The blunder forces Pier Management and debt collector JB Leitch to scrap an overdue £3,265 ground rent bill (and accompanying threat of forfeiture)
Like a Monopoly board game player who gets the dice wrong and blurts out “Rent!”, leasehold operator Pier Management – owned by Essex millionaires Nicholas and Peter Gould – and debt collector JB Leitch have bungled a claim for unpaid ground rent.
This means that the £3,265 in charges they have accrued on the £600 ground rent debt is removed. Indeed, JB Leitch, who seems to be paid by the debtor rather than by his nominal employers (and who will pay the legal costs via the lease), leaves with nothing.
It’s an embarrassing mess for the Liverpool-based debt collection firm, which has often seen its fees drop when challenged.
Buy to let investor Richard Scott thought he was paying his ground rent of £200 a year in his service charge for his one-bedroom flat in Chelmsford and was dismayed to find he hadn’t paid it du everything for three years.
Like so many other tenants who contact LKP, he says he has never received a request for ground rent at his address.
JB Leitch demanded £600 along with £750 administration costs and £2,435 legal and court costs, with a forfeiture hearing scheduled for June.
Mr Scott contacted LKP, who advised him either to pay the full sum and then discuss the reasonableness of the charges in court, or to haggle.
Here is an example of JB Leitch cutting his legal bill in half:
And here is MP Justin Madders, himself a barrister, claiming that JB Leitch charged 222% land debt.
But LKP also warned Mr Scott that failure to pay ground rent for three years was a massive mistake for a tenant, and that the courts would not favor non-payment of rent in the lease that a tenant has accepted. when buying the property with legal advice.
As so often in the past, we expected to hear no more of the case and Mr. Scott to pay all or part of it and that would be it.
We have now received an update.
Mr Scott indeed decided to haggle by offering £1,800 against JB Leitch’s fee, and he claims they counter-offered £3,000 (which presumably included the unpaid ground rent).
“I was literally about to pay this (as I didn’t want this to happen in court) and thought at least we would have gotten £865 off, when I had a ‘what if’ moment and that I spoke with my original conveyancing attorneys, just to check if they had sent correspondence to the landowner (Piers Management)…
Lo and behold, 24 hours later they provided me with the letter and receipt to Piers Management advising them that all correspondence should be sent to our primary address, not the leasehold property. As you can imagine, I was euphoric!
“I can’t say the past 5-6 weeks haven’t been extremely stressful, with more than a few sleepless nights, however, I’m sure you normally only receive desperate emails from individuals (from the same way I contacted you), so I thought you might like to read a positive result for once!”
Mr. Scott gave this advice to other tenants to avoid entanglement with JB Leitch:
“I would advise others to go back to their conveyancing lawyers – just in case! Never assume your landlord (and JB Leitch) are right because they make admin mistakes. Ask for advice, be polite and stick to it. From the emails I have received over the past 5 weeks, they are downright bullies!
“I guess the other side of it is, don’t be a wally and check you’re paying your ground rent and not just the service charge – look it up, don’t just assume if you’ve never owned a lease previously! ”
Due to confusion over the correct address, it could be argued that ground rent should also be removed on the grounds that there is no certainty that a notification was ever sent.
Mr Scott is aggrieved that there is no record of an apology for this mess from either company.
LKP invited Pier Management and JB Leitch to comment on this matter.