My management company is contracting decorators for a seemingly excessive cost. Should I query it?

I own a leasehold flat and have now had a letter from the management company saying they intend to contract decorators for £15,120 to do external work. The cost seems excessive. Should I query it?

Question: I have owned a leasehold flat - one of 36 flats in three small blocks - since October and have now had a letter from the management company saying they intend to contract decorators for £15,120 to do external work. They say it's the third notice in the consultation procedure, and their chosen firm was not listed on the statement of estimates issued in June 2012.

The work includes painting outside woodwork on the blocks, including windows, communal entrance doors, fascias, soffits, bin store and fences, and most of the cost is for "access equipment" as the blocks are three storeys high. The windows are all plastic double glazed and there are only three sets of double doors, so the cost seems excessive. Should I query it? 

Answer: Without seeing the consultation notices, it is hard to say whether the landlord consulted correctly. If they didn't, they may be limited to a £250 contribution per flat.

The earlier notices and proposed works should have been brought to your attention by the seller of the flat. If they were not, the seller could be liable to you for misrepresentation. If the landlord served the notices on your seller, you cannot argue you should not be bound by them, even if your seller didn't tell you about them.

The landlord can only recover "reasonably incurred" service charges. Painting uPVC windows that don't need it is likely to be deemed unreasonable. But if the other parts need work, there is no cheaper way of doing it, and the estimate is not unreasonably high for the work involved, it will be "reasonable" and you must pay your share as defined in your lease. You could get quotes yourself for the work and if they are much lower than the landlord's, you could possibly challenge the charges' reasonableness in the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).
 

WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM? 
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk 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 (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.


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