Question: I recently bought a leasehold flat and part of my final solicitors' bill included almost £1,000 in "service charge apportionments", which I understood was to reimburse my seller for service charge already paid by him to the property management company until the end of the payment period next year. I recently discovered the account was up to date at the time of my purchase but no payments have been made for the remainder of the payment period, which I believe means I should not have had to pay any apportionments. My solicitor has tried getting in touch with my seller's solicitor, to no avail. What options do I have to get this money back?
Answer: When you bought the flat your solicitors should have raised enquiries of the seller and the freeholder/managing agents to get up-to-date information on the service charge and management of the building. They should have obtained copies of the last demands and receipts for ground rent and service charge which would have been apportioned on completion.
Under standard conditions of sale, your seller is liable for charges arising during his period of ownership. Check with your solicitors to see what action they took at completion regarding the service charge, as they may have required a sum to be retained by the seller's solicitors to meet any shortfall. If they did not do so, ask them to explain what happened. If this is not satisfactory, consider going through the firm's complaints procedure.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email email@example.com or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (www.withyking.co.uk).
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.