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Dispute with freeholder

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  • Dispute with freeholder

    I hope somebody can help.

    BACKGROUND:
    I live in the top flat of a converted house. There are three flats in total. I own the freehold of the top flat and another person owns the bottom two flats plus the freehold of those two flats, which are rented out. We own the freehold as individuals and not as a company. The person who owns the bottom two flats has also appointed themselves as managing agent of the building in 2010.
    I moved into the property in February 2012. There were obvious roof works that needed to be carried out as there was a huge damp issue. Because of this our solicitor held back a sum of money from the sellers to help us with our share of the work to be carried out. There was also a contract in place which stated that if work was not carried out within 6 months of our move date the seller would claim back their retention.
    The managing agent/freeholder reluctantly went through a section 20 process on works. However, in doing so he did not declare his own interest in wanting to carry out the works himself in the quotes given. We only found out when we matched addresses to past correspondence. It is at this point that I should tell you the reasons why we had reservations with this person carrying out the work...
    1) The year before we moved in (2011) the service charge account summery shows £12,000 for general maintenance (£4000 being billed to the previous owners parents as the owner had passed away) and £200 for testing fire alarms. When questioning him about this £12,000 and wanting a breakdown of what 'general maintenance' was carried out he can not/will not answer. He can't remember. During one phone call he said it was damp proofing the basement. We have since found out that no damp proofing has been done. When we moved in there was a hole in the floor boards in the communal area. If £12,000 was spent on the property it should have looked like new. There is no sign of any work being done to the property. Instead what we have is a property that needs a lot doing to it.
    2) We have since discovered that all fire alarms in communal areas have been disconnected so how he spent £200 on testing them is a mystery.

    Back to the matter in hand...
    Upon finding out he had quoted his own company as the lowest quote, we were really frustrated. However, we said that we would go ahead with his company, but due to conflict of interest we would have to have references, insurance certificates, and require invoices and receipts as work was carried out. We would also instruct an independent surveyor too check the works as they were being carried out. We thought this was only right as he was demanding £13,000 from us and we wanted to know it was being used honestly. He refused to comply with this. Saying references would delay works, he has never had to work with people who want to see receipts and basically that we were being unreasonable.
    By this stage it had been 10 months. Water from the roof was coming through the electrics and our solicitor gave us a final notice to carry out work under the contract we had. She instructed us to keep the freeholder/managing agent informed at all times and give him enough notice (30 days) to respond.
    We have now, after a year completed the roof works. We kept the other freeholder informed at every step of the way. Giving him 30 days notice of works as well as all invoices, receipts, insurance, references from the builder we contracted. In three months of emailing he never answered a single email. According to the lease he is liable to pay for 2/3 of the cost towards the roof. It has been over a month and he has not paid. When I contacted him saying I would take matters further, he finally got in touch but only to say 'I should be very careful before going to court and basically I can not ask him for anything.'
    I have spoken to the leasehold advisory people and they seem to think I don't have a case as if I went to court I would basically be suing myself? I find this really strange. I feel helpless. Would anyone else trust this person? Am I in the wrong? I feel sick with worry. Please help.
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