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  • Debt & Negative Equity

    Service Charge Arrears

    Are there any legal experts or those who have been in a similar situation out there please?

    The management agents for a buy to let apartment of mine changed hands a number of months ago. I never received any notice of this and all my service charges for the original managing company were paid by direct debit. As such I never checked or noticed that the payments had stopped.

    Last month I received a call from my lender, they had been contacted by a law firm representing the new managing agents claiming I had unpaid service charge arrears and incurred legal costs.

    I contacted the solicitor and they advised me that letters had been unanswered and as such they were taking legal action to reclaim service charges and legal costs. They and the new managing agents for the building had been writing to the rental property address (where I use a letting agent so the tenant wouldn't know to forward any post) and they also had a misspelt email address for me. I proved to the solicitor representing the new management firm that the previous company had my correct correspondence and email address with letters and email sent to me correctly. I also proved that I had provided my letting agent details and had been advised it would be updated on the original company's systems.

    I immediately paid the service charges that had been due. I did not pay and have refused to pay the extortionate legal fees of £1,600.

    My position is that I cannot be held liable for the incompetence of one or both management companies and that rather than make other efforts to contact me or to consider why a good leaseholder suddenly isn't paying service charges when they have changed managing companies I.e. writing to the wrong address, they simply racked up massive costs that they should be settling between themselves for their incompetence.

    The solicitor is refusing to see sense and is now becoming quite aggressive. Does anyone have any case law or legal position on matters such as this???

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    Go to the legal ombudsman to make your compliant. However you must have first tried to resolve the matter with the solicitor and if they have not resolved the matter within 8 weeks ( i think just check it out) you can take your case to the legal ombudsman. May be the suggestion of going to the LO might bring the solicitors around to re thinking the matter.

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    I'm no expert but I think you are correct in your presumption, when we took over management of a block there was a legal document sent to obtain the contact details of the leaseholders. Your management company should have done this too.

    I would suggest your argument that the Service Charges were not served, is correct. It doent matter who is in management, your agreement is with the freeholder and its they are the "responsible person" to ensure that correct contact details were used.

    It may be wise to instruct a solicitor to put this to bed. As Douglas outlines the Ombudsman may be a good stop.

    Did you know? The government has set up a free advice service for leaseholders ( https://www.lease-advice.org/ ), you can book a free appointment with there advisers and discuss on a call.

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    The above post is not financial advice, its often me rambling - passing time on a coffee break.
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