A leaseholder of a property at Maltings Court, Stratford-upon-Avon, has settled an action to regain wrongly demanded ground rent and his court costs … corresponding with E&M and Peverel / FirstPort from Tokyo.
In spring 2011, Geoffrey Powell, and a number of other leaseholders at the 21-flat Maltings Court, received ground rent demands dating back to 2005 from Estates & Management, that is, Tchenguiz.
Mr Powell paid the £100 demanded even though he had already paid his ground rent after receiving a debt collecting notice from Centurion Collections threatening county court proceedings.
Perhaps infuriated by this high-handedness, Mr Powell decided to pursue the matter from the other side of the world launching a small claims action.
By November 17 2014, Peverel (it was still then called) was acknowledging that the ground rent had been demanded twice from Mr Powell “in error”. But it also rejected Mr Powell’s claim that either it or Estates & Management had “intentionally defrauded you”.
The next day Estates & Management was also writing to Mr Powell, labelling its correspondence “without prejudice save as to costs”.
“We apologise for any misunderstanding or confusion which has been caused in relation to your account. We note you have made a number of enquiries since 2011 about this and our administrators have dealt with each enquiry in a professional and courteous manner.
“We strongly deny any fraud or collusion has taken place and there has been no benefit to any of the defendants in the course of the action described above, we do not consider any element of your claim will succeed at court and would suggest that you discontinue your claim to avoid further unnecessary legal costs.”
The following week Mr Powell suggested that he would drop his legal action in exchange for the residents, who now have a right to manage company, being given the opportunity to buy the freehold for the same price paid by Tchenguiz from Bovis homes.
Initially, Estates & Management automatons replied that they hoped to resolve the issue “amicably”, but by December 1 they replied to Mr Powell’s astonishing proposal regarding the freehold:
“Unfortunately, this avenue is not going to result in an agreement in relation to your claim. We note your strategy to use the litigation as a negotiation tool to achieve another objective and would suggest that you consult a solicitor in relation to the merits of your alleged claim and the likely costs at this stage before matters escalate further.”
Mr Powell rejected this, and just before Christmas 2014 got his £305 pounds, split between E&M and Peverel.
In spite of this Mr Powell regrets not having returned to the UK and fought the matter out in court – not least because other leaseholders received similar demands.
“Well, I faced a bit of a dilemma, to pursue the case into court would involve the cost of flying back to England, hiring cars, staying in hotels, all of which would come to thousands of pounds with very little hope of recovering any of it from the defendants.
“It just didn’t make practical sense to continue so I decided to accept the offer. However, it might have been a whole lot different ball game had I been living in the UK”.