Footballer falls foul of ‘rentcharge’

A professional footballer, who purchased a freehold home on a private estate as a cash buyer, has been pursued for a ‘rentcharge’ by the owners of the estate.

Facing eviction

Zeli Ismail, a midfielder for Bury, has been threatened with eviction over the little-known charges that result from a clause in the deeds to his home.

In December 2017, he received a letter demanding interest charges of £112.51 and £3.61 as well as £240 for two letters to be issued and £480 in solicitor’s fees, a total charge of £836.12.

He was informed that he had just 21 days to settle the bill or the client “intends to either re-enter the property or grant a lease in respect of the property,” adding that doing so would have “a detrimental impact on the value of your property and may result in our client applying for a possession order, and, ultimately, obtaining an eviction in respect of the property.”

Ismail was also told that failure to pay could leave him liable for the managing agent’s costs of £3,000 to £5,000.

The charges related to the costs of maintaining grass verges and other parts of the estate, a practice dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries and generally entailing charges of between £2 and £10 a year.

New rentcharges were prohibited in most circumstances in 1977. Despite this, it is still permitted in the case of estates. However, this can cause legal problems for those unaware of what an estate rentcharge is.

Using a ‘deed of transfer’, ‘rentowners,’ the people to whom rentcharges are paid, have extensive powers to recover monies due, which can include taking possession of the property if funds are not paid within 40 days.

Rentowners statements

SDL Property Management, the rentowner in Ismail’s case, said: “When Mr Ismail bought this property in 2015 we were not made aware by him, his solicitors, the seller’s solicitors or the seller, that the property had been sold. For this reason, the request for payment of the estate charge was sent and addressed to the previous owner.

“After receiving no response, a Land Registry search was obtained and we discovered the property had been sold. We then sent the invoice to Mr Ismail but received no response.

“After sending two further reminders with no responses, we followed standard procedure and instructed our solicitors to collect the debt on our behalf.

“Eviction was only mentioned as an absolute last resort and this was made clear in the letter. There was no ‘threat to evict’ – it is our responsibility to tell debtors the consequences of them failing to pay.”

SDL later rescinded the solicitor’s fees as a gesture of goodwill.

Getting property law advice

If you need guidance with any aspect of property law, please contact the head of the Property team Michael Stock or visit our property law service page.

Link: Crying foul: footballer told he could lose his house over unpaid bill

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