Question: I own a flat in a block run by a management company. Three years ago quotations were received from contractors for painting external doors, gates and railings. Several residents objected to the cost, though I thought it was reasonable. Since then nothing has been done. I have pestered the company which only says it has had problems collecting service charges from some of us. The place is now looking awful with peeling paint and rusting metal. My lease says redecoration should take place every two years. Is there anything I can do?
Answer: You could force your landlord to comply with its obligations under the terms of the lease and carry out the work but you would need to issue County Court proceedings seeking an injunction order. This is likely to be costly and risky, as it is within the court's discretion whether to make the order. It will depend on the circumstances which may be complex — for example, if the landlord is unable to do the work because there are outstanding service charges.
Remember, if the landlord is the management company and the flat owners are all members of it, the only money it will have is what owners pay in service charges. If there are arrears and the management company has no money, a claim could put it into a state of insolvency, meaning you may struggle to recover your legal costs.
You may like to suggest to the management company that they sue any lessees who have not paid their service charges. The terms of the lease should entitle the landlord to recover the cost of taking such action.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email firstname.lastname@example.org 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).