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dIsputes Advice shared...

duncanBrown explains howto organise fellow

flat owners to deal with legal disputes

It Is saId that In themodern world we do notknowour neighbours.Thisisoften true of peoplelivinginblocksofflats. Do you know thepeoplewho live in theflatsabove andbelow,onthe samelandingorstairwell as you?Whenalegal disputearises, even though thedisputemayaffect theowners of severalflatsinthe block, it canbe difficultfor flatownersatthe forefrontof thedispute to knowwhoelseisaffected by the issue they are dealing with. If your blockofflatshasaResidents’

Association, and you are involved in a legal dispute, either with otherflat owners,your landlord, or themanagingagent forthe building,youmaybeabletoobtain the names and contact details of your fellow residentsfrom theAssociation -emailing otherflat owners is aquick,cheap andeasy method ofmaking contact. Otherwise, it is a caseofputting flyersthrough letter boxesin your block. Perhapsyou areexperiencingproblems

duetodefects in your flat? Or,you and severalother flatownersmay have noticed that the windows in the communal areasdonot fit properly andleakwhenit rains? Youmay wish to contactall theflat owners in your blocktoascertainwhether they are experiencing similar difficulties within theirownhomes, or defectsinthe communal areas near to their flats. If youdiscoverthatanumberofflat owners

in your blockare experiencing defects,my advice wouldbetoformalegal action groupof allthe flatownersexperiencingdetriment due to thedefects.Asolicitor practising this area of lawcan draftthe documentation to formally create this action group,whichwillhaveits own set of rules. A legal action group can appoint someof

itsmembers to act as the group’s committee. Correctlydrafted rulesfor action groups delegate authoritytothe committee to acton behalf of allthemembers. That authoritycan enable thecommittee to appointsolicitors andgiveinstructionstothem, approve expenses of thedispute,arrange action group meetings, and even agree settlement terms to the dispute. Myexperience is that acommittee with awelldelegated authorityismucheasier

Flat Living Issue 16 aproblem

Disputes can arise even

in the

best run blocks

affected by theissue they aredealingwith

for the solicitor and any other experts such as surveyors, to work with and therefore progress thecase. Acommittee with proper authorityusuallyreduces costs, is often more efficient, and can even lead to a quicker settlement- asignificanttacticaladvantage to the action group! I appreciate that keeping a group of

flatownersonboard during alengthy, complex and expensive legal dispute, can be difficult. So,myadvice is to be realistic fromthe outset about the timescale to reach aconclusion, thelikelycostsand thegroup’s desiredobjective. Rules can requiremembers tomake repeat

contributions to the costs of the legal dispute. Solicitors canopenaseparateclientaccount forcontributions frommemberstobepaid into.Solicitors’ professional rulesrequire them tomaintainfullrecordsofmoney deposited

for flatowners... to knowwhoelseis

It canbedifficult

andwithdrawnfromclient accounts,giving groupmembers peace of mind. Group committeesshouldarrange face to

facemeetings betweenmembers andtheir legalteam,whichmembers usuallyfind helpful.Awell-functioninggroup committee isameans forinformation andinstructions to pass betweenthe solicitors andmembers. I have found that periodic telephone conferences with groupcommittees, with a pre-set agenda,can greatlyassist theflow of information, ideasand instructions between allconcerned. Agroup’s rulescan requirememberswho

sell theirflatsduringthe legaldispute to demand that thepurchaser of theirflat join theactiongroup (inthe flatseller’splace), andtomakethe financial contributions required, thereby ensuring funds continue to be received. Finally,many leases requirethe landlord

to take (legal)actionagainst aflat ownerwho is in breach of the lease,when the landlord is formally requested to actbyanother flat owner. If your leaserequiresyourlandlord to take action, and they refuse to do so, an experiencedsolicitor canapply pressure on your landlord to comply with theirduties under the lease.●

duncanBrown Associatesolicitor,OliverLegal, Ipswich


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