A frail pensioner who needs to pay for care has been hit with a demand for £2,000 to rent out her flat from freeholder Silhill Investments Limited.
The demand has been issued to the family of Joan Nelson, of St John’s Close, Solihull, by Pennycuick Collins, which also wants £375 for “handling the negotiation and preparing any necessary documentation”.
According to correspondence from the firm in October, this “negotiation” appeared to involve a telephone conversation with Mrs Nelson’s daughter, followed by a “one-off fee for the landlord’s consent is £2,000”.
The family of Joan Nelson contacted local Conservative MP Marcus Jones, who referred the matter to LKP.
Mrs Nelson owns a modest leasehold maisonette, where – not unusually – muddled wording appears to allow subletting on payment of a guinea (£1.05), but later has the clause:
“Not to use and occupy the demised premises for any purpose other than that of a private residence for the sole occupation of the Lessee and his family.”
To vary this part of the lease Silhill Investments Limited wants its £2,000.
Silhill appears to be a small portfolio of a Hampshire professional family, and its directors are given as:
Maria Felicitas Evans
Dr Michael Roland Witold Evans
Izabella Katya Charlotte Szudy Osgood
Margarita Eliza Jadwiga Osgood
Peter Dening, of Pennycuik Collins, issued a statement to LKP saying:
“[The clause] clearly prohibits the sub-letting of the flat and the amount requested in the sum of £2,000.00 represents a premium for relaxation of this clause.
“With regard to our own fees, in the sum of £375.00, this is our professional fee, being the cost to our client, of handling the negotiation and preparing any necessary documentation.
“The background to this matter is that St John’s Close is a development of maisonettes, all subject to leases, but with no overall management control in place.
“There are parking difficulties at the development, which it is believed are exacerbated by the sub-letting of units and also complaints from residents over the standards of maintenance.
“It is believed that relaxation of this clause to allow subletting would add to these problems and the initial inclination was to deny the request.
“However, as you know there are special circumstances in this case which you have already outlined and so the decision was taken to allow relaxation of the occupation clause subject to payment of a premium and the costs incurred.”
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid addressed leasehold property management at the ARMA conference in October: