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I live in a block of flats, and my fellow leaseholders and I pay an annual £1,700 fee to a property managing agent called Warwick Estates for maintenance of the building and its communal facilities.
But these responsibilities have been neglected by the property's managing agent, Warwick Estates. There have been long term problems with the roof, rubbish disposal, flooding and general poor maintenance that isn't getting fixed, despite us paying thousands up front every year to keep the place in working order.
Now we're concerned about being overcharged for essential work. The block of flats needs a new boiler. Warwick Estates quoted £150,000, to be paid by leaseholders. The leaseholders asked several local companies for alternative quotes, which were around £50,000 less. When challenged, Warwick Estates told us it did not need to share the details of the original quote and said it will go ahead with the work it had planned.
Several residents in the building are currently still struggling financially due to the pandemic. Is there nothing to stop them from charging whatever they like?
Naomi, Bognor Regis
Which? Consumer Rights expert, Lauren Merryweather says: If the cost of the work is more than £250 for any one leaseholder, then the property owner or managing agent is required to consult with the leaseholders by section 20 Landlord and Tenants Act.
You can still be sent the estimated bill for works before the consultation process, but the consultation must be completed before the work can start. Unless it is urgent.
The requirement could be for full consultation where you will be able to make 'observations' on the proposed work and also nominate contractors for the landlord to obtain an estimate.
Or, it could be the shorter version of consultation where there is only one stage of consultation for observations to be made, and you don't get the same right to nominate a contractor.
This process can take up to two months, unless the work is urgently needed, then your landlord or managing agent can apply to get it done sooner.
Even if the proper process has been followed you have the right to ask the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) to review whether a charge is reasonable.
If your landlord or managing agent fails to consult properly the maximum
costs you can be made to pay are limited to £250 per leaseholder, regardless of the final bill.
This can all get pretty tricky to navigate, especially if you have to coordinate with your fellow leaseholders. Many people we've spoken to in the past decided to pay for one to one legal advice.
Warwick Estates told us it is 'surprised by allegations against its conduct and that the alternative quotes for the boiler repair at the flats didn't meet its health and safety requirements'
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A shorter version of this article was originally published in the April 2021 issue of Which? magazine