Leasehold owners of ROF: have you ever challenged service charges in court?

If you have, could you share your story?

I'm currently preparing for one for myself.

No but let me know how it goes. I am yet to hear back from Lambeth about the 'cleaning fee' for a terraced flat with no common areas that I complained about three years ago.

Sumo there's specific legislation which enables you to challenge the reasonableness of a service charge.

Haven't done it personally but I have clients who have done it and won but the trouble is then trying to get your money back if you've already paid.  My litigation colleagues do it all the time.

What Sails said. There are quite strict rules around things like getting quotes and consulting on major costs etc that even professional management companies quite often trip over. 

Stanely hopefully with most people the threat will be enough to straighten them out.  I don't think it's an enormously complicated procedure and know at least one client who's done it all themself.

Our management was taken over recently by Firstport... We have an unofficial residents association (Freeholder won't recognise it until 2/3rds of leaseholders are signed up).

The RA is lead by an accountant and some lawyers.  They've hauled Firstport over the coals on the accounts and continue to do so and keep finding unexplained charges.  Especially around works carried out that don't appear to have ever been carried out.  

I only read the minutes and the chair (the accountant) terrifies me.. and them

The only benefit of having an ex council flat is that the council is the free holder and they - while useless - tend to take the piss less than most private companies 

Rather than dick about with this just enfranchise if the block is less than 50 flats and you don't have some huge outside shared space with other blocks that might complicate things. We did it and have covered the bent bastards' service charge in less than 5 years in terms of difference between actual upkeep and what they were asking for. 

Eddie - serious ask - would you be able to send me some of those correspondence from the RA/accountant against Firstport (redacted as you see fit)?

I'd like to know what angles / arguments are best to go at...

 

I'd love to but .. there's a privacy agreement in place and .. she scares me.

The most recent one has headers such as "Challenges on 2021 Accounts".  She's covering costs for window cleaning, lift maintenance and a lack of clarity on the bank account in which money is held for these.  The jump in salary for the estate manager, liability for trade creditors.  Firstport are always looking into it and will respond shortly.  The 2022 and 2023 accounts are still not finalised either.

There is a ten year refresh of all the buildings.  The RA has challenged all the costs and how the contractors were selected.  

There have been some issues with equipment on the roof of one building that cost a small fortune to put right, this came out of the contingency fund (there was talk of needing a helicopter to lift the equipment.. thankfully that went away).

They have frequent meetings with the Freeholder and Firstport.  This RA was formed after Firsport bought out the previous management company and the head of our RA had had dealings with them before and didn't trust them.  Sure enough, prices started to rise.

We also have an RA in a block of 40 odd flats and they are similarly grilling the managing agents and keeping them focused.  Managed to finally get them to agree that expensive fire safety works weren't needed at all.

I'd steer clear of anywhere with a local council as freeholder as they have a tendency to do the bare minimum and barely charge anything and then suddenly one year they'll decided to replace all of the windows and there won't be an accumulated fund to cover it.

Reading this with interest. My mum is in a flat - which is lovely, to be fair - in a sheltered living development built by macarthy and stone and now run by firstport. 

Firstport the corporate entity are a shambles, but the live-in manager, despite being their employee, is worth her weight in gold.

There have been some problems with broken gates and with petty thieves getting access to the building. There is a resident's association though I don't know what status it has yet. Its key members will be in their 70s though...

Someone needs to hold firstport's feet to the fire over their breaches of the lease terms or perhaps some duty of care arising separately. I am bolshy and have money and some spare time but it's not my area at all...