Very old water charge

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Since December 2008, I have owned a leasehold flat within a block of 24 flats and 6 offices.

Water supply to the building is metered and billed to the managing agent who collects from the leaseholders via the annual service charge.

In December 2012, the water supplier found that the meter had historically been read and billed incorrectly, resulting in an undercharge of nearly £20,000 between December 2006 and December 2012.

The managing agent is seeking to collect the undercharge by surcharging current owners over a 5 year period commencing April 2013.

Whilst continuing to pay the “regular” annual service charge of approximately £1,300, I have refused to pay this additional charge which is accruing at £27.72 per quarter; my reasons being:

1) The period prior to July 2011 is more than 18 months before the actual cost was incurred and should not, therefore, be charged (Section 20B Landlord & Tenant Act 1985).

2) It was the water company who consistently misread the water meter and failed to notice an error.

3) The managing agent has made no attempt to "fight" the charge on behalf of the flat owners and has simply suggested that we contact the water company directly for an explanation. Unsurprisingly, the water company has advised that it is not at liberty to discuss matters with individual flat owners, as its account is with the managing agent.

I do not know whether relevant that the managing agent is the freeholder and occupies one of the 6 offices.

What is my position if and when the managing agent threatens me with legal action for non-payment of service charge?
11/04/2014 16:20

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