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Claire D
Claire D, Property Solicitor
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 3090
Experience:  BSC (hons) 14 years experience in property
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What if any legal responsibilities does the freeholder of

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What if any legal responsibilities does the freeholder of a block of leasehold flats have under the general law in return for ground rent? (Please give sections and acts where appropriate).
Brief background is that I have withheld ground rent as part of a dispute regarding the long term failures of the property managers to provide adequate services and repairs and failure of the Maintenance Trustee to respond to long standing and repeated complaints . The Freeholder also has refused to respond about these issues, claiming that he has no responsibility because of the way that the lease and trust deeds are worded.
The LVT will hear the issues as regards XXXXX XXXXX charge issues. In the meantime, the Freeholder has issued an application for possession regarding the £750 I have withheld on the basis that he has refused to address concerns for several years. He is denying that issues such as failure to repair and maintain property is relevant to the issue of non- payment of ground rent, and is applying to strike out my counter claim for damages for breach of quiet enjoyment, diminished living conditions etc.

Claire D :

Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. If you have any questions following my answer, please let me know and I will be happy to assist further. I am afraid that with regards XXXXX XXXXX rent, the freeholder has no legal obligations. He only have any obligations referred to in the lease such as giving you quiet enjoyment of the property. He also has a right to bring forfeiture action if you refuse to pay. Service charge is different as there is much legislation which the freeholder is required to follow as well as the provisions in the lease.

Customer:

So I can counterclaim for breach of quiet enjoyment, which includes the disrepair issue, and any other breaches of duties on him as set down in the lease?

Claire D :

Quiet enjoyment would be an obligation on him, as long as you pay the ground rent. I would suggest that if you have an issue regarding maintenance then pay the ground rent and continue to withhold the service charge. If there are other duties in the lease that he has breached you can claim for any losses, such as having to repair something yourself because the landlord would not.

Customer:

(We are already in proceedings and the matter has been set down for a full hearing; there are subsidiary issues as to what amount of ground rent he is entitled to and I have used breach of quiet enjoyment as one of the reasons for witholding, as he has refused to address any of hte problems or enter a dialogue with me) There is a further issue if you can assist - I have been unable to get any sense out of the County Court staff as to what if any costs limit applies to this sort of action. I don't know if it falls within small claims limits as the sum at stake is only £750, or the other county court limits, or no limits.

Claire D :

As the claim is a monetary claim and within the small claims limits, any costs would be minimal. Expenses and court fees will be taken into account.

Customer:

Interesting, because yesterday after the prelim hearing, the presented me with an estimate of costs of £3000including the half an hour in court yesterday , telling me he'd only settle the matter if I pay the £750 plus £1500. I have made it clear that I think that the costs estimate is wholly disproportionate.

Claire D :

I think that I agree with that. From what you say, I can not see how the costs can be that great. If the claim for other than £750 there would be possible case for the high costs involved.

Customer:

Just a final clarification please - to clarify - his claim is for possession of the property, based on the £750 arrears. Is that still treated as cost consequences being based on the small claims limit

Claire D :

I am just checking that point. Please bear with me.

Claire D :

Although it may be in the small claims court, forfeiture proceedings are seen as in effect claiming for the value of the property and therefore if you lose the case, and forfeiture claim is successful you would end up paying costs for your landlord which could be in the several thousands. They are assessed and sometimes slightly reduced. I am afraid that in this case, you may be potentially liable for the costs, if you lose the claim.

Customer:

Thank you. That has all been extremely helpful.

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