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  • FIRST POST
    • Snowball2019
    • By Snowball2019 16th May 19, 2:00 PM
    • 5Posts
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    Snowball2019
    Issue with Freeholder denying they own block of flats!
    • #1
    • 16th May 19, 2:00 PM
    Issue with Freeholder denying they own block of flats! 16th May 19 at 2:00 PM
    Hi all,


    I hope someone can offer me some advise as I am driving myself crazy trying to get some answers. I will try and keep it as brief as possible. Any help/advise would be gratefully received as this is causing me no end of stress and anxiety.


    I purchase a flat in a block of 15 last year (not a new build - flats are 13 years old). Upon purchase I raised questions regarding the freeholder as no ground rent had been paid since 2011. The seller and their solicitor investigated and it was established that the original developer were still listed as the freeholder on the land register. They were in contact and the company listed on the register advised that there had been an oversight at the time of sale and that it did still appear as though they were the owner of the block. ..


    We proceeded with the sale as insurance is arranged via the Residents Management company and the development is maintained/serviced. A provision of 6 years ground rent was set aside for when they did get in touch.


    Fast forward a year and I have contacted the original developer again (they are still listed on the Land Register as holding freehold title) and they are basically denying that they are the owner as the block was sold. They have very little information as we are talking 8 years ago that it was 'sold'. Our Managing agents have the name of the freeholder as the people that own the other 2 blocks on the estate however when we contacted the freeholders agent for the other blocks they advised they do not collect ground rent for our block. No one else in my block seems remotely bothered but this is keeping me aware at night!


    I have a couple of questions I am hoping someone knowledgeable may be able to help me with please...


    - Where do I go with this now? I have pushed back to the company listed on the register as holding freehold title and asked that their solicitors make contact with whomever they sold it to. I don't hold out much hope though, they seem to be palming me off.
    - Who currently has the obligations of the freeholder by law? Is the owner listed on the land register the legal owner responsible for the building?
    - Will I ever be able to sell? I could not take out indemnity insurance at the time of purchase as we 'knew' who they were. I think this would put prospective buyers off straight away!


    Like I say the property is managed and insured by the servicing agent but ground rent has not been requested in 8 years now. There is 120 years left on the lease.


    I'm also wondering how long after purchase a person or company has to register their title with the land registry? I'm assuming there has been an oversight somewhere which has either neglected our block from the sale or the solicitors dealing with the sale have simply not registered their new title follow the same.



    Thank you in advance
    Last edited by Snowball2019; 16-05-2019 at 3:40 PM.
Page 1
    • lewisa
    • By lewisa 16th May 19, 2:34 PM
    • 288 Posts
    • 391 Thanks
    lewisa
    • #2
    • 16th May 19, 2:34 PM
    • #2
    • 16th May 19, 2:34 PM
    Hi all,
    Upon purchase I raised questions regarding the freeholder as no ground rent had been paid since 2011.
    Originally posted by Snowball2019
    Careful now, don't go reminding someone they haven't asked for money they are rightfully owed. Each year that goes by is another year outside of the statute of limitations for which they can't collect the ground rent!
    • Snowball2019
    • By Snowball2019 16th May 19, 2:49 PM
    • 5 Posts
    • 1 Thanks
    Snowball2019
    • #3
    • 16th May 19, 2:49 PM
    • #3
    • 16th May 19, 2:49 PM
    Thank you for your reply Lewisa. My concern is not that I may have to pay them, the money was put aside by the vendor as part of the sale to allow for when they did contact us demanding payment.


    My worry is that at present the current people listed are refuting their ownership and I don't know where to go from here.


    I may be overreacting to the situation and blowing it out of proportion but i'm really worried that the apparent lack of freeholder will cause me issues when selling especially if I can't get to the bottom of it..
    • lewisa
    • By lewisa 16th May 19, 2:55 PM
    • 288 Posts
    • 391 Thanks
    lewisa
    • #4
    • 16th May 19, 2:55 PM
    • #4
    • 16th May 19, 2:55 PM
    I experienced a similar situation a few years ago. The freeholder, an old lady, died after a period of a few years not requesting the rent.

    She had a rather large estate which was in probate for epochs. The residents mgmt co with advice from our management agent collectively decided to keep 6 years ground rent in the sinking fund and then forget about it until the estate beneficiaries got in touch to request their - at most - 6 years rent.

    This went on for a few years and then I sold the flat so don't know what happened. I fully expect they still have 6 years rent waiting in the bank and are still not paying any ground rent.

    Edit - this was on a lease with 900+ years left on it, your shorter lease may affect your decisions, I don't know the ramifications of that lease getting too short without knowing who the freeholder is.

    But in terms of the ground rent, I wouldnt give a monkeys and see that as a benefit.
    • Fire Fox
    • By Fire Fox 17th May 19, 9:58 AM
    • 24,623 Posts
    • 28,500 Thanks
    Fire Fox
    • #5
    • 17th May 19, 9:58 AM
    • #5
    • 17th May 19, 9:58 AM
    Hi all,

    I hope someone can offer me some advise as I am driving myself crazy trying to get some answers. I will try and keep it as brief as possible. Any help/advise would be gratefully received as this is causing me no end of stress and anxiety.

    I have a couple of questions I am hoping someone knowledgeable may be able to help me with please...

    - Where do I go with this now? I have pushed back to the company listed on the register as holding freehold title and asked that their solicitors make contact with whomever they sold it to. I don't hold out much hope though, they seem to be palming me off.

    - Who currently has the obligations of the freeholder by law? Is the owner listed on the land register the legal owner responsible for the building?
    - Will I ever be able to sell? I could not take out indemnity insurance at the time of purchase as we 'knew' who they were. I think this would put prospective buyers off straight away!

    Like I say the property is managed and insured by the servicing agent but ground rent has not been requested in 8 years now. There is 120 years left on the lease.

    I'm also wondering how long after purchase a person or company has to register their title with the land registry? I'm assuming there has been an oversight somewhere which has either neglected our block from the sale or the solicitors dealing with the sale have simply not registered their new title follow the same.

    Thank you in advance
    Originally posted by Snowball2019
    Welcome to MSE. Assuming you are in England or Wales ....

    Search the Leasehold Advisory Service website for any information on absentee landlords and collective enfranchisement. And ask the right people the right questions. Emboldened does not get you the information you seek.

    If the freehold was offered for sale the leaseholders should all have been written to at least twice (before and after). This has long been a legal requirement which any professional developer would be aware of.

    Either the developer did this, or they broke the law, or they never sold the property. Are you absolutely certain the residents management company did not take over the freehold? It is not uncommon for developers to want shot of a non-profitable or troublesome building.

    Ask as many longstanding leaseholders as possible if they have any memory whatsoever of being written to about the freehold being sold, however hazy or seemingly useless. You would be amazed what people shove in a folder and keep for years. If nobody remembers anything ....

    Can you find out who purchased the freehold of the other two blocks and when?

    Ask the developer who they sold the freehold to and when. Write to senior management and the legal department. Quote the LEASE website/ cite the legislation. Send your letters 'Signed For' and keep a copy of everything just in case.

    HTH.
    Last edited by Fire Fox; 17-05-2019 at 10:05 AM.
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ Trainee Rosie the Riveter.
    • Snowball2019
    • By Snowball2019 17th May 19, 12:51 PM
    • 5 Posts
    • 1 Thanks
    Snowball2019
    • #6
    • 17th May 19, 12:51 PM
    • #6
    • 17th May 19, 12:51 PM
    Thank you Firefox I really appreciate your reply.


    11 of the 15 residents in the block purchase through a shared ownership scheme with a private company whom follow a similar set up to government funded share ownership schemes. Coincidentally they own one of the adjoining blocks according to the Land Registry. I have written to them also to see if they have a record of the freeholder seeing as they own a number of properties in the block. The other residents were not the original owners at the point the block would have been sold so the previous owners may well have been written to if that is required by law.


    In regards to the other block, a quick search of them threw up another name of a portfolio company - we spoke to their agent and they confirmed last year that they do not own our building.


    The original developer have been looking into this for several weeks now but cite as the sale was so long ago (2011?!) they have no records and everyone that would have worked there at the time has left. You really couldn't make it up. You would have thought despite this there must be a record somewhere of whom they sold the freehold to!?


    My thoughts (hopes) are that it was simply overlooked during the process of transfer and that it should be resolved relatively easily so I can sell the property. Last year they confirmed in writing that it appeared they were still the owner then a matter of 12 months later they seem to have changed their mind. Its so frustrating!
    • TrickyDicky101
    • By TrickyDicky101 17th May 19, 1:29 PM
    • 3,308 Posts
    • 2,180 Thanks
    TrickyDicky101
    • #7
    • 17th May 19, 1:29 PM
    • #7
    • 17th May 19, 1:29 PM
    How much is the GR each year? If it is minimal then there may literally be nothing in it for <anyone> to admit ownership.
    • Snowball2019
    • By Snowball2019 17th May 19, 1:41 PM
    • 5 Posts
    • 1 Thanks
    Snowball2019
    • #8
    • 17th May 19, 1:41 PM
    • #8
    • 17th May 19, 1:41 PM
    Hi Tricky Dicky,


    Thanks for your email.


    That's the thing, the annual ground rent is 195 rising in line with inflation at 10 yearly intervals. There is no reason for anyone not to want to claim it!
    • Sea Shell
    • By Sea Shell 17th May 19, 1:50 PM
    • 1,662 Posts
    • 2,868 Thanks
    Sea Shell
    • #9
    • 17th May 19, 1:50 PM
    • #9
    • 17th May 19, 1:50 PM
    I'd also be worried about whether Buildings Insurance was in place, or if major repairs needed doing.

    You could be left with an uninhabitable flat, not knowing who's responsible for having it rebuilt or repaired.
    " That pound I saved yesterday, is a pound I don't have to earn tomorrow "
    • Snowball2019
    • By Snowball2019 17th May 19, 2:13 PM
    • 5 Posts
    • 1 Thanks
    Snowball2019
    Hi Sea Shell,


    All residents are member of a Residents Management co which you have to become a member of when you purchase a flat. There is a Manageing Agent appointed by the Management co who deal with the estate in its entirety including servicing, maintaining and insuring the buildings (including ours). None of the management responsibilities fall to the Freeholder according to our lease - the only thing the freeholder is responsible for is collecting thr ground rent...
    • Sea Shell
    • By Sea Shell 17th May 19, 2:38 PM
    • 1,662 Posts
    • 2,868 Thanks
    Sea Shell
    That's good news then, at least.
    " That pound I saved yesterday, is a pound I don't have to earn tomorrow "
    • Fire Fox
    • By Fire Fox 17th May 19, 4:48 PM
    • 24,623 Posts
    • 28,500 Thanks
    Fire Fox
    Thank you Firefox I really appreciate your reply.

    The original developer have been looking into this for several weeks now but cite as the sale was so long ago (2011?!) they have no records and everyone that would have worked there at the time has left. You really couldn't make it up. You would have thought despite this there must be a record somewhere of whom they sold the freehold to!?

    My thoughts (hopes) are that it was simply overlooked during the process of transfer and that it should be resolved relatively easily so I can sell the property. Last year they confirmed in writing that it appeared they were still the owner then a matter of 12 months later they seem to have changed their mind. Its so frustrating!
    Originally posted by Snowball2019
    It is difficult to follow the story because you are paraphrasing. Natural and normal, but it is just possible 'the devil is in the detail' (exact wording, even a crazy misunderstanding).

    On what grounds is the developer claiming not to be the freeholder? Who (job title/ seniority) said what, exactly? Could the wording of leaseholders questions or solicitors questions have inadvertently lead current staff at the developer to believe they sold the building?

    If the developer is still listed on Land Registry AND they have NO evidence or records of selling the property, NO member of staff who remembers it, and NO other freeholder has come forward in eight years .... I cannot see how the developer can legally or logically claim they are not your freeholder!

    Is there much on identifying or finding an absentee freeholder/ superior landlord on the Leasehold Advisory Service website? They do (or did a few years ago) offer free brief legal advice to leaseholders. To get the best from that you need your 'ducks in a row': all paperwork to hand and organised.

    Ideally the key facts summarised. Date/ name/ job title/ company/ method of communication/ word for word question / word for word response. Then the LEASE legal advisor has an accurate picture, and you can question away.

    Trust me I know about stress and anxiety, I know about nightmare freeholders and nightmare caretakers and nightmare managing agents! The best thing I did was be structured and organised in research, letter writing and record keeping. At the very least it is clear for anyone helping you/ giving legal advice now or later (eg. Conveyancer).

    HTH!
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ Trainee Rosie the Riveter.
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