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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10640
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I bought a leasehold property in November 2016. In February

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I bought a leasehold property in November 2016. In February 2017, a bill for service charges was issued, much of which relates to the time prior to our purchase of the property. After much insistance, the previous owner has not cleared the outstanding arrears for service charges relating to his time as owner. Basically what can I do to get him to pay his debt, as the management company are now pursuing us for the debt?Regards.

Hello - did you know about the outstanding debt when you bought property?

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
No. Unfortunately, the bill did not arrive until February 2017 but it covers periods when the previous owner was the leaseholder of the property. We did not find out about the debt until June 2017 as the managing company would not recognise us as the leaseholders until he paid his debt.

Did your solicitor ask for the up-to-date service charge receipt from the seller or the management company/freeholder?

If not, then you have a claim against the solicitor in negligence.

If he did and the account was shown as up-to-date, then I can’t see why they are chasing you.

If the solicitor didn’t, then you are under a liability to discharge this and then seek it from the previous owner. It is your liability now because you buy the property with its liabilities. You need to take this up with your solicitor that dealt with the purchase.

It is common for the leaseholders to refuse consent to register a property until such time as any service charge arrears are up-to-date. It is a very common tactic.

If he won’t pay, then you have no alternative but to sue him in the Small Claims Court

Incidentally, if there was no service charge receipt, or no proof that the service charge had been paid, your solicitor should have kept a substantial amount of retention money back to pay the service charge in circumstances like this.

Can I clarify anything else for you?

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Best wishes.


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