How much is in dispute?
Has this been referred to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal?
There is actually no legal duty on a freeholder or management company to provide replies to enquiries (leasehold pack) unless there is an obligation to do so under the terms of the lease. In the absence of any such obligation in the terms of the lease, they are at liberty to do what they like regardless of whether the service charge is paid up-to-date or not.
The alleged service charge arrears and lack of replies to enquiries is going to hold your sale up and even though if you took the management company to the Tribunal it could take several months and you could win or lose depending on how the tribunal chairman sees your evidence and their evidence.
If the management company is aware that you are selling the property as they will do if you have asked for the replies to enquiries in the pack, they will hold this over you to pressure you into paying the money they are claiming.
What you might want to consider doing therefore is paying the amount they are claiming under duress in order to complete the sale and then taking them to Tribunal to recover the money on the basis that they are charging for services which have not been provided. On this latter point, the majority of leases list the services which the landlord can provide, but does not oblige the landlord to provide any or all of them. What the landlord cannot do is charge for services which are not provided. Hence, if in the service charge schedule it lists “cleaning stairs and weeding gardens” and they have never done any of that, they are not able to charge for it.
Until the issue is resolved, a buyer is most unlikely to proceed with the purchase unless they are so keen on the property they are not bothered about the sum of £1370 but even so, in that case, the solicitor will air was advised not to proceed.
The problem you have if your pending sale which puts pressure on you by the management company to resolve the issue.
Can I clarify anything for you?
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I’m afraid not. There is no standard pack. The Law Society issued a new form a few years ago LPE1, , Leasehold Property Enquiries but there is no obligation to use it. I found this lease advice site which confirms that the landlord is under no obligation.
what you are experiencing is a very common practice by landlords and management companies to get service charge arrears and alleged service charge arrears from the leaseholder.
Even if they did reply to the enquiries, one of questions is, “is the service charge paid up-to-date?” And they would answer negative to that so even if you had the replies from them, it is still a stumbling block.
I would not hold out much hope of getting any satisfaction through the FCA or Financial Ombudsman quite simply because the management company is not regulated. The only recourse that you will have to get the charge reduced or wiped out is through the tribunal and that is not going to be quick and could take several months. That’s why I suggested paying the money and then taking issue with the afterwards because that way, you don’t lose the sale. I admit that in situations like this, the management company is in control although generally, the law does come down in favour of a lease holder or tenant or consumer rather than any business or commercial organisation. Please don’t forget to use the rating service to rate the service positive. It doesn’t cost you any extra but it helps me greatly.
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