We are a privately owned block of 17 flats, (each of us) shareholders, and manage our own business by means of a limited Company. I am the Company Secretary and I am writing to FPRA on a matter that is causing us considerable concern, and from some shareholders anger!
We have recently had a mouse infestation problem, which is currently being dealt with by a professional company. This is not the first time that mice have been reported being seen, but on those occasions at various times going back maybe 10 years, these were isolated cases and dealt with by those who reported them.
One of the shareholders has obsessive compulsive disorder, hoards, is open about her condition, and has even held a position of director in the past. We have never known the full extent of her condition. She works, and to anyone unacquainted with her, as some residents and renters are, they would be none the wiser to her condition.
The infestation has changed everything! It was necessary to gain access to everybody’s flat. Only three flats out of 17 didn’t report mice. One being hers. On gaining entry, all 17 flats had mice. Her flat was found to have newspapers stashed everywhere, making it difficult to get into any room. Including the bathroom and kitchen, where weevil were found feeding in an old cereal box.
Also, disturbingly, there were recycling bags full of recycling from weeks and months ago. The mice had broken the polythene bags and were feeding on the food residues. The flat was uninhabitable, and we were informed by her that she was not living there, and was renting somewhere else. This obviously enraged some of the residents.
The reports from the pest control concluded the source of the outbreak came from her flat: newspapers nesting material, recycling a food source, her not living there, the mice were not disturbed. We now have two problems attached to this flat. Unless the flat is completely cleared of everything, as recommended by the pest control company, the mice will be back. The treatment has cost us £2,000. Worryingly. the flat is a first hazard, the wiring is old, it is full of papers, and mice chew cables.
What can you suggest, how we can deal with all of this?
FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman replies:
In your application you state that the flats are freehold. Are you sure the flats are not leasehold and each own a share of the freehold? If each flat is freehold this will be very difficult for you. However I suspect that the limited company is the management company with each flat owning a share in the company and the freehold but with each flat having its own lease from the landlord.
On the issue itself I would recommend contacting your local authority who may still have a pest control department within Environmental Health. This will certainly be cheaper than a private contractor and will be able to advise and/or take legal action against the owner of the offending flat.
With regards the nature of the wiring, unless there is a proven impact on the other flats in the block then there is little you can do to force the flat owner to carry out necessary upgrades as this will be a matter for them and not the management company.
If you believe that fire safety is being compromised for the whole block as a result of this flat then I would urge you to contact your local Fire Service who are the enforcing authority for fire regulations for the common parts but not the flats but they could provide ‘advice’ to the flat owner if necessary.
The flats owner’s health condition is something you will need to take account of and not place undue pressure on them.
I would strongly suggest checking if this flat is indeed leasehold rather than freehold as if this is the case then I am sure there is breaches of that lease here for the management company to enforce but without sight of this lease it will be difficult for us to advise further of the legal options open to you.