Freehold laws make for traps: A new freeholder is building around a leaseholder's flat, depriving her of the right to light. Mary Wilson reports

A NEW law makes it possible for many leaseholders to buy the freehold of their property. This might be an expensive and complicated procedure, but there are cases where an incompetent, absent or useless landlord makes it a tempting proposition.

To enfranchise the property you need to know who the freeholder is. Quite often, especially with freeholders of blocks of flats, ownership changes regularly, sometimes to an offshore company, which makes the process very difficult.

If a new freeholder does not inform his leaseholders of his interest then he is breaking the law, but he can have as long as a year in which to tell them.

Mary Jane Wilkinson, a public relations consultant, has been living in a large one-bedroom flat quite happily - until recently - with a friendly and helpful landlord and good managing agents. But things have changed.

'I have lived in my beautiful flat for 17 years,' Miss Wilkinson said. 'It was converted very well in the 1950s and one thing we love about it is that it is so very light.

'The problems started when a chap bought the lease of the top flat. There are four flats in all and I live in the second floor flat, under the top one. He wanted to build a mansard extension, but couldn't get planning permission. The next thing we knew, he asked the landlord if he could have permission to build across the stairs at the top of the building, which would take in the sky-light at the top of the stairwell. This would take away much of our light.

'I made a stink about it, spoke to the landlord who said he understood. I spoke to the tenant who wanted to do the work and asked him why he wanted to ruin such a lovely building.

'I told him that none of us (the two other tenants are elderly women) were happy with what he was doing and that surely the other tenants should be consulted. But he didn't seem to be interested.'

Eventually the landlord refused to grant the licence.

'Alongside this we had been trying to get the common parts redecorated, for which we had all stumped up pounds 800. The tenant, who has never lived there, says he will just paint the place and let it out. So we got the painters and decorators in for the common parts. At which point he said he was putting in a new kitchen and bathroom. We agreed not to put down the stair-carpet until he had finished, because of all the mess it would make.

'The next thing I knew was that a letter arrived from a surveyor asking to see the plans of my flat. I rang up the managing agents to find out what was going on. They wrote a week later to say that the freehold of the entire property had been sold to an off-shore company, which they thought was owned by the upstairs tenant, Mr Contractor.'

Carles Caplin, the solicitor acting for the original freeholder, Model Textile & Trading Ltd, said :'At one stage I was dealing with Mr Contractor as a would-be purchaser. At the next stage I was dealing with a company, which I presumed was his company.'

A solicitor acting for the new owner, Spenta Ltd, registered in Jersey, said that Mr Contractor did not have a beneficial interest in the property.

Ms Wilkinson said: 'The work started anyway. We were not notified about what was going on, and not immediately informed that the freeholder had changed. The managing agents resigned, so we were totally in limbo.

'We are completely in the power of this new freeholder and have no idea what is going to happen to the building.

'We initially thought that the man at the top now owned the building, but he said he was not the purchaser. Nevertheless he has got the builders in, is gutting the top of the building and doing what he wanted to by taking in the top part of the building to his flat and denying us the light from the skylight.

'We are having to bear the brunt of the work, the mess, the noise, I woke up one morning to see a crack in my ceiling. The builders have been marvellous and as helpful as they could be, but much of the paintwork is going to have to be redone and we have lost our wonderful light.

'I reckon we should have at least been notified as to what was going on, and at least offered the building at the same price,' she added. Miss Wilkinson's worry is that as a tenant with a new freeholder they know nothing about and with no managing agents, she and the other tenants are completely at his or her mercy.

(Photograph omitted)

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger Jonas Gutierrez reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Payroll & Accounts Assistant

£20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week