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Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 26070
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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We are freehold house owner of townhouse in London. Our

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Hi we are freehold house owner of townhouse in London. Our house share the mailbox area, waste bin area and communal patio with connected residential flat.
We, freeholders are obligate to pay the sharing facility e.g. mailbox maintenance, patio, and bin areas. however from 5 years ago, the service company started to invoice us the part of their main building maintenance cost (such as reserve fund, management fee, repairs and maintenance etc...). I think it is illegal, and we tried to explain that we freeholder are outside of their maintenance scope. but they ignore us, and keep sending us the invoices. actually, after couple of years argument, they removed the reserve fund cost from the invoice. but still there are Audit fee, repair and maintenance, management fee etc which are not related to our houses. please advise what we can do and who to talk. Kind regards
Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practising lawyer in England with over 10 years experience. May I ask if you are familiar with the wording of any rent charge provision in your title please - this would usually be contained in the transfer deed transferring the property (which may have been to a previous owner)? If so do you have the wording available?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Me and my husband bought the current house 2011 August from previous owner. we kept all letter sent from the previous owner to the service company which try to ask why the service charge jumped 500%.

I am not familiar with the wording of the rent charge - I tried to find one by one by googling. example, Audit fee, company admin, D&O cover etc. they seems all to do with land-road and tenants, but I am not sure. if you need I can send you the copy of service invoice now.

Thank you. As a freeholder you cannot be asked to pay anything towards maintenance other than into very specific circumstances:1) if you are granted a right of way or right to do something, if that right is expressed to be subject to a payment towards maintenance then the owner of that land over which you exercise a right can demand reasonable maintenance from you. You do not have to pay about if you refuse, the owner can seek an injunction to prevent you from continuing to exercise your right until you make payment for maintenance. it is important to note that the owner cannot charge you for betterment nor can they charge more than what is reasonable maintenance which is determined by the wording of the right in your title - e.g. it may say "payment according to user (use)" or "payment of 1/5 share of maintenance" for example. No service charges can be charged under this arrangement.2) more commonly, when freehold owners are expected to contribute towards shared facilities, known as a rent charge is used. Rent charges a provision contained within the original transfer deed for the property which provides that you have a right to use various shared communal facilities and goes on to provide that you are liable to pay a contribution towards those facilities under a rent charge. The clauses will be very specific as to the amount of rent charge it is payable - sometimes this is expressed as a set amount but more commonly a basis for calculating the amount of rent charge payable is set out to enable the rent charge to vary with inflation and so on over time. You will not be liable to pay a penny more than what is provided for in the rent charge if your property is subject to the same. A copy of the transfer deed containing a rent charge, if one exists, can be obtained from the land registry for a nominal fee or by contacting the solicitor that acted for you when you purchase the property - the solicitor should have explained any liabilities under a rent charge to you when you purchased the property. Land Registry link below: If you would like assistance in interpreting your title documents if anything is not clear when you obtain them I would be happy to review them for you for around £75 and explain the nature and extent of any liabilities to you. Alternatively you could make an appointment to see a solicitor privately who would likely charge around £200 + VAT. Alternatively you could revert to the solicitor elected for you when you bought the property you may be willing to explain the position to you without cost or finally you could elect to ask the managing agent to supply you with documents detailing your legal liability by asking them to supply you with proof of the basis of liability to charge you the amount they are seeking. I hope the above is of assistance? If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to click to rate my service to you today or just reply back to let me know if the above is helpful. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me I'd be very grateful
I hope the above is helpful? Can I help you with anything else or has the above answered your questions satisfactorily? If you could drop me a quick message to let me know I'd be very grateful.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for the answer, that is very interesting. I have the registry document referring about the communal area's fee at home, which I don't have here (at work) so I will check it this evening and will ask you some more questions hope it is OK.

Yes of course it is. I am very happy to continue to assist. If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly click to rate my service to you to date and this will save the thread. I am very happy to answer any follow up questions you have without further charge.
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi, I reviewed land registry. in the clause about "the contribution" says that

" such percentage of the proportion of the costs charges expenses ... as shall be set by seller from time to time in its absolute discretion provided the seller shall act reasonably....."

my question is, to contribute the expense of main building (not common area's) such as below are "reasonable"?

  • Audit fee

  • company admin

  • D&O cover

  • H&S report

  • Lighting protection

  • Management fees

  • Pest control

  • Professional fees

  • Refuse bin hire

  • Refuse bin management

  • Repairs and maintenance

  • Surveyor fees - structures

Can you kindly provide me with the exact wording of the entire clause please. I cannot comment based on the extract above alone. Many thanks
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

yes off course. it says:

1.3 " the contribution"
such percentage of the proportion of the costs charges expenses(and Vakue Added Tax where applicable) and managing agents fees incurred by the seller in carring out its obligations pursuant to schedule 5* as shall be set by the be set by seller from time to time in its absolute discretion provided the seller shall act reasonably"

*Schedule 5 (The seller's Covenants)

1. the common Parts
Subjext to receipt of the contribution from cach of the owners and occupiers from time to time off the dwellings comprised in the Estate**

1.1 to keep in good and substantial repair and condition the common parts and the Estate and maintain the same

1.2 to use its best endevours to keep the Common Parts and the Estate adequarely lit clean clear of litter and unobstructed

1.3 To maintain the Landscaped Areas in a neat and tidy condition free from weeds and litter

2. Enforcement

Subject as aforesaid the Seller will take all responable steps to enforce the observance and performance by the owners and occupires from time to time of the dwellings comprised in the Estate of the covenants and conditions in the Transfers and Leases of the other said dwellings which fall to be observed and performed by the Transferee of Lease thereof.

** "the Estate"

The land knows as Grange Yard |London SE1 in the London Borough of Southwark comprising part of the land registered at HM Land registry under Title Number SGL311571

(Our house 5 Grange Yard, is registered in the different No(TGL....))

Thank you. Could you also give me the definitions from the deed for the following words:
Common Parts
Estate and
Landscaped Area
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

1.2 "The Common Parts"
means the Access Road the Landscaped Areas and all other parts of the Estate not included or intended to be included by the seller in any Lease or Transfer granted or to be granged by the seller

1.4 " The Estate"
The land knows as Grange Yard |London SE1 in the London Borough of Southwark comprising part of the land registered at HM Land registry under Title Number SGL311571

1.5 " The Landscaped Areas"
All landcaped areas within the Estate

Thanks. Title Number SGL311571 - does this also include buildings which are leasehold flats?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

yes, SGL311571 the main building for the leaseholders and communal area. our freeholders houses has different title TGL...

Thanks. Lastly when did you purchase the property and presumably I am right to think you used a solicitor?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

we purchased the house 2011 August. and yes we used a solicitor.

Thank you. I consider there is a very significant problem with this rent charge provision in respect of clause "1.1 to keep in good and substantial repair and condition the common parts and the Estate and maintain the same"

I have highlighted the words that cause me concern. Based on the definitions you have given me, the clause would appear to make you liable for keeping the whole estate including any buildings comprising leasehold flats in good and substantial repair. That is not appear to be any difficulty with the remainder of the clause which deals with maintenance of the grounds but clearly you would not expect to be responsible for contributing towards maintenance of buildings comprising leasehold flats with which you have nothing to do with. I consider that this clause may make you liable for the same and as such, I can see no particular difficulty for the landlord / managaing agent to hold you responsible for all the fees detailed on your list.

I believe you may need to consider reverting to your solicitor as a matter of some urgency asking him to clarify his advice in respect of the above clause and in particular asking him to explain either why you are not liable for maintenance as above or why he did not advise you in relation to your liability in this respect. If you are not satisfied with his response, you may have a claim for negligence and following a final written response from the solicitor, if you find it necessary, you can refer your complaint to the legal ombudsman service which can award compensation of up to £50,000. There is no charge for their service:
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I getting understand the way they act.

But is it still considered as "reasonable" charge even is the cost increased 500-800% from the original contribution?

That would appear to be a reasonable comment. You could seek to obtain a declaration from the oc**ty court as to what is a reasonable level for the charges in question if you are not able to agree a figure with the management agents and are either not satisfied with the information they provided to justify the charges or they are not willing to provide you with the information.

However, in the first instance it would be sensible to revert to the original solicitor that acted for you because reasonable or unreasonable, the amounts being sought from you flow from the wording of the rent charge provision which would appear to be excessive in its obligations from your point of view and according the matter would appear to be an issue for your solicitor to address
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