Ground Rent on Lease illegally altered after signature?

Ground Rent on Lease illegally altered after signature?

9:45 AM, 7th March 2022, About 3 months ago 9

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I am hoping someone with a legal bent can offer some high-level advice and, hopefully, a solution.

In 2007 we signed a lease on an apartment and returned it to our solicitor for exchange. Our solicitor’s Report on the Agreement stated the Ground Rent was £150 pa, and the Lease stated the same. That’s what we signed and returned. The property had not been built, and Completion didn’t happen until 2008. We were ‘leasehold naive’, and relied on our solicitor’s competence and experience from dealing with hundreds of similar purchases, to ensure our purchase went through smoothly.

Long story short, our day-to-day trials and tribulations took over, and we duly paid the invoices from our freeholder without question because we were advised we must pay the Ground Rent or risk forfeiture. I said we were ‘naive’!

A new Managing Agent has recently taken over and sent spurious invoices which have caused me to question the charges, and do a lot of digging. I’ve retired and have the time! The Lease we signed is not the Lease registered with Land Registry. It carries the same reference number, but the document the Managing Agent has, which will have come from Land Registry, shows the Ground Rent as £250 pa. Someone changed it after we signed and, I assume, didn’t inform our solicitor. My understanding is any changes agreed subsequent to a Lease being signed, must be initialled by all parties to the Lease.

Clearly, this has a significant financial implication, in addition to the AST issue.

Our solicitor shut-up shop soon after our Completion, and we have no way of obtaining our files. Hence, we have no one to refer to the SRA.

I have written to the Managing Agent, but I’m sure their response will be dismissive. Is there anything we can do to revert to what we signed after all this time?

Please feel free to email me on lou.valdini@hotmail.co.uk if you can help.

Lou



Comments

by aydin

14:12 PM, 7th March 2022, About 3 months ago

You can get a copy of the lease that has been registered at the land registry. That lease was the one your solicitor sent for registration to the land registry. If the filed copy shows GR at £250 then your solicitor must have sent the lease with that figure, if you claim that you instructed your solicitor to accept £150 GR then the solicitor has been negligent. However these GRs are fixed for many years and with inflation especially nowadays, it really is not a lot of money, bearing in mind you have no redress against your solicitor if he has been gone for more than 6 years

After a law firm closes, run-off cover must be purchased to protect solicitors and their clients in the event of any civil claims that arise because of negligence. This mandatory run-off cover is purchased as part of the firm's professional indemnity insurance (PII) and lasts for six years.

by Happy Landlord

14:43 PM, 7th March 2022, About 3 months ago

Hi Lou, Are you sure that the original ground rent was not for a set period, most ground rents rise over time - its usually 20 plus years but I have seen as short as 3 years - the lease will give you the periods and by how much the ground will increase by at those periods - it may of course have been altered as you describe in which case it is clearly a fraudulent action. Your original solicitor should have advised you of the potential increases if they are written into the lease

by Robert

14:44 PM, 7th March 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by aydin at 07/03/2022 - 14:12
Hi

6 years isn't a cut off absolutly. It is the time limitation for issuing proceedings but is often extended to run from 6 years after you could reasonably have found out the error occurred which sometimes can be not until the property is sold or in this case when the GR figure came to light. And although run off cover is only for 6 years it doesn't stop the soliciter being sued past that as set our above. Also if he or she can't be found you may be able to fall back on getting compensation from the Ombudsman or from the Solicitors Indemnity Fund whch is still limping on to cover claims out of the run off period. But as one of the earlier comments says do check its not just a increased rent under a review clause
Finally the SRA will know if the files were taken over by another firm or if they took them into storage themselves Robert

by NewYorkie

17:29 PM, 7th March 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Happy Landlord at 07/03/2022 - 14:43
Hi HL.
The GR does indeed increase by 'an index' (deliberately vague - RPI this time) every 5 years, and we were aware of that. Our mistake was not reading the lease after Completion and not keeping tabs on the increases. But it was definitely altered without our knowledge.

by Mike in Worthing

11:31 AM, 8th March 2022, About 3 months ago

Hi Lou
Go to the official Land Registry website and download form OC2. Enter the details of your lease, post it to them with a cheque for £7. This will get an Official Copy of the registered lease.
If you suspect alteration/forgery, you will need to be able to demonstrate this by reference to the copy you hold. If you can do that, write to the registrar who has the power to alter the register.
If you are unable to do the above, your options are very poor and you may have to accept the situation.
Send the OC2 to HM Land Registry, Citizen Centre, PO Box 74, Gloucester GL14 9BB
Good luck

by NewYorkie

11:48 AM, 8th March 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike in Worthing at 08/03/2022 - 11:31
I have the lease registered with Land Registry. It says £250 and is signed by the developer, but not by us. I have the lease sent to us by our solicitor saying £150, which is what we signed.

by Mike in Worthing

11:55 AM, 8th March 2022, About 3 months ago

Who witnessed your signature on your copy?

by NewYorkie

12:01 PM, 8th March 2022, About 3 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike in Worthing at 08/03/2022 - 11:55
I can't remember who witnessed it. I have spoken to Land Registry, and they can change the Lease registered, but only if it is to our signed copy. It appears my only chance is if the SRA has the solicitor's files with our signed documents.

by Mike in Worthing

12:28 PM, 8th March 2022, About 3 months ago

If you don't have the copy you signed you won't have any joy with the Land Registry. Because this happened 15 years ago, I very much doubt you'll have any with the SRA either. Sorry I couldn't help


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