Monday, 29 May 2006

Money For Nothing

Last week, I got a letter from the managing agent for my flat. For people who don't leave in England, when you buy a flat here, it can be as a freehold or a leasehold. If it is a freehold, or share of one, you own the property outright. If it is a leasehold, you own a time limited lease for the land on which your property is built. You can extend this lease by paying some money to the freeholder. The freeholder is responsible for maintaining outside and shared parts of the building while you are responsible for maintaining your own property, which is why it is quite common for apartments in a block of flats. When work is carried out by the freeholder, it needs to be agreed by all the leaseholders and each one then pays a part of the fees accordingly. Quite often, the freeholder goes through a managing agency that does this work for them. In my case, my flat is a leasehold in a Victorian conversion that comprises three flats. For whatever work that is carried out on the main property by the managing agent, I am supposed to more or less pay a third.

As I said, I received a letter from my managing agent last week. I had previously sent them a couple of letters asking them to detail what work they had done so far because I thought my management fees were high considering they haven't done any work on the property since I moved in 4 years ago, although there is quite a lot to do. It was therefore with considerable surprise that I opened the letter to find it was a statement of my accounts saying that I owed them £6,000 and a bit for works that were alledgedly carried out on the 19th of March of this year. Very conveniently, the 19th or March happens to be when I was in Atlanta for work. I know that during that period they did ad-hoc repairs to the banister on the outside stairs and added a wooden door to the passage that leads to the back of the property. That must have cost them a few hundred pounds at most. I phoned the owner of the flat above mine. He has received the same letter, asking for a similar amount of money. I suppose the owner of the flat below has as well. Which means that between the three of us, we are being charged £18,000 for works that:

  • we haven't had the opportunity to approve,
  • we cannot see,
  • don't address the main problems with the property,
  • and were carried out in just one day.

I have therefore sent a nice letter to the managing agency asking for explanations and saying that I wouldn't pay anything until I was happy that the bill was justified. Now if anybody knows of a job where you can earn £18,000 in a day doing something that doesn't leave any record, please feel free to contact me, I'd love to apply.

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