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    • Also, in respect of these recent developments concerning the rights of leaseholders and their lessors, I haven't followed it too closely, but aren't you mixing up service charges on one hand with ground rent. I do understand that it seems that landlords are pretty unfettered in terms of the level of ground rent they can apply – but I would have thought that service charges – which represent actual expenditure have to be accounted for. Have I got this wrong?
    • Thank you for all of this information. However, I can imagine that most people won't be able to go through it all – partly because there is so much of it but also because it is presented in a tightly packed block of text. It would be much easier if you would space it properly so that it was presented more accessible way – but then put into a PDF document which could be uploaded onto the forum. That means that people could have a look at it by downloading it and then sizing it to suit their own computer screen and their own convenience. I did ask you how much you had paid in the first cheque which was eventually returned to you – and I'm not sure that you have answered this question yet. If they come round to issuing a claim against you, it could be very important to know this. If you have answered this question already then I'm afraid it's lost in the large bulk of the information you have provided.  
    • FREEHOLDERS BE AWARE!   I have discovered the answer to my question - please read because anyone else out there - until this legal loophole is changed take great care before thinking you will have justice regarding leashold overcharging. Most leases check yours! have a clause whereby they can charge the leasholder whether they win or loose. So like Mr Barclay you might, even if you win the case, have to pay the freeholders legal charges! Criminal ! I am so pleased i spotted this before I defended myself against the unjust bills.    Put simply until the law changes (especially if you are non residential and have no tier tribunal) there is no facility to challenge unreasonable leasehold charges.   Leaseholders to benefit from closure of legal loophole According to figures in The Times 5.3 million (21%) homes in England and Wales are leasehold, meaning the property is not owned outright but is instead ‘leased’ from the freeholder, typically for a lengthy term. In a leasehold arrangement there will usually be a contract between leaseholder and freeholder which sets out the legal rights and responsibilities of each party. Generally these will be that the freeholder maintains the common parts of the building and the leaseholder pays maintenance fees, service charges and a portion of the buildings insurance. But what happens if there is a dispute as to those fees or some other matter? Currently if a leasehold property owner takes the freehold owner of the building to court, a legal loophole means they could be burdened with the opposing party’s legal costs – even if the leaseholder wins. The legal bills involved can amount to tens of thousands of pounds, adding a sting in the tail to any victory. However, after the Sunday Times launched an investigation and uncovered legal bills being levied of up to £60,000, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire MP has pledged to take action and close the loophole. The loophole is contained in the majority of leases which typically allow freeholders to recoup their legal costs from leaseholders, even if the freeholder loses the case. There is no parallel right for leaseholders to claim costs back. The Times reported that last year leasehold owner Richard Barclay successfully recovered £1,200 of a £10,100 service charge from the management company in respect of his central London Flat. But the victory soon turned sour when Barclay was hit with a bill for £61,300 in legal fees by Quadrant Property Management who takes care of the building. Barclay challenged the costs and the bankruptcy court reduced these by £12,500, but tribunal has ruled that all other costs being challenged are reasonable. Back in 2015, a similar situation arose when the leasehold owners of 30 flats in West London took the freeholder to court and won a £29,000 discount off their service bill. The managing agent’s bill for legal fees in that case amounted to more than £44,000. According to the Times, in 2014 / 2015 A2Dominion housing association who managed the block charged its leaseholders £24,167 for legal costs. One year after, FirstPort billed leaseholders of the wider estate £20,160 for what was thought to be the same legal costs. The Times further reports that in 2017, two leaseholders took A2Dominion to tribunal regarding £12,500 claimed through their service charges for roof repairs. Those costs could have been recouped instead through the buildings insurance policy. This time the money was refunded just before the hearing – but this time the tribunal banned the association from issuing the claimants with a legal bill. When presented with the details of two of these cases, James Brokenshire responded by stating: “It is the secretary of state’s intention to close the legal loopholes that allow freeholders to unjustifiably recoup legal costs from leaseholders. This will form part of our broader package of leaseholder reforms. We will do this as soon as parliamentary time allows.” His promise is one of a number put forward by the government – it has also pledged to ban the sale of new build leasehold homes, and to cap ground rents on new leases. It believes: “… when someone buys a house, it should feel truly their own. House buyers should not be faced with a depreciating lease or a ground rent charge for any other purpose than to pay for the privilege of living in the house they havealready bought.” (October 2018 Consultation) The Law Commission is currently conducting three sub consultations in this area and the reforms are likely to follow their completion. These are: ·        Leasehold enfranchisement ·        Right to Manage ·        Commonhold James Brokenshire said he wanted a leasehold market where people were able to challenge. He showed concern for  an inequality of arms that was preventing people from getting the outcomes, fairness and justice that they require. What can I do if I have a dispute? The first place to look if you have a dispute regarding a charge is your lease. You can only be charged for items listed in the lease so if, for example, there’s no mention of management fees or the cost of improvements, you won’t be liable. If you’re not sure whether your lease allows the charges you’re disputing, ask a solicitor to check it for you. If you’ve received a service charge demand, check it carefully. It should state the name and address of the landlord at the top (not the managing agent, unless they are also the landlord). The exception to this is if the managing agent is a party to the lease. It should also contain a summary of your rights and obligations which can be found here. If you believe the certain items are excessive, request a summary that shows how the charge has been worked out and what it will be spent on, with receipts. The freeholder cannot refuse to supply this – to do so can attract a £2,500 fine. If an item seems too high, get comparable quotes. This will help you demonstrate that the same services could be provided at a significant cost saving. By law the landlord must behave in a ‘reasonable’ manner with regard to its expenditure on the building. Whilst there is no duty to minimise costs, service charges must be ‘reasonable’ and where the charges relate to works or services, the works or services must be completed to a reasonable standard. Before you consider making a challenge, speak to neighbours who are in the same boat. They may consider bringing the challenge with you. You should not stop paying the charges. Instead, write to the management company and provide evidence such as quotations to show that the charges are not reasonable. A solicitor’s letter may carry more weight, particularly as it can set out in legal terms the landlord’s duties regarding charges. If the management company does not agree with your challenge, mediation may be a good way to resolve the dispute. This involves sitting down with the other party and trying to find a way forward, with the help of a trained mediator. It is typically far cheaper than litigation. Another option may be to take over the right to manage the development. Speak to a solicitor about whether this may be possible. The final option is to apply to the first-tier tribunal (England) or the leasehold valuation tribunal (Wales) for a ruling on whether the fees are payable. There’s a £100 application fee and £200 hearing fee in England, or a £50 – £350 application fee and a hearing fee in Wales. If you are successful, you can ask the tribunal to limit the landlord’s ability to recover its legal costs through the service charge. However, they don’t have to agree to this and you may face a substantial charge.        
    • I think you could usefully telephone the Sunderland County Court during the week – maybe Wednesday to find out the progress of the warrant and what date they imagine that they are going to go round and execute it. They might also tell you whether they are preparing to make a visit or whether they are going to do it by letter initially. This kind of information is available – because about 10 years or so ago, we sent the bailiffs into the Royal Bank of Scotland in Camden Town and we managed to get the data in advance and we had the press waiting to report.     https://www.standard.co.uk/hp/front/customer-sends-bailiffs-in-to-seize-bank-s-computers-7197321.html oh how we laughed    
    • Incidentally, don't state a deadline for action in the letter. I think that this adds to tension and it's not necessary. You simply allow them five days – but don't refer to that timescale
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    • Hi @BankFodder
      Sorry for only updating you now, but after your guidance with submitting the claim it was pretty straight forward and I didn't want to unnecessarily waste your time. Especially with this guide you wrote here, so many thanks for that
      So I issued the claim on day 15 and they requested more time to respond.
      They took until the last day to respond and denied the claim, unsurprisingly saying my contract was with Packlink and not with them.
       
      I opted for mediation, and it played out very similarly to other people's experiences.
       
      In the first call I outlined my case, and I referred to the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 as the reason to why I do in fact have a contract with them. 
       
      In the second call the mediator came back with an offer of the full amount of the phone and postage £146.93, but not the court costs. I said I was not willing to accept this and the mediator came across as a bit irritated that I would not accept this and said I should be flexible. I insisted that the law was on my side and I was willing to take them to court. The mediator went back to Hermes with what I said.
       
      In the third call the mediator said that they would offer the full amount. However, he said that Hermes still thought that I should have taken the case against Packlink instead, and that they would try to recover the court costs themselves from Packlink.
       
      To be fair to them, if Packlink wasn't based in Spain I would've made the claim against them instead. But since they are overseas and the law lets me take action against Hermes directly, it's the best way of trying to recover the money.
       
      So this is a great win. Thank you so much for your help and all of the resources available on this site. It has helped me so much especially as someone who does not know anything about making money claims.
       
      Many thanks, stay safe and have a good Christmas!
       
       
        • Thanks
    • Hermes and mediation hints. https://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/topic/428981-hermes-and-mediation-hints/&do=findComment&comment=5080003
      • 1 reply
    • Natwest Bank Transfer Fraud Call HMRC Please help. https://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/topic/428951-natwest-bank-transfer-fraud-call-hmrc-please-help/&do=findComment&comment=5079786
      • 31 replies
    • Hermes lost parcel.. Read more at https://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/topic/422615-hermes-lost-parcel/
      • 49 replies

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Hi all. I recently posted a couple of other posts about repossession and balliffs as I have been suffering from ID theft, or so I thought. I don't deal with any of the finances in my house as I have suffered from depression for a good few years and my wife has dealt with all the bills and bank accounts etc. But alas on Friday night she came clean that there was no ID theft or any fraudulent business in our financial affairs. I have trusted her for many years and now it has become such a mess, she has had a pretty major emotional break down over this and she may possibly be hospitalized. We saw a doctor on Friday and she has an appointment at the hospital on Monday. She has also told me she lost her job in October last year and has not claimed or done anything about this the only income we have been receiving has been my disability allowance and the child benefit allowance. What started off as a 25,000 pound mortage is now 45,000 and has arrears with interest being charged daily. She has also taken out other loans and one maybe two secured on the property (which I never new anthing about yet I am the joint owner on the property). The end result is about 15000 in loans and apperrantly no bills, gas, electric, telephone, internet, sky, nearly everything has not been paid for 3 months maybe more. The good news is I now know about all this and so does her family who are most helpful and supportive. The bad news is I have no idea how I am going to sort this out and if I will possiblly be able to keep a roof over my kids heads. We have come up with a total sum of about 70,000 including our mortgage and everthing. I am taking her to the hospital on Monday and her sister and myself are going to CAB on Tuesday. I am completely lost in this scenario as I have never done any finacial stuff in my life, I do not even know how to set up a direct debit or standing order, I don't even carry a bank card, credit card etc. I know that this has happened through a failed business venture my wife had four years ago, where she got left in debt and took a loan out to cover it which as time went on this situation has snowballed and the bigger it got the harder she found it to tell me, now she has had to tell me as we owe money just about everywhere. I really need some good advice here so please help.

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Oh wow, I don't really have any detailed advice to offer but didn't want to read and run. It sounds like you've made a good start by finding out exactly what your debt situation is and planning to go speak to CAB - I think they are a good first step in helping you sort all this out. Folks on CAG may be better at offering more specific advice on how to deal with specific debts/companies rather than how to manage your overall debt situation. I'd suggest you see what CAB advice and then take it from there...

 

Ali

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Welcome to the forums Hobson, i'm desparately sorry to hear of what has happened, I would certainly recommend in the first instance going to see the CAB and also giving the National Debtline a call - their service is free and impartial too... - National Debtline – Free, Confidential Debt Advice – Call 0808 808 4000

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Thanks for the replies guy, I will phone the debtline on Monday when I get back from the hospital, this has been a real heartbreaker for all the family, the wife has always been good with the bills etc. she even looked after her mothers finances after her her husband passed away, but the bigger this debt got the harder it got for her to tell me. The only way to look at this is she has done the hard part by telling me now. Thankfully we have very understanding friends and family who are all ralllying round to help. All we really want to do now is try and save the house as it would break the kids hearts if we have to move as we have lived here there entire lives, the wife is depressed enough and I just hope we can save the house and maybe eventually manage to rebuild our lives. I will try and keep you all up to date, but I am getting rid of my internet service at the end of this week as I have to cut back to the very basics. I will be able to use one of my friends computers but will not be able to check back as often as I would like, but any help will be very much appreciated and I will try to keep you all upto date and thanks again.

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