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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
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Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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A person has written a letter to a Solicitor who had

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A person has written a letter to a Solicitor who had requested confirmation from a management company consisting of eight leaseholders of which we are one leaseholder if they were happy with a 6 to 1 vote on an issue which in terms of the lease terms were in order which resulted in us losing the sale of our property. The letter in question was requested of the Chairman on behalf of the Management Company which consists of all the eight leaseholders. The letter quoting several untruths and ended with us as having abhorrent double standards. Is this libel and could we sue if it is not put right.?

Are you saying that the letter written to the solicitor, which was in response to a letter from the solicitor, contains defamatory statements against various people?

Are some of the statement true? Can you give an example or two of the untruths?

Who is the person? May we have the background detail please?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
we feel that to describe me and my husband as having 'abhorrent double standards' which had led to the distress of our prospective purchaser of our flat as being defamatory. The letter had stated that we had 'mislead' our purchaser while we have proof that we immediately followed all procedures properly with the help of our Solicitor as soon as we learned that the purchaser had a dog. It was stated that we had previously voted against a dog being allowed here, we have never done so or been asked the question, the only minutes on file being for the year 2000, we took up residence here in 2002. The person is a resident who is the Chairman of our Management Company of which all the leaseholders in the block are members.

Thank you.

What exactly is the problem with the dog?

I’m trying to get to the bottom of the facts here: have you in the past voted for people not to have property but then, solely your property to someone who has a pet/dog?

What does the lease say about the ability for leaseholders to have pets?

Has some other leaseholder objected to that?

Bearing in mind that defamation claims are certainly not anything that you would want to do yourself and can be extremely expensive, do you just want an apology or damages compensation through the court?

This could easily cost £10,000 with regard to your own legal costs plus, if your claim was not successful, the defendant’s legal costs even though you would get all those costs back in the event that your claim was successful. You may get compensation/damages but they may be nominal. Are you able to risk/font that litigation? If not, how far do you want to go with this?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
We are eight flats in the block. We run our own management company with every leaseholder a member of that management company. Three directors form the committee for the company, a treasurer, one other director, and a chairman/secretary.
We are wanting to sell our flat here to move to an area closer to our family - we are both in our 80s. We had an offer from a lady who was very keen to buy as a cash buyer for the full asking price. A week after acceptance of the offer she informed the agent that she had a dog. The deeds of the property state that a pet can only be allowed with prior permission of the
leaseholders, so we immediately put procedures into operation for permission when asked to do so by our chairman who had received notification from our purchasers Solicitor, he at this time said that 'he had no objection to a dog' please go ahead and ask the other owners. This was done, we have proof, but before we received all the replies he took it upon him self to contact both the Solicitor and the purchaser rather aggressively wanting to set up a meeting with the purchaser, who was surprisingly still keen to proceed, 'she wasn't going to let an angry old man' put her off. The proposed meeting took place with our chairman and his fiancee who has a flat in the building, our purchaser stating that the meeting was pleasant and that they had both informed her that they had no objection to her moving in with her dog here, the one stipulation being that she ask her Solicitor to write to each owner individually for their permission. So everything now proceeded as quickly and properly as possible. However, having received letters agreeing in a 6 to 1 majority for allowing the dog which was considered legally in order and the contract and completion date imminent, our purchaser's Solicitor now asked for the chairman's confirmation on 'behalf of the management' to confirm the result formally. This is when the letter which we feel aggrieved about was sent to our purchaser's Solicitor and our purchaser cancelled the transaction in great distress. Two days later confirming by email to our agents that she had done so after a telephone conversation with the chairman and was now making accusations against us, which considering that we had not met the lady could only have come from some other source. All these unpleasant opinions of us were only read to us by our agents as being part of the email, for legal reasons we could not be given a copy of the very long email. We feel that the untruths and the defamatory nature of the letter concerned were undeserved by us and should not have been written by our chairman as representing 'the management company', that he was overstepping his responsibility as chairman and being rude, ill-mannered and defamatory when presenting us in this way to others.

Thank you. On what basis as he alleged double standards?

All the solicitor seemed to be doing was asking the chairman of the management company to confirm the result 6:1 in favour.

I’m not certain why he’s made the allegations.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Neither do we!!! We did everything properly that was required, were very up-front about things. As you no doubt know there are reams of paper work to complete these days with regard to selling property . As our flat is part of a grade two listed building we were careful that we completed everything correctly, checking carefully with our Solicitor and being completely honest about answering the many questions asked. We were completely knocked sideways when at the final hurdle this happened, especially that until that time this man had been our colleague and friend, collecting our mail when we were away on holiday and holding a key to our flat, making us feel very secure that he was looking after our interests. We had known him, we thought, for the 16 years we had lived here. How does one deal with this situation? We feel abused and let down. We love the area we live in and our flat which we have made just right for us until the end of our days we thought. Our move to be near our family came about because our eldest daughter and her husband had planned to move to this part of the country when they retired which would have been in four years time. Unfortunately her Husband died suddenly a year ago and her plans had to change to meet her now financial circumstances. So, here we are, feeling very sad and angry that anyone could be so vicious and untruthful about us, having lost our sale to someone who loved our flat at first sight and even increased her offer on her second visit. It seemed ideal for her needs and we feel that she would have been very happy here. We would like your opinion on whether his description of us was defamatory - 'our abhorrent double standards'!!! This description would appear to be a fitting description of his, and we believe, his fiancee's behaviour!!!! We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you. I first it was something to do with the dog but that seems to be irrelevant from what you have said, I got the impression (wrongly it seems) that your buyer wanted consent for the dog and you are happy to give the consent because he wanted to sell the property but that of a previous occasion, you had complained when somebody else had wanted to keep a dog. Hence the double standards. Clearly, I am wrong.

If this is just out of the blue then I cannot see how it can be anything other than defamatory. It was published to a third party. Hence, it is libellous if it is defamatory. It doesn’t matter that it was sent to your solicitor. If for example someone wrote to your solicitor and said that Mrs XYZ is a murderer, then it’s a published statement and the fact that it is sent to the solicitor is immaterial.

What you might want to do is call an extraordinary general meeting of the management company of which you are a member, to remove this person as chairman because of this has happened to you, then obviously, it can happen to everyone else who may also want to sell at some stage in the future and may not want to be on the end of one of his rants raves or moods.

What you have to do now is decide whether you want to risk bringing a defamation action which is not going to be quick or cheap or just threaten that unless he withdraws the statement and undertakes not to make any such statements in the future.

It depends how far you want to go with this.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Please rate the service positive. It’s an important part of the process by which experts get paid.

We can still exchange emails.

Best wishes.


F E Smith and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you very much for stating clearly what we have had on our minds for a long time. Since this uncalled for incident happened we have been very upset and felt abused and intimidated - Were we sure that this letter was defamatory or were we being too emotional about it? Were we just annoyed about losing the sale? It is obvious to us now that we were quite within our rights to feel slighted and wronged. At least now we can deal with it and hopefully some day put the experience to rest. We appreciate that a defamatory action would be expensive and long drawn out and we have decided to leave any decision on this until after the extraordinary general meeting which is actually taking place tomorrow morning. We had been advised by our Solicitor and the Agents for our property sale that this was the avenue to take if we were proceeding with the sale of our flat. Together with one of the other owners who is also a director on the management committee we have put the AGM meeting in place but we first needed to clear our minds of doubts and concerns that had built up over the past weeks. We now feel quite clear about the reasons that we need to take action against this man to remove him as Chairman/Secretary of the management company so that the chances of him being able to do this to anyone else who wanted to sell their property in the future are nullified. Thank you very much for taking the time to help us.Kind regards
Andy & Kate

I would emphasise the point to everybody else at the meeting, but some stage in the future, they could be on the receiving end of the chairman’s vitriol. I agree with what you’ve been told that because of the pending sale, the last thing you want is to be in the middle of protracted litigation. You need to go to that meeting with the emotion removed.

You’ve summarise this in the last sentence but one of your reply. I hope you get it resolved. Best wishes.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The EGM went ahead at 11am yesterday as planned but without the Chairman who had said he was attending but appeared just as everyone had assembled and handed us all this letter as follows-:"To All Residents, 22 July 2016I hereby give notice of my resignation as Chairman, also as Secretary, and as a Director of Highcliffe (Exmouth) Management Company Limited.1. As Terry-Eaton Clark is the only Block Management Company that has been put forward to date, then my decision is, my vote will go to them.2. The old smoke alarm system is still in place. The wiring for the new system has been done throughout the building. Mr.Pratt has told me he is waiting new heads for the system, as the heads he had been sent were the wrong ones.3. All vendors should be more aware and inform their estate agents from day one, of the situation with the lease and pets at Highcliffe. If this is not done, the buyers' Solicitor will only pick it up at a later date. With the majority vote that Mrs Hart had, I am not aware of why she pulled out of the purchase of Flat 2. Had the vote been unanimous, the sale of Flat 2 would have gone ahead, unless Mrs Hart had decided to withdraw for another reason. My legal advisor, a Q.C. of over twenty years standing, has confirmed this.4. As I am no longer a director, I do not feel obliged to attend the meeting on the 23rd July.Yours sincerely,F.Dixon "Mr. Dixon, having sha***** *****ds with some owners who let their property and were returning for the EGM, left the meeting and returned to his flat upstairs. As you can imagine this took us all unawares but once we had drawn breath and read the letter the meeting continued more or less as planned.We feel that this manoeuvre was intended to make it appear that he wanted to be regarded as having played no part at all in our losing the sale of our flat, we were to blame by his implication that vendors must be aware of the rules in the lease!!!! It also implies that the offending letter had no effect at all on Mrs Hart's decision to cancel the purchase. In reply we would like to say that we of course informed our Agents about the lease with reference to keeping pets in Highcliffe, this is a question which is always asked even before they are contracted to represent you. As soon as we were told that Mrs Hart had a dog, our Agents, our Solicitor and ourselves put the procedures in place for the permission required. Immediately Mrs Hart's Solicitor wrote to the Management Company by way of a letter to our Chairman Mr. Dixon, we (at his request) set about getting written permission from each owner. As I have written previously, it was at this point that Mr. Dixon started to interfere with our sale, making telephone contact with both Mrs Hart's Solicitor and with Mrs Hart herself. We understand from an email to our Agents from Mrs Hart that Mr.Dixon was aggressive in his manner and asked her some impertinent personal questions - How old was she, was she strong enough to carry her dog from the building so that it need not put foot in the communal areas, the breed and age of the dog, and stated that should the dog's barking disturb the owners of the flats in the building she would be required to have it destroyed!!!!! Well, after that tirade we all of us expected Mrs Hart to say 'No thank you, ***** ***** a million years!' Surprisingly she still wanted to buy the flat saying 'I am not going to let angry old man put me off' and that by arrangement with Mr Dixon and his fiancee she was meeting them for lunch to discuss the problem. Now Mr. Dixon apparently charms her and both he and his fiancee say that they 'have no objection to the dog' but that that they now want her Solicitor to write individually to each owner asking for their written permission in accordance with the lease, thus negating the earlier replies he had requested which were just being gathered together. The owners were a bit puzzled by this but obligingly replied with a six to one in favour, obviously we were of course not included in this vote. Having complied with all the regulations it seemed to be 'all systems go' and the signing of the contract and completion date only days away. Then this offending letter was written by Mr.Dixon 'on behalf of the management company' when asked to confirm the result of the 6 - 1 vote. Does Mr.Dixon really expect us to believe that this, and the rest of his behaviour, had no bearing on the cancellation of the purchase by Mrs Hart, that he is 'not ware of why she pulled out'.

I think is letter is a very measured letter and I get the impression that he was falling before he was pushed. I can’t see what the issue is over the dog. It’s simply a case of giving consent and the reason of giving consent is because it can withdrawn if the dog becomes a nuisance. In that case, as you are aware, the remedy is to get rid of the animal not to have it put down!

With regard to the dog not putting feet on the communal areas, that is a totally unreasonable suggestion.

There is only a requirement for the management company or the freeholder to give consent, not individual leaseholders. It may be that the freeholder/management company want to do that but it’s nothing to do with the buyer or the seller.

I don’t know why you say obviously you were not included in that vote. It doesn’t matter that you have a vested interest, you should be included. Until such time as you are no longer a leaseholder, your view counts.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Nobody can understand why he has been so obnoxious over this, except that he likes to be in complete control over everyone in the building. This should now stop but we are still left with the fact that his 'letter' will be on the file with the minutes of the meeting etc., and it looks to those who do not have inside knowledge that WE may be in the wrong and he is so innocent - just doing his job and looking after the interests of others! We think we will write a letter to Mr.Dixon saying that he has not answered the questions we would have asked him if had stayed for the meeting. Our comments during the meeting will of course be in the minutes and we made it quite plain that his actions were out or order and that his statement about us was defamatory and his having published the statement to a third party is libellous. But the input from him in the minutes will as usual be a prevarication of the facts. As you previously suggested, we will write a letter to him and ask him to withdraw his statement and apologise and undertake not to make any such statements in the future. Whether we will take this matter any further in the future will depend on the outcome of this undeserved position we find ourselves in.
Thanks for your advice, it is appreciated. We hope not to be needing such advice ever again but will come back to you should the need arise. Thanks again,
Andy and Kate.

When you think about it, that’s why he’s resigned. Total control. If he was got rid of, that would be something outside his control.

There is no reason why record of the discussion of the meeting post-resignation cannot put the record straight so that outsiders will know what happened. You make that point yourself.

If you do need any advice in the future, please don’t hesitate to ask for me personally by putting my name at the top of the threat. Thank you. Best wishes.