Leasehold Shock: The Scandal of Section 20 Notices

Today started well. I woke early and decided to accompany my morning tea with a programme about Dorset rather than the news.

It made me feel way much better about the world.

And then I decided I better put the rubbish out and on the way back I should check the mailbox.

I wish I hadn’t.

What had started as a good, sunny, promising day has rather gone backwards.

The reason being?

I have just opened a Section 20 notice for £8,371.63.

Of this, I had no warning and no idea this was about to hit. I am stunned. This is my 8.33% contribution of the total £100,459.50 block costs towards works for brickwork repair, concrete repair, overhaul repair and redecoration of timber windows and frame and bay roof covering renewal.

I have no idea where the bay roof renewal comes in, as there is no bay roof at the property.

And it gets worse: this is just for the rear of the property.

Stunned.

Truly, I thought I was prepared for most things, but suddenly opening this bill for these works has side-swiped me.

And the worst thing is?

Despite the invitation for observations, I know I will get nowhere. No matter what I bring up (like how the hell does this work cost so much, it’s not even new windows????), I know every single thing I try will fall on deaf ears.

And the reason for that being?

There is already a long term qualifying agreement with the contractor and thus, the job for them is in the bag, regardless.

Me trying to observe how ludicrous this sum of money is, how we should get comparison quotes – none of this will be addressed. I will be informed there is a long-term qualifying agreement, I was informed about this before yada-yada and to be frank, it’s a waste of an email.

It’s a waste of time me even trying to rail against what is frankly a scandalous system.

And it pains me to admit defeat before I’ve even started.

But, that is the system when estate managers have agreed long-term qualifying agreements: You get no say.

The estate managers will inform you, something along these lines: ‘we told you we were entering into this agreement and you had a chance to make observations’. But very often, these contracts are wide-scale and based on a number of different estates they manage (and of which I have no knowledge) and thus trying to make any sort of competent observation about these matters is fruitless.

I know this, because even when I was specific about our site and brought up the issue of the caretaker not being around for the last 18 months and yet we’re paying an annual salary of £37,670, I was ignored.

I was told the caretaker was there.

Despite the fact he wasn’t, and I couldn’t even sort access for the gas man to undertake works.

But I digress.

Fact is, this is the reality of owning leasehold. There is very little control. And that is the shocking reality.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) estimates there are around 4.3 million leasehold homes in England. That’s an awful lot of people not being in control and having the potential shocker of a bill to wake up to one fine day.

Right now, the best I can hope for is a decent payment plan over an extended period of time.

And that shocks me. It shocks me because I have quit on even trying to argue. Even trying to attempt to argue.

And that feels wrong on so many levels.

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