Ian Byrne MP wades in urging RMC directors to reconsider possession order
UPDATE: Amended 11 November 2021 as quantum of service charges and Ms Perry’s valuation of her former flat were disputed.
A mother and her 12-year-old son have been evicted from her grade 2 listed flat over a service charge dispute ballooned through legal fees into a debt of more than £20,000.
They are now living on the sofa of a friend’s house.
Caroline Perry, 50, was evicted from her flat at Basil Grange, in West Derby, Liverpool, on September 15 and she was instructed to clear out her possessions by Wednesday last week (29 September) before the flat is prepared for re-sale.
According to a barrister who offered her services pro bono and who has examined the rulings in the case, her legal position is weak. She told LKP:
“Although I have considerable sympathy with her [Ms Perry] on a personal level, from a legal perspective I think she has exhausted all available remedies.”
However, Ms Perry has now transferred £11,000 to the solicitors acting for the Basil Grange Management Company Limited and £9,132 will be paid in 14 days along with further charges after her mother applied for an equity release loan, she says.
Ms Perry is backed by Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne.
He has written to the directors of Basil Grange Management Company Limited and its legal advisors Dallas and Richardson Solicitors:
“We are all living in a very uncertain and difficult times post covid and I urge you to accept this payment and reconsider this eviction notice to allow Ms Perry to settle the outstanding amount and return to her home.
“I fund a housing solicitor from my office and sit on the APPG for Leaseholds and will be doing all that I can to support my constituent and ensure that her and her son are not made homeless or taken advantage of by this system and future constituents do not fall foul of a system stacked up against the individual leaseholder.”
LKP alerted Ian Byrne MP to the case last week, along with the MP co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on leasehold and commonhold reform (Sir Peter Bottomley, Justin Madders and Daisy Cooper).
Ms Perry has been an unassisted litigant in person for much of this dispute and believes that she is a victim of an injustice. The loss of her home, which she thinks could be worth £220,00 although a valuation of £160,000 was given to the court, over a service charge dispute is excessive, she believes.
She took the decision to transfer the £11,000 to Dallas and Richardson Solicitors’ client account without advice, and in spite of the rulings of two judges in the district court. The open question now is whether the directors of Basil Grange Management Company Limited will accept it.
The case is unusual as it involves re-possession for debt rather than forfeiture of lease, which is the normal course for unpaid service charges.
The freehold at Basil Grange is in escheat owing to the absence of the freeholder. Forfeiture for the unpaid service charges was sought in the property tribunal by the Basil Grange Management Company Limited, according to Ms Perry, but the action subsequently became one of outstanding debt.
Ms Perry believes that this was procedurally incorrect, but the issue did transfer to the county court for debt.
District Judge Johnson in her ruling of 16 March 2021 specifically addressed this:
“I am not going to make any findings as to whether or not threats [of forfeiture] were made but, to the extent that any threat of that nature was made, it must be right to say that that threat was wrongfully made because, quite rightly, the management company does not have an entitlement under the lease to forfeit the lease.”
As well as wrongly withheld service charges, the dispute has personal and emotive elements, Ms Perry acknowledges.
It also illustrates the disastrous consequences of a litigant in person out of her depth in conflict with legal professionals: as well as Dallas and Richardson Solicitors, the Basil Grange Management Company Limited deployed counsel, Paul Sweeney – it is claimed the father of one of the instructing solicitors – which has, of course, added to the legal costs.
Dallas and Richardson Solicitors has informed LKP that: “Ms Perry’s nominated solicitors were instructed throughout the possession proceedings.”
District Judge Lampkin gave the Basil Grange Management Company Limited possession of the flat on 3 September 2020.
He added: “The property shall be sold without further reference to the court at a price of not less than £160,000 unless that figure is changed by further order of the court.”
The possession order was suspended until 1 March 2021 in order that Ms Perry raise the outstanding funds, at that point £20,132.30.
She did not do so. She says that she was struggling with the ill-health of her son, the Covid lockdown, her own depressive state and not enough money. The calling in of loans from friends, former boyfriends and family have also been complicated.
A subsequent hearing was held in front of District Judge Johnson on 16 March 2021, who confirmed the ruling.
She added that “costs are assessed as drawn, save for [the barrister] Mr Sweeney’s fee. It is £1,991 to be added to the amount to be paid by the defendant [Ms Perry]”.
Dallas and Richardson Solicitors has informed Ms Perry:
“As you did not make payment by the 1 March 2021 the position is you cannot simply now pay the amount standing to obtain re-possession of the property.”
Dallas and Richardson Solicitors has informed Ms Perry that the flat will be cleared of her possessions and the property prepared for sale.
Ms Perry has £111,000 mortgage on the flat, meaning that there is considerable equity in it as well, if it sells for the £220,000 she claims that it is worth.
The proceeds of the sale will pay for the outstanding service charges, legal and other costs relating to the case.
The notice of eviction:
The rulings of the district court and witness statements: