Residents at Imperial Hall beside the “silicon round-about”, north of the City, have defeated a £12,366 claim from its former freeholder for outstanding management fees. The demand failed at the First-Tier Tribunal last week, even though the freeholder’s solicitor Roger Hardwick, of Brethertons, took the unusual step of supplying a witness statement in support of the claim. The fees were run up by managing agent Sterling Estates Management when dealing with the residents’ right to enfranchisement in March last year. The residents’ relations with Sterling Estates Management, run by Shalim Ahmed, and freeholder Columbia House Properties (No 3) Limited have been unusually acrimonious. At one point, the residents involved the police over a dispute concerning a demolished washroom at the 63-flat site. Issues at Imperial Hall, a late Victorian red-brick pile that used to be a Methodist mission for the East End, have been reported on LKP in the past. More here The residents bought the freehold for £406,000, and paid the freeholder’s legal and valuer fees. But they declined to pay what was then a £5,000 demand from Sterling Estates Management. Roger Hardwick, of Brethertons, who could not attend the hearing, supported Sterling Estates Management’s bill in a witness statement. “I was not expecting to provide a statement in support of this application and do so only because I feel that the allegations contained in the respondent’s statement require some input from me … ” Phillip Sherrard, an employee of Sterling Estates Management, told the tribunal in person how he had assisted the freeholder’s surveyor. He had escorted him around the site as “a surveyor wouldn’t have been able to pick up in-depth knowledge”. But the residents’ enfranchisement company [the respondents] told the tribunal that it had already paid the freeholder’s solicitors’ fees of £10,461 and its surveyors’ fees of £7,800 (including VAT). It pointed out that Sterling Estates Management had originally claimed £5,000 in fees and that they were now “more than doubled”. In rejecting the freeholders’ claim, the tribunal made reference to Hardwick’s witness statement:
“… he had said ‘the role of agent is that of an intermediary. That is the role that Sterling Estates Management fulfilled in this instance (and it is the role for which they were entitled to be paid). They were not holding themselves out to be solicitors or surveyors. Rather, they interacted with us on the applicant’s behalf.’ The tribunal commented: “Sterling Estates Management may well be an intermediary for the applicant [the freeholder], and it may well be that Sterling Estates Management was entitled to be paid by the applicant. However, the tribunal must consider whether the applicant is entitled to be reimbursed for the costs of Sterling Estates Management, which is an entirely different proposition. “… For the avoidance of doubt, the tribunal determines that no fees of Sterling Estates Management are payable by the respondent [the residents] to the applicant.”
The full tribunal ruling and Roger Hardwick’s witness statement can be read here FTTdecisionImperialHall Witness Statement – Roger Hardwick(5985276) (2)
Serves them right. Any costs should have been included in the freeholde’s costs and assessed then- schoolboy error.