After years of accepting the status quo, because we thought we had to, we heard about Right to Manage and felt we had been thrown a lifeline.
We joyfully grabbed what we thought was a straightforward, attainable and enforceable way to escape a regime that was oppressive, feudal and unaccountable.
Because Right to Manage was a statutory right, we were confident: a system specifically designed to deliver positive change. All we had to do was follow the guidelines and meet the criteria.
Sadly, when we served our first Right to Manage claim, we were soon disabused. Eighteen months of vexatious, expensive and intimidating litigation followed.
We found ourselves pitted against opportunist lawyers fully aware of how to play the system, deliberately ferreting out obscure and petty points purely in order to frustrate the spirit of the legislation.
When our first RTM claim was heard at the First Tier Tribunal, what particularly dismayed us was the willingness of the panel to entertain frivolous and unscrupulous arguments.
Worse was to follow. Not only was the panel willing to sanction such base tactics, they were not averse to making us pay for them.
When presented with costs of more than £42,000 for having the effrontery to claim our statutory right, we expected a body purporting to be a dispenser of low-cost justice to dismiss them entirely. Not so.
Even though demanding such a huge sum was a blatant attempt to intimidate through legal costs, the panel approved costs of more than £18,000 for one hearing alone.
This decision handed the freeholders’ solicitors the opportunity to write to all of our RTM members at their home addresses to tell each and every one, “you are personally liable to our client for the said £18,727.80”.
We firmly believe that everyone should be able to exercise their statutory right to acquire the Right to Manage without suffering such frightening harassment. This parliamentary act was not set up to lead ordinary people into daunting expenditure and tribunals should be conscious of this.
We were delighted the second panel delivered a robust judgement, expressing the view, ‘it is in the interests of justice and in the interests of the parties for there to be finality in legal proceedings which extends also to efficiency and economy in litigation.’
Thanks to the expertise and unstinting efforts of our lawyers, justice prevailed. Brixton Hill Court is a now a block full of happiness and hope for the future.
Having emerged from what was a harrowing process we are very willing to use our experiences and strategies to assist other people facing ferocious resistance to their RTM claims.
Our message to the policymakers is: close loopholes in the legislation so its spirit cannot be so easily derailed by unscrupulous lawyers. Our message to leaseholders: ‘Don’t give up. You can and will win.’