New freeholder not been given my correspondence address

by Readers Question

10:46 AM, 18th November 2014
About 4 years ago

New freeholder not been given my correspondence address

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New freeholder not been given my correspondence address

I have received a letter from a firm of solicitors instructed by a new freeholder for non-payment of ground rent. Clearly there are now excessive fees to pay!!! The ground rent payments are for this year (when I have owned the property) and the whole of last year (when I didn’t even own the property, but my solicitors paid an apportionment on completion!!!) New freeholder not been given my correspondence address

I bought this leasehold property in Oct 2013, I have rarely visited the property and the tenants have not sent any post addressed to me from the property – so I do not know what has been sent or when.

When I bought the property I assume a Notice of Transfer was done by my solicitors to the freeholder to inform them of my correspondence address. I have never received any mail from the freeholder however or a demand for Ground Rent.

Since my purchase, the properties freehold has been purchased by a new company and the old freeholder has ceased trading. My solicitor that I used for the purchase has also ceased trading!!!

I believe that details of my correspondence address were not passed from the original freeholder to the new freeholder, this is the only conclusion I can think of.

I have contacted the person who acted for me at the solicitors and she said she will looked into it, although now they have ceased trading the files are in an archive and I suspect this will complicate things! At least the lady seems like she wants to help me.

Unfortunately I can’t contact the old freeholder (as they are out of business) and can’t contact the new freeholder (as I can only deal with the solicitors who have been instructed by them to collect the payment).

Should I contact the Law Society to complain about solicitors that I used? Perhaps they didn’t send the freeholder a Notice of Transfer? Now that the solicitors have closed down, will they have a run-off insurance… will it even cover this instance?!

Apologises for the long and detailed nature of this problem but its fairly complex and hopefully you have the relevant details, I would really appreciate the advice of you guys on what to do?

Many thanks in advance!

Christopher Browne



Comments

Mark Alexander

10:47 AM, 18th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Mark Smith (Barrister-At-Law) has been invited to comment.
.

Mark Smith (Barrister-At-Law)

11:27 AM, 18th November 2014
About 4 years ago

1. Simplest thing is to search the property register at the Land Registry.
This is a conclusive proof of the freeholder's identity.

Costs £3

https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry

2. Solicitors will have run-off insurance. Contact the SRA for more help. Make sure new solicitors are not scammers, by verifying them with the SRA

3. New solicitors can't demand what you don't owe. Revert to me if they are trying this.

Mandy Thomson

14:02 PM, 18th November 2014
About 4 years ago

I had a similar issue when I bought my last leasehold flat, although I know for sure my solicitor acted properly and neither the solicitor nor freeholder went out of business.

While no one attempted to charge me for ground rent or service charges owed by my predecessor to the leasehold title, I did have issues with being recognised as the new owner firstly by the management company (which was soon sorted out) then my tenants hadn't realised they should've forwarded my mail so the freeholder had been trying to write to me at the flat, and in the meanwhile I had written to the freeholder, enclosing a cheque for that year's ground rent. Cheque was cashed but no direct response!

Next thing I knew, my mortgage lender wrote to me advising the freeholder was claiming I was in arrears with ground rent and insurance payments - I put both right on the situation promptly, and the freeholder was actually very helpful and sympathetic, especially after establishing that they had cashed my ground rent cheque(!), agreeing to me catching up with my missed insurance payments by installment, and of course waiving all the penalty charges.

This seems to be a common issue with acquisition of leasehold titles, especially if you don't live in the property. I've learned my lesson - next time I shall be more proactive in ensuring everyone knows who I am and where to find me.

AA Properties Wales

20:16 PM, 18th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Chris, be very wary of these people. Your new freeholders and your previous one should have issued you with a Section 5 Notice, which gives you as leaseholder proper notice of the freehold sale. Google it.

Kev- AA Props

Christopher Browne

21:21 PM, 18th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Thanks for the comments, I appreciate the interest taken in this.

I have to say, this afternoon I had an email from the solicitors acting for the new freeholder saying that the freeholder has closed the case with this solicitors now and I should send enquiries to them now... I feel privileged that the freeholder will now take the communication from a leaseholder!

Lets see how this plays out, I'm hopeful now that its panic over, maybe something that i have done over the last 24 hours has been successful and the matter can be resolved shortly between the new freeholder and myself.

I still think this is a similar issue that could happen to others and I urge other leaseholders of recently purchased properties to ensure that the management company and freeholder (potentially the same person but usually not) have your correspondence address.

It is frustrating that the new freeholder, didn't do what the solicitors they instructed did and do a Land Reg search for my correspondence address. Also even easier for them would have been to contact the management company who would have easily given them my details.

Mandy - I am glad your situation was resolved, clearly having mortgage lenders and court proceeding issues against someone will affect a persons all important credit rating - perhaps even permanently??!!

Kev - that is a very good point, I have not received such correspondence but also perhaps this communication also went to my tenanted property. A leaseholder can not be responsible for ensuring they keep up to date with the ownership of a freehold so communication is essential.

Mark S - thanks for your comment. I had not thought of this. Thanks also for offer of more advice should it have been required.

Mark A - thank you for pushing this post. I will try to add some value below now.

If anyone finds themselves in a similar position, try this website http://www.lease-advice.org

And then if they end up going through the courts, I think this is the correct form to fill out; http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/GetForm.do?court_forms_id=3080

(I have not researched either option above heavily so I can't comment about them, they were just what I found out from my own enquiries).

Finally, I just did an internet search of the solicitors instructed by the freeholder - they have a few disgruntled bloggers, posters; their name sounds like a small slimy animal... quite appropriate perhaps!

Living and learning, I will make sure that upon purchasing a leasehold property that the management and freeholder have my correspondence address - although this should happen automatically through the solicitor acting for me.

Mandy Thomson

21:37 PM, 18th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Christopher Browne" at "18/11/2014 - 21:21":

Thanks, Kev. The only way the lender becoming involved would affect the leaseholder's credit rating is if they made a special arrangement to pay the freeholder on the leaseholder's behalf, then added the additional amount to the mortgage.

This, like any and all negative endorsements to credit files (including very serious matters like bankruptcy) are automatically removed after 6 years.

However, nowadays lenders are extremely reluctant to simply pay freeholders (as they're tightening their belts generally) and it takes a very watertight case for forfeiture of lease before lenders pay up - please see the thread I recently started on this site about this:http://www.property118.com/advice-needed-forfeiture-lease-leaseholder-arrears/69251/

Christopher Browne

8:45 AM, 25th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Unfortunately this issue has come back now. Apparently the matter was investigated and since has been re-opened by the same solicitors.

The crux of the issue I see is that the new freeholder did not have my correspondence address. Whether this be due to it not being passed on from the previous freeholder or not being passed on by my solicitor at time of purchase.

My leasehold agreement just has my name on it where it says 'buyer' however in a deed of covenant, there is my name and correspondence address.

Mark Smith - I believe all parties to be genuine, and I do owe the ground rent in question however I have never been served with demands to my address, and certainly no Section 5 Notice for the sale of the freehold. Clearly all this information must have gone to my property address and thrown away by the tenants.

My gripe is that its a £500+ penalty not that I owe ground rent. And clearly there must be a breakdown in communication by either, my solicitor, the sellers solicitor, the old freeholder and the new freeholder? (Unfortunately my solicitor has ceased trading but I am in communication with them and the file is being opened from their archives.)

Can anyone help please?

Mandy Thomson

9:07 AM, 25th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Christopher Browne" at "25/11/2014 - 08:45":

Hi Christopher

If the legal firm you used hasn't satisfactorily resolved your complaint within 8 weeks, you could refer it the Legal Ombudsman http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/consumer/step-by-step.html

They have published some case studies of users to their service who had complaints about legal firms that had ceased trading: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/search.html?q=solicitor%20ceased%20trading

I worked for the Land Registry for several years, and would often see cases where solicitors would just slap any old address for service on the deeds. If it was a purchase, they often simply assumed the purchaser would live in the property after completion, and gave the property address as the new owner's address for service.

This happened to me when I purchased a leasehold flat in 2012. The freeholder was writing to me at the flat, my tenants kept the mail but didn't mention it to me (they probably just thought it was junk mail and assumed I knew and would pick it up), and it wasn't until the freeholder involved my lender that the picture became clear to them. In the meanwhile, I had written to the freeholder enclosing a cheque for ground rent, which they had cashed, so they had to admit they were in the wrong, waived the penalty fees and gave me a payment schedule to catch up with service charges.

Good luck with getting the penalty waived.

Christopher Browne

16:30 PM, 26th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "25/11/2014 - 09:07":

Thanks for that Mandy - I see where your pro-active approach paid off, I wish I had thought about that, I fear though its way past that stage now!

I am hopeful that my previous solicitors will come back to me when they have the file out of their archives and hopefully if they have messed up, then I can make a claim against their run-off insurance, assuming that they have the standard 6 year run-off insurance after they went out of business... !!!!


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