The pensioner who had the lease on his £800,000 flat forfeited won a reprieve today when his mortgage lender stepped in to pay his outstanding debts.
Dennis Jackson, 73, a former commercial photographer, had the lease on his split-level flat at Plantation Wharf in Battersea forfeited last month and had 28 days to be out of the property.
But in a court action this morning – the day before Jackson faced being ruined and made homeless – the Prudential, which has a £175,000 mortgage on the property, undertook to pay the outstanding debt.
Ninety per cent of the amount owed is accounted for in legal fees for the freeholder, Cube Real Estate. The original dispute involved only £7,000 in service charges.
It was most unusual for a forfeiture order to have been granted, which had it not been lifted would have utterly ruined Jackson and made him homeless. It would have granted Cube Real Estate the windfall of a valuable property, destroyed Jackson’s life-savings and lost the Prudential its £175,000 loan.
Before the court case this morning, the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership was active to ensure that this calamity was avoided.
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, and Battersea MP Jane Ellison, have been actively involved in the case, as has Tidjane Thiam, the chief executive of the Prudential.
Housing minister Mark Prisk has been kept informed throughout by Sir Peter, who has also raised the issue with the Ministry of Justice.
In an extraordinary decision, Deputy District Judge Colquhoun held the hearing in private and ordered from the court Sebastian O’Kelly and Martin Boyd, of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership.
This meant that Jackson faced losing everything he has in a court from which the public were excluded.
Alexander Bastin (left), counsel for freeholder Cinnamon Wharf, part of Cube Real Estate, objected to the presence of the two non-participants.
“This is a private money matter,” he told the judge. “There are Human Rights Act issues and one of those present [O’Kelly] is from the press.”
Jackson made clear his wish that the two remain. The barrister from the Prudential also made clear he had no objection.
Judge Colquhoun was persuaded by Bastin’s objection and the hearing – at which Jackson had no legal representation – was heard in private.
The Prudential undertook to settle Jackson’s £76,086.66 legal bill – which included a bill of £4,750.20 from Bastin and solicitor Janice Northover, of Brecher, for the 10-minute hearing.
Northover has made clear that she is appealing for additional legal costs from an earlier LVT case in July 2012. She will be doing so on behalf of Plantation Wharf Management, which is in fact controlled by the residents.
Jackson is selling his flat and will have to repay Prudential from the proceeds. He is being charged interest of 6.6 per cent.
“I am just delighted that I am not going to be thrown out on the streets and have everything I have ever earned taken away from me,” said a tearful Jackson after the hearing.
The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership will be raising the issue of the public being barred from attending the case with the Ministry of Justice.
From Susan Hunt:
Just goes to prove that the law is an ass and justice only belongs to those who can afford it!
Mr Jackson may have been naive initiating his action without legal representation, but his claim and that of his co-claimant appears justified. Managing agents charging for non-existent services is not uncommon on leasehold estates. Plantation Wharf residents should question en masse the cruel pursuit of Mr Jackson by their association’s board. They should give thanks for the reduction in their service charges bought about by Mr Jackson’s vigilance and doggedness. One must also question the motive behind the case. The lesson for leaseholders is bleak. Freeholders and their managing agents have privileged status and the wherewithal to protect it.