We were recently bombarded by complaints from one of our sites about a new tenant that had moved in and was generally causing mayhem. Kids with footballs, late night parties, cars parked everywhere. We were asked to DO something about it.
Whilst sympathetic to the problem it is always a little difficult to know exactly what the limits of our powers really are. We wrote to everyone on the site expressing our concern generally about the behaviour, concluding that if things did not improve then the flat owner would be in breach of their lease.
A pretty common threat in leasehold property, but we were further challenged by someone writing back saying, ‘well what does that mean?’ We felt that in reality it was a pretty good question, so here is a ‘layman’s’ interpretation.
Virtually all property in the UK has a legal status attached to it, and that is generally freehold (in effective you have full control) or leasehold (which means you are in effect borrowing or leasing the property from someone else for a period of time). Most flats are ‘leasehold’. This means that you generally do not own a flat, rather you lease it, albeit for some extraordinary period such as 999 years, so for all practical purposes you are owning.
Nevertheless at that point of ‘purchase’ you will be required to sign various legal documents. Some people read these carefully, many do not, but within those documents there will be a series of things you can and cannot do whilst leasing the property. Usually there will be various clauses about ‘good behaviour’, such as not playing loud music, the keeping of pets, and who may reside in the property.
Now the process of signing that lease does commit you to adhering to these ‘rules’, so what happens when people don’t?
Well inevitably in the good old UK the process will commence with being asked nicely not to do whatever it is you are breaching, and surprisingly it is often enough. People will take heed of a polite request, but of course sometimes they do not.
At this point things have to escalate, and the exact route pursued will depend on the breach being caused. For example if someone has altered their flat in contravention of planning rules, it may be down a route involving the Council Planning department. Noise and disturbance, it may be via Environmental officers, or even the Police.
At each of these stages these different offices /officers have powers of enforcement, such as noise abatement controls, but still these have no effect on your lease. Legally you are still secure.
But, if these different actions have no effect there does still remain a legal course of action. It is known as a Section 146 in the Law of Property Act 1925. This can be served by the landlord (the ultimate owner of the property within which the leasehold property resides) and forfeiture proceedings can commence.
A Court can determine the breach must be rectified or if it can’t or the leaseholder won’t then they can enforce reasonable compensation.
So just remember, when you are signing those boring legal papers, make sure you take the time to properly understand the implications of what is written, because it could lead to serious consequences in the long run, including forfeiture of the property.
PM Property Management will proactively work with Management Companies in progressing these matters where the lease is being breached.