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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71053
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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We have a rodent problem in our flat which I have struggled

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We have a rodent problem in our flat which I have struggled to get properly addressed by the freeholder and I would like your advice on how to take things forward.
I own a flat in a conservation estate built around 1930. I live here with my partner and 2 young children. The estate is comprised of 260 flats grouped into 20 blocks. The flat owners have a share of the freehold and we elect a governing body to administer the freehold company and the estate.
For the last 2 years, we have heard scratching and gnawing noises in the cavity walls and ceilings in our living room and bedroom. We reported these to the caretaker on a number of occasions who passed the details onto the company that has the estate Pest Control contract. Last October we then encountered a rat in our kitchen and had to undertake approximately £10k worth of refurbishments to ensure that all holes under and behind the cupboards were sealed to prevent anything entering our kitchen again (I hope).
The scratching and gnawing noises continue to be heard at night and has made our lives intolerable. Neighbours in our block are also experiencing the problem.
Apart from continuing to communicate the issues to the caretaker, I’ve written a number of emails to the Board of the estate but I’m only getting token responses (e.g. speak to the caretaker or we’ve passed your comments onto the Pest Control contractor). I notice from the annual finances that the estate spent £1,250 on pest control last year which works approximately £62 per block per year. As far as I can tell, all this pest controller does is to refill the bait boxes and possibly insert some poison through air bricks.
The area is a garden estate surrounded by fields and the feedback from the caretaker is that the rodents are coming from here. However, having spoken to an independent pest controller, his opinion was that they were most likely coming from the sewers through cracks and crumbling masonry. His view was that a strategic approach needed to be taken to understand the entry points and make repairs where necessary. I did volunteer to form a task group in this regard but was rebuffed with a comment that we already have a Pest Control contractor (without acknowledging that they aren’t being effective).
I recognise that the estate is large, old and has competing priorities with regards ***** ***** and maintenance. However, clearly the internal fabric of the building is being damaged by the continuous gnawing, a health hazard exists and the noise is psychologically unbearable.
In conclusion, what are my options to get this problem resolved? We would like to sell the property, to what extent will this problem present challenges in this regard?
I look forward to your reply.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
Are you asking how you can get rid of the rodents?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

It is the freeholder's responsibility to get rid of the rodents but this problem still exists - despite me complaining about it for 2 years. They're not taking it seriously in my view.

How do I make them properly address the problem?


If you come to sell the property, you don't have to do volunteer this information unless you have specifically been asked.
However there is a specific question about disputes and although you wouldn't be under a duty to disclose the problem with the rodents, you would be under a duty to disclose the problem with the management company not dealing with the rodents. It is not quite the same but the end result is that you would have to disclose it.
The management company/freeholder is in breach of duty to maintain the property. If there are 260 units all affected in the same way, and each put £500 in to a pot, that would be a huge amount of money with which to sue the freeholder. It appears that they are not going to do anything until they are threatened with legal action.
However if anybody does not contribute to any kind of fighting fund (there is no legal aid for this) they still get the benefit of any end result.
The freeholder is could asked to call a Extra ordinary General Meeting to remove the current directors and replace them with others who will do something about this.
Finally, you should refer this matter to the Environmental Health Department at the local authority who have the power to make the freeholder deal with the problem in a timely fashion.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Jo

I'd like to clarify what constitutes a dispute (i.e. what would need to be declared if I was selling the property).

I accept that by me taking legal action or referring the matter to the Environmental Health Department would constitute a dispute.

If I do nothing other and accept that the freeholder has performed their duty by referring the matter to the Pest Control company (who continue to lay bait), would that be regarded as a "non-dispute" i.e. not need to be declared unless asked?

A dispute is when there is a disagreement over something or if you are trying to get someone to do something and they will not.
This would constitute a dispute as you have already raised the issue with the management company.
If you want to guarantee that this isn't going to come back and bite you, you would need to say that you had made a complaint but that it was resolved
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