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Help! Possession Hearing listed


Stanley 10
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I would be grateful for any advice on the next steps I should take to avoid repossession of my property when the hearing listed for 12 April takes place.

 

Background:

 

In 2007 I purchased a flat with my wife. This property was rented out until August 2011. We would receive any post addressed to us from the tenants.

 

In February 2012 (having moved into the property in August 2011) we received a letter from a landlord which claimed that we owed ground rent arrears (but only back to January 2009) totalling £500 plus late payment fees and interest (in all a total of £952). Up to this date we thought that the ground rent was included in the sums we paid as service charge and we had never been asked to pay rent to anyone nor had we received any previous correspondence relating to ground rent.

 

I contacted the solicitor acting for the landlord and offered to pay the £500 ground rent but queried the fees of £452 since I had never previously been asked to pay ground rent and I wanted to see copies of the correspondence requesting it. The solicitor refused to accept the part payment (as they described it) and told me that the landlord was unable to generate copies of any correspondence it had sent me because none were kept on file. They had records of the dates when letters and notices were sent to me and that was all.

 

I wrote to them saying that I would be prepared to pay a portion of the fees but since I hadn't received the letters I didn't think it was reasonable to ask for payment in full. I heard nothing more and forgot about the issue entirely.

 

In January 2013 I received a possession claim form and shortly after that a notice of hearing dated 12 April. The amount claimed in arrears was now £1,950.

 

I contacted the solicitor again and this time it was a different person daling with it. She asked me to send copies of the email exchanges in Feb 2012 which I did. I informed her that I had no had any prior notice of the court proceedings and couldn't see how they could run up costs without my involvement. She then sent me a letter dated Novemeber 2012 which again I had not received.

 

I offered to pay £1,200 to settle the claim and this was refused by the landlord via its solicitor. They seemed adamant that my mortgage company would pay the full sum. In the event I filed a defence and when I showed it to the mortgage company they accepted that there was a genuine disoute and declined to become involved unless there was a real risk to their security.

 

In correspondence with the landlord's solicitor I was also able to clarify that the reason there was any delay in seeking the ground rent was because the landlord had only taken over the freehold in March 2010.

 

I then filed a defence arguing that:

 

1) some of the sums claimed as ground rent preceded the date of ownership by the current landlord (they claimed arrears and fees dating back to January 2009);

2) the lease entitled the landlord to reimbursement of reasonable costs incurred by it in enforcing the lease but not to late payment fees - accordingly these fees were not owed;

3) the sums claims as legal costs were excessive and unreasonable given that these had been incurred without recourse to me and with no attempt to respond to my email in Feb 2013;

4) the landlord had in fact refused to accept the ground rent and on that basis could not seek the costs of the possession claim some £654;

5) the legal costs had not been itemised and were duplicative (namely fixed costs had been claims in addition to the actual legal costs incurred in preparing the claim and aland registry fee had been claimed twice);

6) there was no evidence the landlord had ever actually served a section 3 notice on me (it was unable to produce copies)and thus it could not show that it had ever notified me of its ownership and name and address and on that basisd I denied there was any right to the rent;

7) finally, i argued that forfeiture of the lease would not be proportionate and would be a breach of article 8 since my family (including two young children live in the flat).

 

Since I issued the defence the landlord has offered to accept £1,600 to settle the dispute as a gainst the total claimed of £1,952.

 

The questions I have are as follows:

 

1) should I accept this offer to avoid the risk of losing my property;

2) if I do accept it is there anything I need to be wary of (i.e. do i need to seek relief from forfeiture which might have further costs implications or have we not reached the stage of the existing lease being forfeited yet as the hearing has not taken place);

3) given the defence above should I apply additional pressure on the landlord by making an application to strike out the possession claim? If I did that is it likely that the application would succeed.

4) are there any other tactics I could employ to get the costs claimed down to a reasonable level?

 

Thanks very much for any advice you can give me - I appreciate your help.

 

Kind regards

 

Michael

Edited by Stanley 10
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If this is a claim for possession based on forfeiture, then I would strongly suggest that you seek the advice of a solicitor experienced in the matter.

 

It is a complicated area of law, and there is generally only one remedy to stop possession and that is to pay the entire debt, plus all costs incurred up to date. That is the bottom line, however, and in order to come to that conclusion one would require sight of all the paperwork (plus the lease) in order to be sure. That is not something anyone could undertake for free (too much work involved), and therefore you are not likely to get the kind of help you need on this forum.

 

Of course, there might be someone else on here who knows enough about forfeiture to advise you, for free...but I wouldn't do it, simply because of the amount of time involved and the level of detail required. It isn't a free forum area of law really and you are genuinely best advised to see a solicitor.

 

As you may already know, forfeiture means you are left owing a mortgage for a property that is gone in its entirety back to the freeholder.

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