Q: We have one copy of the lease of easements for the 22 properties on our estate. They are stored in a metal box in the property of our former Chair. Should these be kept in a safety deposit box? Is there any requirement? I have looked into renting a secure box in a bank but the cost would be around £330 per annum which would add just under £30 to the Service Charge. What is your recommendation?
One of our leaseholders (who lives off site and rents out his property) has instructed us not to send anything to his home address. He has asked us to contact him by text or email. His email is not a personal email but that of a building firm. He jointly owns the property, I have no way of knowing whether or not the co-owner has access to the company email he gave us to be contacted on. He has recently failed to respond to a request to remove rubbish from his property sent by email, nor did he collect a document which could not be sent by email. We would prefer to communicate to both owners at a physical address. Can we insist we communicate via his home address?
FPRA Committee Member Bob Slee replies:
I assume that the copies of the lease that you hold are the official counterpart leases held on behalf of the freeholder. That being the case, you obviously need to take responsible care of them as they are executed deeds in their own right. I know a number of self-managed freehold companies where the counterpart leases are held in the way that you currently hold yours and that should be perfectly adequate.
The RMC that I am involved with personally decided a while ago that we would place the counterpart leases in the care of the solicitor that undertakes work on behalf of the RMC from time to time. The solicitor makes no charge for this, but they have indicated that they might do so if the instructions that we otherwise refer to them should fall below a minimum level.
The £300 per year that you are considering for secure storage of the documents seems to be rather on the high side. If, on the other hand, you simply have photocopies of the leases and the official counterpart leases are held elsewhere then I do not believe it is necessary for you to adopt any particular measures for their custody.
I can understand your frustration in connection with the absent lessee who is unhappy about providing a postal address for serving communications and notices. Unfortunately, there is nothing in your lease to enable you to insist that a postal address rather than any other address is provided to you. It might be a safeguard to inform the lessee that you would prefer a postal address for the service of notices and correspondence and that if the lessee insists on the use of an email address that the onus will be on him to check the email account regularly and he must accept the consequences of his failure to do so in relation to his obligations under the lease.
We have the opposite problem in the block that I am involved in managing. We decided a few years ago to become as paperless as possible in our management of the estate and we now conduct almost all of our business electronically. Unfortunately, we have two lessees who have no interest in having email accounts and we are obliged to issue them with paper versions of everything – hopefully that will change over time.
[Submitted August 2018]