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Marcus Read said: Posted on: 19/04/2016 00:10

I bought a flat, which came with 25% of the freehold. No management company, no managing agents, just the sometimes-squabbling owners. So the property has fallen into disrepair, including my flat which has suffered water penetration from the ill-maintained roof. One owner has for years acted as self-appointed manager, collecting service charges and doing what little maintenance there has been. After purchasing, I complained about the water penetration and the self-appointed manager has now followed the s20 procedure culminating invoices to all owners for over £8k apiece to cover the work in the notice: an extravagant £32k in total, while still overlooking many of the roof issues I had originally complained of. The lease provides for hefty interest penalties for late payment, but I need advice: (a) Is a self-appointed manager, acting without appointment by (or consent of) the other freeholders, even entitled to serve s20 notices as ‘landlord’ and to take enforcement action against defaulters? (b) Can he deduct his own private solicitor’s fees from the service charge fund (of which he has sole control) with the excuse that he is taking enforcement action against another owner who has not paid their service charges? Isn’t there a potential conflict of interests? (c) What safeguards can be put in place to protect the freeholders’ collective interests in this situation, and ensure that any money we do pay upfront for the remedial works will not be misapplied? (d) Can I object to the cost of the works now that the consultation period in s20 has expired, on the basis that (i) (unlike the self-appointed manager) I live locally and can find quality assured local tradesmen who can do the work at a fraction of the price and properly fix the roof into the bargain! I don’t want to pick a fight as the self-appointed manager may have simply been stepping into the breach, but the situation is clearly unsatisfactory and I just need just for some practical and timely advice.

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