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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10232
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I wonder if you can help, we are currently selling our flat

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I wonder if you can help, we are currently selling our flat which we currently have disputed service charges on with our management company. The service charges are disputed as I believe the services that these charges relate to were not rendered and therefore they are essentially asking me to pay for a service I did not receive. I have communicated this to our management company numerous times who have promised to respond with a resolution since mind 2015, but have not provided a resolution or even responded to emails. Today we have found out that our management company will not release our management pack to our buyers solicitors until "arrears" have been paid. Can you advise if this is within the law, as I have clearly disputed these fees? Are they allowed to hold the management pack ransom until I pay disputed fees?
Please advise
Patrick ***@******.***

How much is in dispute?

Has this been referred to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The dispute is for £1,370 from Jan 2014 service charges to Aug 2014.This has not been referred to a tribunal, I have been chasing since Aug 2014 to Dec 2015 for a resolution from the Management Company who has not responded until today when we chased for our leasehold pack.


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?

Please don’t forget to rate the service positive. It’s an important part of the process by which experts get paid. We can still exchange emails.

Best wishes.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Is there another way to obtain a leasehold pack other than going through our management company?Thanks very much for the informative answer. You have helped a lot and I will be rating positively.

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.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks again for your help. I can't believe there is nothing we can do. I've read I can raise this with the FCA & Financial Ombudsman so I may go down this route. I will also seek reimbursement through a tribunal. I think these are my only options as the law and situation heavily favours the management company.

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.

We can still exchange emails.

Best wishes

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