My freeholder doesn’t care. What can I do?
Q: What can I and my fellow leaseholders do about poor service from our freeholder? He ignores ongoing building issues and there is outstanding building works to be done.
The leaseholders have several options to consider. Firstly, acquiring the right to manage from the existing landlord would give the flat owners the opportunity to self-manage or appoint a property manager of their own choice. This option offers a good long-term solution to poor management because the right to manage can be acquired without proving any fault on the part of the landlord or his or hers managing agent. It also does not require capital investment.
The second option is to apply to a residential tribunal to appoint a manager. The drawback with this option is that it requires proof of mismanagement on the part of the landlord. Given the inherent risk of any legal proceedings this option does not guarantee results and is a more risky one in terms of incurring cost liability.
The third option is the most drastic one: the flat owners can acquire control over the building by buying the freehold of the building, however, this may not be a realistic option if the leaseholder do not have sufficient capital at their disposal.
The right to manage option in my view deserves serious consideration. For a small building of three flats the procedure should be uncomplicated and straightforward. In the best scenario the flat owners would acquire the right to manage their building within three months of serving the landlord with a claim notice. A word of caution: the procedure may be simple but a small error can invalidate the claim. If the flat owners ‘get burned’ once they may be reluctant to repeat their efforts. That’s why I would recommend engaging a professional to deal with the technical details of the procedure on the basis of an established track record rather than price alone.
Margarita Madjirska-Mossop, Leasehold Solicitor, Mayfield Law
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