roof, communal hallways, exterior areas, etc?

Secondly. the liabiltiy of leaseholders will be in the lease. Nobody here can say whether or not your wife has any liability until they have read the lease. I've managed a block where four house owners were liable (in part) for the roof of a block of flats in the same development. So you just never know what has crept in to leases.

The freeholder would be subejct to s20 in respect of recovery of funds, so may not get what they are seeking.

NewYorkie

14:05 PM, 8th April 2024, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Graham Bowcock at 08/04/2024 - 13:30
Sorry, I should have said it depends on what the lease says, but I've not known a block where the freeholder wasn't responsible. Indeed, their managing agents make a fortune in backhand commissions for choosing the most expensive insurance.

I did once have a situation where the insurer wouldn't pay for a new roof, but the reason was each leaseholder carried a £1000 excess on the policy, and the sum of the work was conveniently just below the sum of all leaseholders' excesses. It meant the freeholder could choose the contractor after a 'competitive' tender, and because he didn't have to claim on insurance, there was no oversight.

The commissions scam has now been outlawed, but freeholders still find ways of price gouging on insurance.

Judith Wordsworth

15:02 PM, 8th April 2024, About 2 months ago

Reply to the comment left by NewYorkie at 08/04/2024 - 12:36
Depends on what the Lease states

Harry66

16:03 PM, 8th April 2024, About 2 months ago

Thanks for the replies everyone.
Currently working through the 36 page lease.
I look forward to when the Govt sorts out this freeholder/leaseholder nonsense - but wont hold my breath....
Cheers.

Lennie Goodchild

18:39 PM, 9th April 2024, About 2 months ago

You should engage a Loss Assessor- you're own version of what the insurance company would use to dismiss the claim. If you can get a loss assessor engaged they will handle the insurance claim and the repairs for you. I have used oakleafe claims before with something similar and they handled the whole lot for me

Harry66

15:53 PM, 12th April 2024, About a month ago

Thanks - for all the replies.
Not had time to complete reading the lease - due to a family emergency.

Gracie

14:17 PM, 13th April 2024, About a month ago

Despite the lease usually being your first port of call (& not likely to help you), I'd say what works in your favour is that 1) he told you to get your own buildings insurance (unusual but not unheard of(& not many insurers like this so I'd be interested to know who each leaseholders is with & if they have had any shared claims)) 2) the length of time passed to notify you 3) the fact that his survey disputes any subsidence and 4) the fact that his insurance refuses to pay out. I'd tell him that you've taken legal advice (but don't waste your money yet) & until he provides what you've been told you need, you cannot look into the situation.

Crossed_Swords

1:44 AM, 14th April 2024, About a month ago

Quite possible to insure each flat separately (common in Scotland where leasehold no longer exists but also in England, we used to do it but now club together as we share the freehold of four flats) but it does become problematic in the event of a claim so it is best to join forces. With a third party freeholder they should have insured and charged back your shares

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