Lease and repair issues – I may need profession help?

Lease and repair issues – I may need profession help?

16:18 PM, 4th May 2021, About 5 months ago 5

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This is a tricky one – we are a newish development (old offices) of 3 new floors and one existing (residential) on the 4th floor. The 4th floor lease has a clause that excludes them from 1st works to the roof as it was to be provided in good order. Clearly the issue is that it wasn’t, and they are refusing to pay all services charges and have been since 2017 (we have just found this out via the managing agents).

There are many issues of course – the first being why hasn’t the managing agent taken action against the 4th floor, there must be more to it than this. The roof now needs works (5 years from completion of the development, not a new roof – vaulted glass and steel). I’d say that it should have been in good condition on completion for all of us (if it’s good for the 4th floor then surely good for all floors below??) The works needed are more than general maintenance and very expensive needing full scaffolding.

Question – how does a building operate with different leases relating to maintenance (they are exempt for paying for the lift as well, even though they are 4th floor with own fob for the top)?

Why would a managing agent not chase for the service charge? They now say that they have no money for anything in the building (£125,000 down) and will not start a process to produce an ESW1 which is now necessary – there is no cladding – as the regulations keep changing.

The 4th floor say that they have an agreement with the Freeholder having gone to the FTT, the FTT say there is nothing registered there even though we have copies of the application – it is all such a mess.

I can see us all spending a lot of money on getting this dealt with, but surely the lease speaks, the managing agents upholds the lease, and we should all be on the same page. The managing agent has told the NHBC that the works are maintenance, but they are not and are around £250,000 worth, so have effectively shut the door in our faces on that one.

If anyone has a professional person with a very clear mind to work this out for me, I am happy to employ, I just feel a regular solicitor or my original conveyancer will rack up the hours but not get to the bottom of it all.

Many thanks

Harlequin Garden



Comments

by Mike in Worthing

13:05 PM, 5th May 2021, About 5 months ago

Hi Harlequin
You really have only two choices here:
1. Sell up and move on
2. Apply to the FTT yourself and get the lease(s) changed.
Using a lawyer will cost a considerable amount, drag things out interminably etc.
Believe it or not, Shelter can help and their advice is free. If you're a landlord and sublet your flat they're unlikely to do so however.
If you're able and willing to consider option 2 above, please reply and I'll elaborate.
Mike

by Harlequin Garden

19:21 PM, 5th May 2021, About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike in Worthing at 05/05/2021 - 13:05
Hi Mike

Yes, an investor and it is let - I've had more responses from the original freeholder (now sold on but still respond to me) - conflicting information I'm afraid - changing the lease so we are inline with the 4th floor seems attractive but surely all need to agree (I'd be surprised if they didn't!)

by Mike in Worthing

20:07 PM, 5th May 2021, About 5 months ago

You can change the lease unilaterally at the FTT. Only certain categories of defect. Landlord & Tenant Act 1987 section 35(1)
You can also apply to FTT for a determination of liability to pay a service charge, same act s.27A.
You can stop the freeholder passing on its/his/her legal costs via the service charge LTA 1985 s.20C
You can get free advice from www. lease-advice.org
You must be reasonable and try negotiation first. Managing Agents are experts at bamboozling leaseholders. If discussions fail, send a LBA (Letter before action) and go to FTT
It's a fallacy to say you all need to get together. It is better of course if you are indeed united with the same goal but this is rarely the case. Other lessees get cold feet, back out and let you down.
I recommend reading some of lawpack's books** before you take the plunge. Then you're better informed to decide which way to go (Option 1 or 2) Hope this helps. Good luck.
** http://www.lawpack.co.uk

by Gracie

10:55 AM, 20th May 2021, About 5 months ago

Wow this is an interesting one, I'd love to know how you resolve it.

by Mike in Worthing

11:28 AM, 20th May 2021, About 5 months ago

Another thought occurred to me. When you bought your flat, your solicitor should have sent an LPE1 form to the freeholder. (= Leasehold Property Enquiries). Ask for a copy. Two possibilities emerge:
1. No LPE form sent (sue your solicitor)
2. Misleading/false replies (sue original freeholder)
Ultimately this is an investment, so consideration is mainly financial. Ask yourself these questions:
1. If I go with the flow and pay the service charges regardless how much is it likely to cost?
2. Would a solicitor save me money overall?
3. Have I got the time and inclination to instigate proceedings myself?
If the answers to all 3 are unfavourable, it's time to sell up. Once again, good luck!


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