Consent to Let Scam How Freeholders Rip Off Leaseholder Landlords with Consent to Let Fees

Summary: Landlords are being ripped off by freeholders for “Consent to Let” fees that the freeholders are not entitled to levy.

Readers of this blog will know that all things being equal, I far prefer to buy a freehold property rather than a leasehold one. The many reasons for this are explained at length in “Successful Property Letting – How to Make Money in Buy to Let” and I don’t have the time to go into them here.

But I do actually have two leasehold properties. Both meet my criteria of being self contained (in small blocks, no messy noisy hallways, with long leases.)

One of them is an ex local authority block which is a mix of owners and council tenants. The freeholder and block manager is the arms length housing management organisation (or ALMO) appointed by the local borough council.

This ALMO organisation is about the very worst organisation I have ever come across for repeatedly lousy customer service sustained over a number of years. They are really only good at sending glossy leaflets and doing surveys asking leaseholders about how they are performing (though are clearly incapable of reading or acting on the results.)

If I have a problem with this property, I now go straight to the Chief Executive for action, because their staff are too incompetent and anyway, always seem to be off sick, on holiday or on training courses. But, being quasi government, since they are appointed by our council, at least they are not out to rip me off with silly demands and inflated service charges.

Rip off Freeholder

My other leasehold property is managed by an active management company appointed by residents, which is always  good as it gives the leaseholder more control and it means we can fire contractors if they are not up to scratch. It’s a shame we can’t also fire the freeholder.

The freeholder is a private company and is actually the one I refer to in “Successful Property Letting.” (Sorry, I do not give their name even in the book.)

Not for the first time, I have had another demand for money from them for “Consent to Let” fees, which they are not entitled to make.

They have asked for £260 for a “Retrospective License for Consenting to Let.” This is because I had been found guilty by them of the hideous misdemeanour of not telling them I was letting my property. (I guess these Sherlock Holmes’s figured this out as my correspondence address is different from the property address.)

The trouble (for them) is they have no right to collect these fees as there is no provision in the lease for requesting “consent to let.”

Leaseholder Fight Back

So, I have just sent them this letter

Dear Sirs,

Further to my telecon with “Sarah” re my let property at XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I have told you before on at least 2 previous occasions that there is no requirement in the lease for me to ask you for “Consent to Let” on this property.

A quick search on Google reveals that this is a mistake you just cannot seem to help making and which is annoying many other people too, and which has been posted about on some well known consumer focused personal finance websites.

To put it right, I am hereby formally asking you, by 15th October 2011, to write to all leaseholders in the development (I will check to see you have done this because I know a few other owners) to tell them all that your letter was sent out in error and that you will repay any and all sums that you have collected for this consent for which you know full well you were not entitled to make a demand for.

Please let me know what action you will be taking. Yours sincerely David Lawrenson

Deafening Silence

That was sent three days ago and so far there has been complete silence from them (which was exactly what happened the last two times they tried this on.)

The question I have is this: How many landlords don’t check their lease and just pay up. And even if there is provision in the lease, how many are daft enough not to challenge the outrageous levels of these charges.

Well, we know 900 of you currently read this blog every day of every week  and some of you will have been victims of this con trick.  So can you help as I think this is something the press would be pretty interested in?

If you have had a similar experience and especially if you would like to expose it in the press, please drop me an email and get in touch. (I may get back in touch with you or simply pass your details straight onto a journalist who will pick up the story. I regret I cannot reply to every email. If you do not wish a journalist to contact you, please do say so in the email.)

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