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Hello.

 

I have a query about the service charges on a leasehold property and I'm hoping some of you legal eagles may be able to tell me where I stand on this subject.

 

I am not sure about the relevance of everything I'm about to post, however I want to give you as complete a picture as I can, hopefully, without boring you tears.

 

My partner bought a leasehold property in 2005 and put it onto the market four months ago.

 

When the property was surveyed, there was found to be subsidence to the outside wall. It was determined that this wall was the landlord's responsibility to maintain, however to quicken up the sale, we agreed to knock several thousand off of the asking price, which satisfied the buyer and the sale proceeded as normal.

 

Last week the sale seemed to have been completed. The contracts were exchanged, the keys were released and we were just waiting for the funds to be released into our account. However today, we received a call from our solicitors saying that our landlord has claimed for four years backdated service charges, totalling an extra two thousand pounds. Apparently, we were told, the funds can't be released without this claim being resolved.

 

My partner explained to me that in the first year of moving into the property, she had received a request from the landlord, to pay towards the insurance of the property (which I presume is the service charge) however, my partner declined as she didn't feel she was liable.

 

After looking into it, I'm pretty sure she is/was liable for the service charge and the solicitor says it is specified as such in her lease, however my girlfriend isn't the most legally savvy individual and honestly didn't believe payment was required, she just felt her landlord was trying to pull a fast one.

 

The landlord has told our solicitor that she sent countless letters to my partner over the four years, requesting payment for the service charge. This is a lie. Like I said, she only asked once and that was in the first year of my partner moving in, after that we heard nothing more about it until today.

 

To add to this, the landlord throughout the whole time my partner lived in the property, never made any repairs nor did any checks on the general condition of the property and any maintenance was always paid for by my partner. To be quite frank, the property was in a state of disrepair, yet the only time the landlord ever contacted us, was after every three months to ask for the quarterly ground rent payments.

 

Now that's basically what my concern with this issue is. If my partner was liable for the service charges, then surely some maintenance of the property was to have been expected?

 

Does the fact that the landlord only requested the payment for the service charges once, limit her claim for the whole four years?

 

In your opinion, do you feel my partner is liable for the full amount?

 

My partner and I were advised (off of the record) by our solicitor to try to speak to our landlord and sort this issue out amicably, as this was holding up the release of our much needed funds. However the landlord shut the door in our faces, saying that if we had any concerns to speak to our solicitor.

 

So I just need to know where we stand. If anybody can help I'll be truly grateful.

 

:Sorry for such a long post, I tried to be as concise as possible, alas succinctness is just not in my nature. :-)

Edited by DBryant

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I think perhaps your partner did not read her lease when she purchased the property?? I think perhaps she should.

 

All leasehold properties involve some "service charges" which usually relate to things like ground rent, buildings insurance and any repairs and maintenance of the building (e.g. gardens, lifts, common areas, electricity charges for lighting in common areas etc.) and may contain an element of administration charges.

 

Most modern blocks of leasehold flats are run by management companies and leaseholders pay a regular sum (usually monthly) to cover these charges and including an amount towards any maintenance or repairs which may be required to the building.

 

However, many old converted buildings are owned by small companies who do not bill their leaseholders as regularly as they should. I personally own a flat in such a building and I know that the previous leaseholder received a bill to pay from the proceeds of the sale. I think the freeholder believes (mistakenly in my opinion) that this is easier for the leaseholder.

 

I have owned the flat now for over 2.5 years and have never received a bill for service charges. However, I know from my lease that I am liable for a share of the buildings insurance costs, etc. In the case of this lease, there are no regular maintenance or repair charges, but if any work is required, all the flats leaseholders share those costs equally. Nothing has ever been done during my ownership - except for things I have (like your partner) done myself. I suspect the lease your partner has will be similarly worded.

 

Unfortunately, I think you will find that these charges are legal and that your partner is liable to pay them. By the way, you don't say if this invoice itemises the charges - your partner is entitled to know what exactly she is paying for.

 

Sorry if this is not what you wanted to hear.


Kentish Lass

Information given is based on my knowledge and experience and is not to be considered as legal advice

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Thanks for the response KL.

 

From what you've said it looks like what she's demanding is all above board, so we've decided to pay up.

 

I still don't quite understand what we've been charged for, since we recieved no "services" of any kind. Still being ripped off by a landlord shouldn't really have come as a surprise, it's part of their job description isn't it?

 

Oh well, never mind. :)

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I must admit im surprised by your view on this. Theres certainly nothing novel about paying services charges on leasehold properties.

 

I would suggest your next course of action should be to try and recover the costs that your partner incurred for repairs/maintanence that was the landlords responsibility.

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I'm unsure what you are getting at Planner, what has surprised you?

 

My main concern in all this was why we had to pay for service charges yet at the same time had to maintain the upkeep of the property.

 

However KL said:

 

In the case of this lease, there are no regular maintenance or repair charges, but if any work is required, all the flats leaseholders share those costs equally.

 

So seemingly it's standard practice, or have I misunderstood?

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I wasn't necessarily saying "pay up" without receiving details of the actual charges being levied.

 

I must admit im surprised by your view on this. Theres certainly nothing novel about paying services charges on leasehold properties.

 

I would suggest your next course of action should be to try and recover the costs that your partner incurred for repairs/maintanence that was the landlords responsibility.

 

I would agree with that - BUT - the freeholder has them over a barrel since the issue over service charges is holding up the sale of the property, and in these current times, losing the sale could happen.

 

Also, I don't think that this Landlord is "ripping you off". They are called service charges, but at £500 per year I doubt they are covering much more than buildings insurance, electricity (lighting in communal areas?), are there garden areas which are mowed etc. However, I would still want them detailed in my bill.

 

You say that your girlfriend has paid towards some of the maintenance, although you haven't defined what such maintenance involved. If it was work within her flat, as the flat owner/leaseholder that would be her responsibility anyway. The landlord/freeholder is only responsible for repairs and maintenance to the outside fabric of the building (repairs to guttering, repainting, refurbishment, care of communal areas etc.). Many freeholders are neglectful of these responsibilities unfortunately.

 

If your girlfriend felt that the building was neglected, she should have chased the landlord to sort it out - this, of course, would have resulted in her receiving a bill for her share of such works as described in her lease.


Kentish Lass

Information given is based on my knowledge and experience and is not to be considered as legal advice

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