In a victory for common sense, Freehold Managers have backed down in their attempts to impose sky-high charges for consent to alterations.
In the past year Warner residents asking for consent for a loft conversion have been asked to pay up to £15,000 simply for permission, but last week a persistent challenger was given consent at a more reasonable fee of £540.
The managing agents claimed their previous fee was based on a ‘standard’ Warner lease in which the loft is not part of the demised premises. However almost all the residents who took legal advice on this found that their leases clearly demised the loft space to them.
And yet curiously, when challenged by residents, FM used almost anything but the demised premises argument. For instance, they tried to make the case that the freeholder owned the air above the roofspace and could therefore charge for it.
Really? Well, actually, no. The cases of Davies v Yadegar (1989) and Haines v Florensa (1989) established that “a lease of the top part of a building which included the roof also included the airspace above the roof”.
Most Warner leases state that consent for alterations is not to be unreasonably withheld. Putting a high price on consent, unjustified by costs, is unreasonable and we advise residents to negotiate a more reasonable charge for consent.
If this fails, please get in touch. The First Tier Tribunal, which handles disputes between leaseholders and freeholders has told us it can hear the cases of several residents at one hearing. This option is still available to us if necessary.