"My flat has been repossessed!" was the start of a Leasehold Advice request …
“My flat has been repossessed!” was the start of a Leasehold Advice request recently. It’s not a situation that arises every day – in fact it is quite rare. So, it immediately grabbed my interest.
The poor chap in question was a Buy-To-Let Landlord who’d owned a flat in Norwich for some years. He lived in Bedford. All was going well until his letting agent telephoned, panicking that bailiffs had arrived at the flat and were changing the locks. They had a Court Order which clearly showed they had authority to repossess the flat. It was the first the Landlord or the letting agent knew about it!
To cut a long story short – the freehold of the building had been sold a few months previously. Unfortunately the original freeholder did not pass on the correspondence address for the leaseholder (the BTL Landlord) and consequently ground rent demands and service charge demands went unanswered. Arrears had built up rapidly and the new freeholder had pursued the debts via the County Court. And as the new freeholder did not have a correspondence address, all the paperwork went to the flat … the tenant living there did not pass on the post … the letting agent didn’t visit the flat and didn’t see the post … and therefore the BTL Landlord did not know about the Court proceedings and did not defend the case. Naturally, the Court gave Judgment in favour of the freeholder and the lease was forfeited.
That’s a sorry tale!
The lesson you can learn from this story is obvious really …
If you don’t reside at the flat you own – make sure you write to the freeholder and their managing agent giving them your correspondence address.
- And make sure they acknowledge your letter or email, confirming they have updated their records.
- And make sure you repeat that process if you haven’t received a demand for ground rent and/or service charges in the last few months.
- And make sure you keep proof of your notification and the acknowledgements.
What happened to the luckless Buy-To-Let Landlord? … I hear you ask. Well, he enlisted the help of a really good firm of lawyers (recommended by me) and they applied to Court to have the Judgment set aside. All ended well and the freeholder gave possession back to the leaseholder/landlord. And then the argument over costs started – but that’s a whole other story.