Question: We're selling a leasehold flat but have run into trouble with the buyer's solicitor asking about the block's management company and an alleged dispute with our residents' association.
As leaseholders, we're all simply booting out our existing management company for a newer, more responsible one. However, neither my nor the buyer's solicitors really understand what's happening and the sale is now looking increasingly precarious; what can I do? KE, Colchester
Answer: Clashes between miscreant management companies and put-upon leasehold flat owners about fees, rights and poor landlord behaviour are not new. But the threat of their spilling over into – and scuppering of – actual sales is a worrying development.
It all stems from a lack of understanding over what's known as 'right-to-manage' (RTM), the tough process with which you and your fellow current leaseholders are struggling.
In a nutshell, RTM is a relatively new choice available to leasehold flat owners when confronted with appalling behaviour from managing agents, such as refusal to mend broken facilities, clean communal areas or repair roofs. New legislation now permits leaseholders to band together and, without needing permission from the landlord, effectively 'sack' the existing managing agent and appoint a new one.
The downside though , as you've discovered, is that few cases mean lack of familiarity among solicitors who know little about the subject, its processes and what it means for prospective buyers; as they struggle to catch up, so delays and confusion blight the selling process.
Explain to your lawyer precisely what's happening in a short and clear explanatory note – probably no more than three or four paragraphs – praising your pro-active action, and get it sent to the other party.
Also ask the buyer to call you in person in order to put his mind at rest: after all, don't forget that you're doing him a favour by ejecting a bad agent.