© Merrily Harpur (harpur.org)
Question: I live in one of 26 freehold properties surrounding a square, for which we have to pay a high maintenance charge to a management company. Can we manage the square ourselves and how do we go about this?
Answer: You will need to check whether the management company was named in the original transfer documents for the development and whether it therefore has specific obligations and responsibilities to the 26 properties.
Also, does the management company do the maintenance work itself or does it employ managing agents? If agents are employed the management company can be asked to review that employment where charges are excessive.
The transfer will normally contain a mechanism and terms governing such requests. If appropriate the management company can then "shop around" among other agencies who offer management services for a better deal.
You will only be able to take over the maintenance obligations by agreement with the management company, or where the 26 houses together form the management company.
However, in practice you will still need then to appoint managing agents or similar to actually do the day-to-day maintenance work. You should also ensure also you have provisions in place if a freeholder fails to pay his/her maintenance charge.
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Katharine is a solicitor and director at Pitmans Solicitors (www.pitmans.com).