Exchanges with my Guernsey freeholder

3 Nov

My house, bought in 1990, is leasehold at an annual ground rent of £3.26. The freeholder I knew as Mrs Anston. Every few years I’d write to a PO Box to ask how much I owed, get a handwritten reply, and send a cheque for the arrears plus two or three years. It was by today’s standards a cumbersome but endearingly quaint carry-on.

(Fifteen years ago I had my one and only chat with Mrs A, on a phone number long forgotten. I’d toyed with buying the freehold. She named her price: £590 – with me to pay her solicitor’s fees as well as my own. Having close to 700 years left on that peppercorn lease, and better things to do with my hard earned, my interest evaporated.)

Last month I wrote again, for the first time in quite a while. Both that sole exposure to her voice fifteen years ago, and those Dickensianly handwritten invoices, suggested that Mrs A could give me – a mere soixante-neuf  – a decade or two. I therefore opted, for the first time in our thirty-one years of twice-a-decade correspondence, to use recorded delivery. Good call. On Tuesday, a fortnight after sending, my letter was returned unopened and marked, “unable to deliver”.

(£2.25 I shan’t see again. That’s 251.9172 days worth of ground rent, FFS!)

I went to online Land Registry to learn that the freehold had passed, possibly because Mrs A now sleeps with the fishes, to Y2K Company Ltd, based in Guernsey …

… and that correspondence should be c/o a Leicester based outfit, Rexhaven Ltd. The latter’s site provided both an email and terrestrial address.

I mean no slight on the people of Guernsey. They suffered in WW2 and I’m sure their fisherfolk, dairy maids, B & B hosts and others doing Really Existing Business on the island are splendid souls. But firms trading in the UK while located in Guernsey can give a chap the pip. An NHS at breaking point comes to mind. Ditto schools holding jumble sales to buy textbooks … streets unswept … library doors closed for what remains of eternity … 1 The hackles rise. A venal pong ​enters the nasal corridor. One senses the nearness of what Grocer Ted called the unacceptable face of capitalism.

But we Brits are nothing if not civil. My email to Rexhaven was courtesy incarnate:

From: Philip Roddis
Date: Tue, Nov 2, 2021 at 1:57 PM
Subject: Ground rent payments
To: <enquiries@rexhaven.co.uk>

Dear Rexhaven

I hope you can help me. The Land Registry tells me the freehold of a property whose leasehold I own has transferred to Y2K Company Ltd. And that correspondence to Y2K is c/o Rexhaven.

I need:

  • An up to date bill for ground rent in respect of my property.
  • Payment details so I can set up a standing order for future ground rent payments.

If you can supply this information I will be grateful. Failing that, are you able to forward my email to the appropriate recipient?

A little over two hours later came the reply:

From: Ruth X
Date: Tue, Nov 2, 2021 at 4:08 PM
Subject: Re: Ground rent payments
To: Philip Roddis

Dear Mr Roddis,

Rexhaven are the Managing Agents for your Landlord The Y2K Company Ltd.

Unfortunately Rexhaven do not hold  up to date ground rent information so we would have to ask Y2K for a ground rent statement to know what is outstanding, they charge a fee of £120 for a statement.[My emphasis]

You can not set up standing order because they only issue ground rent demands every few years and they do not allow me to give out their bank account details because it’s difficult to keep track otherwise if someone pays money in without using a reference.

Recall that ground rent of £3.26 per annum. Call me obsessive but I did the sums. £120 equates to thirty-six years, two hundred and ninety-five days, fourteen hours, one minute and twenty-three-point-five-two-seconds worth.

Did my Guernsey gangsters, while sticking two fingers at HMRC, have me over a firkin? I slept on it. Next day I found a site called Leasehold Advisory Service. In an online form I summarised the sitch. More rapidly even than Ruth X’s, their reply was with me within the hour:

From: Leasehold Advisory Service <info@lease-advice.org>
Date: Wed, Nov 3, 2021 at 2:28 PM
Subject: Your enquiry
To: Philip Roddis

Dear Mr Roddis,

Ground rent is only payable by a leaseholder if it is demanded by the freeholder in the prescribed format under the Commonhold & Leasehold Reform Act 2002. You have a right not to pay unless and until it is demanded in this format. I have included a link below to what the prescribed form of rent demand should look like.

https://www.lease-advice.org/lease-glossary/rent-demand/

It is not up to you to chase the freeholder for a rent demand and you can wait for them to demand it. A freeholder can go back a maximum of 6 years for arrears of ground rent.

I would, therefore, suggest that you just wait for the freeholder, or their agents, to demand the ground rent when they choose to do so. Until then you are under no legal obligation to pay .

Three cheers for Leaseholder Advisory Service! After thanking my legal eagle, a bloke named Simon, and giving stellar feedback plus triple WOW! rating with brass knobs via a second form, I replied to Ruth of Rexhaven:

From: Philip Roddis
Date: Wed, Nov 3, 2021 at 3:20 PM
Subject: Re: Ground rent payments
To: Ruth X

Thank you for your prompt reply.

I respectfully decline the invitation to pay £120 for the privilege of having an inherited creditor tell me how much I owe, and how to pay it. Especially when this is many, many times the sum owed!

Ground rent is only payable by a leaseholder when demanded by the freeholder in the prescribed format under the Commonhold & Leasehold Act 2002.

My postal address is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Since Rexhaven, hence Y2K, now have two ways of contacting me, I await such a demand as specified in the Act.

One hundred and seventy minutes later, Ruth of Rexhaven came back with this butter-wouldn’t reply:

From: Ruth X
Date: Wed, Nov 3, 2021 at 6:10 PM
Subject: [my property]
To: Philip Roddis

Dear Mr Roddis,

No problem, I have forwarded your postal address to The Y2K Company Ltd so that they have the correct details for when they next issue ground demands.

I pass no judgment on Ruth of Rexhaven. Who knows what personal circs, what hungry mouths to feed or other literal or metaphoric guns to the head have conspired to give this poor woman no other recourse than to walk so luciferous a career path?

*

  1. I don’t put an NHS on its uppers (with privatisation hailed as saviour) and all the rest down to tax dodgers. I’m sufficiently onboard with MMT to reject household budget analogies for the UK economy as a product mainly of economic illiteracy but in some cases of mendacity. This has nothing to do with the law of value. That criticism from some Marxists confuses apples with oranges; fiscal and monetary policy, in a state issuing a fiat currency, with value in the economy. But tax does matter, if not for the reasons usually given. (Reasons that echo the near universal myth of a fiat currency issuer collecting taxes and/or ‘borrowing’ in order to spend: as opposed to creating money as needed, then taxing sufficiently to curb inflation.)

9 Replies to “Exchanges with my Guernsey freeholder

  1. This is brilliant, well done! I’ve been in the same position for a few years, chasing them and worried they’ll hit me with arrears/throw me out – I have now saved this information and am very grateful, thank you. Great blog btw 🙂

  2. Only £3.26 pa – we have to pay the outrageous sum of £4.07 and we’re seriously in danger of our lease running out: it is an 800 year lease granted in 1863 so we’ve already used 158/800 of the available time. Despite this the company who own the lease want to charge us something like £600 to buy the freehold. Even in these straitened times our Building Society will give us more than £4.07 interest pa on a deposit of £600. I always insist on paying by cheque rather than online in the (vain) hope that they will eventually realise that it costs them more than £4.07 in administration time to process.

    • £4.07 pa? WTF?!? Have you considered upping house insurance, waiting a month or two for appearances’ sake, then engineering a du Maurier’s Rebecca style solution?

      I love the Freeborn Englishman’s Awkward Squad method of payment. Suspect though that the freeholder’s admin overhead, in detecting and somehow addressing that of processing your cheques, will be the greater of the two. Suspect also that unprofitability of collecting such peppercorn rents is factored into the calcs of the outfits buying up freeholds. Hence the try-on of my Guernsey friends. As with 419 and other scams, legal or not, even if only one in a hundred takes the bait it’ll repay the minimal effort on their part.

      Prepare for the worst Tony. Steel yourself for the prospect of living out your days parting each year with that extortionate four-hundred-and-seven pence.

      Or tonight dream of Manderley …

      • Similar experience when selling my house in Sheffield a few years ago with extortionate bills for providing proof of up to date payment of ground rate. My conveyancing solicitor said that the whole system was just a money making scam (unlike our principled parliamentary lobbyists of course); unfortunately wasn’t able to wait for demand as buyer’s solicitor was demanding proof. Nothing new though. It reminded me of our family being forced out of our rented London flat when I was seven (1959) after the Tories’ Rent Act allowed the landlord to triple the rent overnight. My mum fought it for over a year as the residents’ action group dwindled and she was branded a Communist agitator. The judge who finally awarded in favour of the landlord said he did so very reluctantly but the Rent Act (links to Rackmanism which may ring bells) meant to protect people was so full of holes that “you could drive a coach and horses through it”. Plus ca change.

        • Sorry to hear of your house sale blues Paul. It strikes me that, assuming your “a few years ago” to be later than 2002, the leeriest buyer (and mortgage lender) would be content with: (a) proof of a sufficiently long leasehold; (b) a likely ground rent whose maximum multiplier of six would be no great amount, and (c) the onus on the freeholder to collect it. Armed with this info, “extortionate bills for providing proof of up to date payment of ground rate” should be met with “nice try, pal”.

          Sterling work by your mum. Always better to fight and lose than accept the unacceptable. And yes, Rachmanism does indeed ring bells.

  3. Additional thought about leaseholds: on a guided tour of St Mary’s in the Scilly Isles our guide commented that all the properties were leasehold to the esteemed Duchy of Cornwall, except that more recently, some in a low lying bit of the island were being sold with the freehold. This said bit of island probably going to be under water in a few year’s time as sea levels rise. Good to know that our dear Welsh Prince has his finger on the pulse of the consequences of global warming.

      • On the subject of this particular member of the Saxe Coburg Gotha Mafia Family here he is at this weeks bash in Glasgow waxing lyrical on the theme that only the filthy rich trillionnaires rather than democratic Government are the only route to salvation:

        https://www.rt.com/uk/539117-prince-charles-cop26-climate-war/

        “Here we need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector. With trillions at its disposal, far beyond global GDP and with the greatest respect beyond even the governments of the world’s leaders, it offers the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition.”

        Noblese Oblige indeed.

        These are the same people described here in this piece from 2018 on Medium, reproduced in the Guardian, New York Times et al :

        https://onezero.medium.com/survival-of-the-richest-9ef6cddd0cc1

        “That’s when it hit me: At least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology. Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the aging process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape……

        ……”They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it. They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves — especially if they can’t get a seat on the rocket to Mars.”

        And this follow up piece by the same author two years later:

        https://onezero.medium.com/the-privileged-have-entered-their-escape-pods-4706b4893af7

        “He [Timothy Leary] went on to explain his core problem with the Media Lab and the digital universe these technology pioneers were envisioning: “They want to recreate the womb.” As Leary the psychologist saw it, the boys building our digital future were developing technology to simulate the ideal woman — the one their mothers could never be. Unlike their human mothers, a predictive algorithm could anticipate their every need in advance and deliver it directly, removing every trace of friction and longing. These guys would be able to float in their virtual bubbles — what the Media Lab called “artificial ecology” — and never have to face the messy, harsh reality demanded of people living in a real world with women and people of color and even those with differing views.”

        That last bit represents probably the most succinct description of what has morphed into ‘woke’ culture one is likely to encounter. Little wonder that ‘culture’ enjoys so much institutional support.

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