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Communal areas

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We own the ground floor flat in a house. Outside our back door is a spiral staircase that acts as a fire escape and back entrance to the first and second floor flats. This is communal to these two flats obviously. But do I have any responsibility to contribute to repairs to this staircase or to replacing it as it is quite rusty/?

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Your responsibilities as a leaseholder will be identified in your lease. I would be surprised if you were not responsible for maintenance costs.

As an example normally maintenance costs are shared between ALL leaseholders......if the roof leaks costs are shared by all owners, it's the same if there is a problem with the foundations or pipework on the ground floor or if the chimney needs repointing or the facia/ soffit needs to be replaced etc. 

Rusty steel staircases usually need a coat of paint, not replacement. 

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Having seen many leases and many badly drafted I would say it could any, all or nobody.

The devil is in the wording so read your lease as RL states.

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Communial areas without a clear, concise & well written lease can be nightmare.

Here's an example......a few years back I owned a flat in a block of 6 flats. Communial area were looking very, very tired after over 20 years with no decorating. There was no provision in the lease for the managing agent/ freeholders to redecorate, it was the individual leaseholders responsibility. I costed the redecoration & carpet replacement (4 quotes), wrote to the other 5 leaseholders asking them to contribute to the cost which was a few hundred pounds each. Nobody even responded. I carried out the redecoration myself...3 floors, walls, ceilings etc.....only cost me around £50 for materials and a week of my time. I left the carpets down but had them cleaned.

Leasehold can be a real pain......always check the lease.

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When purchasing a leasehold property you solicitor should tell you if there are potential problems with the lease but it is surprising how many dont. We see it all the time being a estate agent in the same area for the last 15+ years and sold numerous properties multiple times. One will come back on the market and serious issues are raised by the purchasers solicitor regarding the lease or boundary etc which were not raised on previous sales. 

This just shouldn't happened. But dont even get me started on high st solicitors and landlord and tenant law.

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If you are buying your first leasehold property or even if you have a few your solicitor may explain the main points of the lease to you. He may tell you that within the Lease the service charges do not cover General housekeeping or decor within the communial areas. He may go on to explain that the area outside your front door is your responsibility to keep tidy and maintain. But most buyers probably wouldn't recognise the significance of that statement. It is unlikely that a buyer would at that point in their purchase, after incurring lots of cost, decide to pull out.

Leases contain numerous points that affect the owner. I don't think a solicitor is likely to explain every single one of them to their client......only the ones he may consider onerous and he may well not think this one to be particularly onerous.

 

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Thanks for your advice. The lease does make it clear that tenants are responsible for work required for communal areas. But surely some communal areas are specifically for the use of certain flats and not others? If I have the ground floor flat, why would I be expected to pay for new stair carpets up to the first and second floor?

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If the lease makes all leaseholders responsible then that's the rules. 

When 2nd and 3rd floor carpets are replaced it normally follows that ground floor entrance carpets are replaced as well.

Whilst I can understand that you are not happy about the situation....non of us are, I am absolutely astonished that you feel a need to ask WHY ?

Leases are written this way in order to make the distribution of contribution as easy as possible. Having anything other than an equal share could result in arguments, disagreements increased administration and increased costs.

When you became a leaseholder you signed to comply with all requirements of your lease......what part of that commitment don't you understand ? You can choose not to pay, it's a free world, the choice is yours, but ultimately, I believe, you run the risk of ending up.in court, trashing your credit rating, obtaining a judgement against you and ultimately, possibly forfeiting your lease. That's the fun of leasehold property and why most of us pay.

Good luck.

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Thank you again for your comments, Richlist. Of course I will honour my responsibilities according to the lease that I have signed. I have never suggested that I wouldn't. I was merely philosophising that although it is simpler to make all landlords equally responsible for all communal areas, it can also be unfair, especially when certain areas are for the sole use of some of the flats and not the others.

I also am a leaseholder in a building with four flats, and we are all equal freeholders. However one of the four lives and works in the Middle East, and is very difficult to contact, especially when money is required. Recently the other three of us had to pay for work done on the water supply for the building, so I understand how annoying this situation can be.

But the water supply is something for the use of all flats. I just felt that when certain communal areas are purely for the use of the some of the flats, that perhaps the lease should recognise this. This is the case in another building where I have two flats. I pay a lower service charge to the management committee for one because it has its own entrance and does not make use of the communal entrance hall for the rest of the building. This seems fairer to me, but obviously I have signed the lease as it stands for the flat we were discussing and will pay my share according to the lease.

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Yes and I own a flat where the share of the service charges is based on the floor area of the flat....there are numerous ways of doing it, leases vary. But, can you imagine the arguments that would result of only the affected properties were asked to pay.

Here are a few examples that I've experienced over the years

* X1 loose/leaking roof tile affecting just one top floor flat.

* Drains running under the floor of ground floor flat had to be dug up and relaid.

* Maintenance of communal gardens.....only used by one flat ( other two flats empty).

* Flat roofs on 1st floor stairwell need refelting.

All these examples were paid by contributions from ALL flat owners.

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You also get leases with a higher % contribution based on the size/bedrooms compared to others.

I have also dealt with a block where the total % contribution didnt total 100%., it was a odd amount about 93% if i remember correctly.How that happened during drafting I've no idea.

 

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2 hours ago, pnvfpnvf said:

Thank you again for your comments, Richlist. Of course I will honour my responsibilities according to the lease that I have signed. I have never suggested that I wouldn't. I was merely philosophising that although it is simpler to make all landlords equally responsible for all communal areas, it can also be unfair, especially when certain areas are for the sole use of some of the flats and not the others.

Yes, its a valid question but where you you draw the line. Would you say  the front facing flats dont pay for the grass cutting at the rear because they dont look over it and therefor dont benefit from it. Or a blocked drain pipe at one end of the building effecting only the flats at that end? Should only the flats that are effected pay? 

There are lots of issues regarding owning a leasehold property that can seem unfair. One being the contributions to a reserve fund that are being built up for future works. If you sell before the works are started you dont get that money back the new owner gets the benefit.

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1 hour ago, Grampa said:

 

There are lots of issues regarding owning a leasehold property that can seem unfair. One being the contributions to a reserve fund that are being built up for future works. If you sell before the works are started you dont get that money back the new owner gets the benefit.

Although I have bought leasehold flats where the sellers solicitor has tried, unsuccessfully, to get me to pay the seller for their contribution to the reserve fund, in addition to the agreed selling price. 

I think this usually happens during periods of rapid capital growth, as I recall,  it happened on a number of my purchases prior to the 2008 crash when property prices were rising quite rapidly.

So, all you smart, shiny sellers with sharp teeth might like to try your luck next time you sell. You never know your luck, if the buyers are really, really keen on the property you might persuade them to coff up even more money.

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