The Leasehold Advisory Service has produced its top 20 list of most frequently asked questions.
They seem to be more anodyne and uncontroversial than the sort that we routinely receive, so we have decided to do our own list below.
Unlike LEASE, we have no interest in trying to square a circle and demonstrate that freeholders and owners of leases just need to pull together to make this flawed form of property tenure work.
It is adversarial and exploitative and it needs to be replaced with fairer models that prevail in the whole of the rest of the world. Like Scotland, for instance.
One curious aspect of LEASE is that because it provides advice on leasehold law to all – including how to forfeit defaulting leaseholders’ flats rendering them homeless and destitute (advice gratis from taxpayers) – it is occasionally conflicted. Both leaseholders and a freeholder sometimes consult LEASE over the same issue.
In these cases, we are informed, the LEASE staff have to create a “Chinese wall” so that the adviser to the leaseholders does not share information with the adviser to the freeholder.
This is just one of the predicaments of this impossible quango in such an adversarial sector such as residential leasehold.
LEASE’s top 20 FAQs
1. I am in dispute with my landlord but I do not want to go to Court or Tribunal. Is there an alternative?
2. How can I find out what my service charge is being used for?
3. My neighbours are very noisy and it is affecting the enjoyment of my property. What can I do?
4. My landlord has carried out Section 20 consultation but I am still unhappy about the service charges I’m being asked to pay. What can I do?
5. I own the freehold of a leasehold house. The leaseholder wants to buy the freehold. Do I have to sell it to them?
6. What happens when my lease runs out?
7. What happens if I breach the terms of my lease?
8. My landlord has not demanded ground rent for several years. Can he still demand it?
9. I want to convert the loft above my leasehold flat but the loft space isn’t included in my lease and belongs to the freeholder. What do I do?
10. Does owning a share of the freehold mean that I no longer have to renew my lease? If not, would renewal be free?
11. Is the owner of the flat above mine allowed to remove their carpet and have floorboards, even though it’s very noisy? The lease is silent in this regard.
12. How long does the process take to extend the lease on a flat?
13. What if I cannot afford a service charge for work that the landlord wants to undertake?
14. I own a flat and wish to extend the lease. Can I do this independently of all the other flat owners or do all leases have to be done at once?
15. I have negotiated with my landlord to extend my lease to 999 years. Are there any problems associated with extending just one lease in this way? (There are 3 flats in the building and the landlord resides in one.)?
16. I own a flat (leasehold) in a purpose built block of flats. The freeholder arranges the building insurance and sends me the bill. Am I allowed to arrange my own insurance?
17. I am about to purchase a leasehold flat. What would happen if the company which owned the freehold went into administration? Would I lose my home?
18. I am selling my property and the Management Company and Freehold owner want to charge me a fee for providing information. Is there a limit on the fee they can charge?
19. The freehold has been sold to one of the leaseholders in the building without notifying the others or giving the option to purchase. Is this permissible?
20. If I own the lease of a flat above a commercial premises such as a shop or restaurant. Am I entitled to extend my lease or purchase a share of the freehold?
1 I have no service charge accounts what can I do to force the landlord to provide information?
2) I have been charged a fee for late payment /sublet, permission to alter my flat how can I challenge these costs?
3) How do I challenge the contractors and cost of works proposed in a 20 consultation?
4) Is it illegal for the freeholder to own the management company and numerous other suppliers? Or, is there an obligation to declare these relationships?
5) How do we challenge the service charges and is it best to do so as a group?
6) How can I get in touch with other leaseholders in the building, many of whom do not live here? The freeholder obviously will not help.
7) The freehold of our building was sold, but it was not offered to the leaseholders as a right of first refusal. Do we have any redress?
8) What do I need to do to prepare a case for the tribunal/how do I stop the landlord delaying the case and refusing to disclose evidence relevant to the case as per the tribunal’s directions?
9) What do I as my lease has less than 80 years to run?
10) How do we go about changing our managing agents and should we go RTM rather than accept the landlords proposed alternative supplier?
11) What can I do about extending the lease?
12) My landlord is threatening forfeiture, what can I do?
13) I am withholding £10,000 in service charges for services I did not receive. The freeholder is employing a barrister in the property tribunal. Is it a good idea that I represent myself?
14) My solicitor did not tell me about some of the terms in the lease that now impact the value of my flat. Do I have redress?
15) I believe the managing agent is inflating our costs and arranging deals with related companies. Is this illegal?
16) What rights do I have to see the building’s insurance policy, the commissions involved in its placement, and how can we ensure that the excess is paid only once through the service charges?
17) What happens at a tribunal hearing, and can you help me prepare for it?
18) My landlord tells me he’s acting on the advice of LEASE. What can I do?
19) Am I liable for repairs to my own utility supplies.
20) We believe monies have gone missing from the reserves. What can we do?
21) Our landlord offered us the right of first refusal but refuses to provide the names of anyone who lives in the block so how do we organise ourselves.
22) Our landlord is disputing our right to RTM because he claims we have failed to meet one of the criteria. What can we do?
23) The landlord is refusing to maintain the property even though we are paying for it. What can we do?
24) The landlord has appointed a debt collector / solicitors’ firm to demand monies for a bill I was never sent. It has also added much more in its own fees. Is this allowed?
25) I have not been part of the residents case against the landlord. Do I still have to declare the dispute when I sell my flat?
26) Do I have the right to recover my costs at the Tribunal when the landlord tells me he’s appointed a barrister to represent them at the Tribunal?
1) The council has put all major works into a single long-term contract and has provided us with inflated charges for all works. What strategies are there to fight this?
2) What can I do about the fact the landlord has no long-term schedule of works?
3) I have just purchased my flat and was told there were no major works scheduled. I have now been presented with an enormous bill. What can I do?
4) Are we allowed to form a residents’ association and if so what powers does it have?
5) The landlord is refusing to repair the windows/roof etc. What can I do?
6) Do I have to pay to be part of the decent homes scheme?
7) How do I challenge the cost or our new windows/central boiler system, and am I allowed to install my own alternatives at a much lower cost?
8) My landlord is taking forfeiture action because I am disputing the costs. What do I do?
9) Is my landlord allowed to charge an additional fee for rent collection on my shared ownership flat?
10) My landlord will not allow me to sell my shared ownership flat on the open market.
11) Can anyone help me in taking a case to the tribunal as I do not have the money to be able to afford a solicitor?
1) Do I have to pay exit fees even though the Office of Fair Trading and now the Law Commission have examined these scandalous charges? What should I do?
2) Why has the value of our retirement flat plummeted in value and bears no resemblance to prices in the local housing market?
3) How do we remove the managing agent?
4) Should we go right to manage or accept a choice of a new managing agent from a short list suggested by the freeholder?
5) How do we persuade the other residents we need to act together?
6) We want to go right to manage, but our house manager is sabotaging our efforts, raising false concerns and reporting everything we say back to her employers, who we wish to replace as the management company. What would you advise?
7) Our contingency fund is missing tens of thousands of pounds and the management will not explain where it has gone. What can we do?
8) Moving to a retirement site was a mistake, but how can I afford to leave as resale values are so bad and I have to pay exit fees to the freeholder?
9) For no reason that has ever been explained, our management company owns the house manager’s flat with a lease created in 2009. We are now being pressured into agreeing to a visiting house manager so that the management company can sell it for its own profit. We have been promised in return £10,000 into the contingency fund. Is this legal and what can we do about it?
10) Is it legal that our freehold is held in a multitude of complex companies that are ultimately controlled by a supposed “family trust” in the British Virgin Islands? Surely, such financial jiggery-pokery should attract the attention of the authorities?
11) We are being overcharged, what can we do?
12) Our management company keeps subcontracting works at our retirement site to other companies that it owns. How can this be legal?
13) A retirement housing builder is prepared to buy our old family home to help us move into a new leasehold flat. How do I know that we are not being cheated?
14) Do I have to sell my flat through the property manager’s estate agent, and pay way over the odds for the service? And what can I do when the house manager will not cooperate with our local estate agent?
15) Is the landlord allowed to spend service charge monies on maintaining the house managers flat as well as charging us to rent it?
16) What advice would you give about buying a retirement property?
17) Are there any reputable retirement housing providers in this scandal-prone sector at all?
18) Can you organise a visit from an unconnected property manager to address our residents top to demonstrate that there are alternatives?