We are all residents with mortgages who are collectively buying the freehold for our flats. We have found the process to be extremely lengthy and biased in favour of the corporate bodies that own the freehold, provide a poor service to their customers and charge a huge amount each year for this.
We believe that this is an example of where the Coalition could reduce the regulatory burden and hence cost to citizens up and down the country and take a significant step forward to help home ownership and potential provide some stimulus to the floundering housing market. Sorting this could save also time and money for the over-loaded Tribunal.
For the last 2½ years we have been trying to exercise our right to buy the freehold to our block of 3 maisonettes’, i.e. to our homes.
The process started out with negotiations between us and the freeholder that lasted for almost a year. We found that the freeholder is only obliged to respond within a 4 week period. The company we are dealing with took advantage of this which drew out the negotiations.
After failing to make any real progress, we paid for a surveyor to provide a report to the freeholder as to the value of our property. The valuation indicated a lower settlement figure than the freeholder was asking for and they refused to provide justification for their higher value. The law seems to allow them to withhold this information and really works against individuals attempting to exercise their “right to buy”.
Following this we paid for a solicitor and surveyor to pursue our case. It seems that the more formal process provides for 6 months in which to come up with an agreed price or you proceed to tribunal or forfeit your option to buy.
Further negotiations between our surveyor and theirs over many months failed to find agreement. We increased our offer and they decreased theirs but their offer was still too high, and with no justification provided for their figures we took the matter to a Tribunal. This took a further costly 3 months of negotiations with solicitors and surveyors to attempt to reach agreement, but there was no progress.
By this stage we had paid out several thousand pounds and the freeholder little or nothing as we had to pay their costs.
Following the hearing in March this year it took 6 weeks for the Tribunal to make their decision. We were not surprised that their decision was closer to our than to the freeholders valuation.
Since the Tribunal decision there have been further delays: the freeholder has delayed completing the paperwork, the Land Registry documents were found to be in adequate (we had to pay to sort this!), etc. There are no penalties for the freeholder’sfailure to respond, there may even be an advantage – we have recently found out that we may have to take the matter to court to enforce the decision of the Tribunal or else we forfeit the Tribunal decision and have to start again.
By the end of this process we will collectively have spent close to £8000 in legal fees for a freehold of £18300, all this to exercise our legal right to own the freehold of our own homes. Meanwhile, the freeholder and their management company will have charged us nearly £3500 per year in fees, etc whilst we have endured this ordeal.