The Leaseholders of an apartment had concerns relating to an incident that had occurred and the issues that subsequently arose.
On the day of the incident, the Leaseholders visited the foyer of the building to complain about a billboard that they say had been placed there on instruction of the Management Company’s director. The billboard advertised apartments to let inside their building and directed interested parties to enquire within, with arrows pointing towards the entrance of the building.
The Leaseholders were not happy with the signs directing members of the public to a communal area of the building, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic. They considered this to be a cause for concern that could impact the health and safety of the residents of the entire building.
The Leaseholders raised their concerns with the Management Company. Unfortunately, the Management Company did not deal with the Leaseholders’ concerns empathetically and, instead, their response was perceived as abusive. The Leaseholders then raised a formal complaint which the Management Company did not resolve causing the dispute to be escalated to TPO.
Photographs were provided by the Leaseholders of the day of the incident, which showed a billboard situated directly outside of the building’s entrance. The billboard encouraged people to enquire within about apartments to let and the arrows on the billboard directed people to the doors of the building.
Although the sign advertised the services of the company which owned the apartment blocks, it was placed there by the Management Company who were responsible for the communal areas of the building. The Management Company pointed out that the concierge service was for the benefit of the building as a whole, not just the residential units, and that whilst the commercial and retail units were closed it was necessary to indicate to visitors where to go.
It was understandable that the Leaseholders were concerned that speculative enquiries from members of the public may have brought an increased risk of the spread of coronavirus. However, the incident occurred at an early point in the pandemic where the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s guidance on home moves had not yet been issued.
Overall, it was accepted that signs were necessary to direct anyone who had legitimate reasons to visit the building and it would not have been possible to produce alternative signage at short notice.
Furthermore, it was difficult to conclude that the Leaseholders were actually placed at an increased risk of infection from coronavirus because it was unlikely that potential tenants would have been visiting the premises in person, in light of the government stay at home guidance which was in force at that point. In addition, the Management Company confirmed that no enquiries were received at the concierge’s desk during this period.
The concerns of the Leaseholders were valid, but the sign was in place during a period of complete lockdown and, as such, there should have been no visitors in any event.
That said, the manner in which the Management Company dealt with the Leaseholders’ initial concerns had not been conducive to resolving the matter, as it had not address their reasonable and understandable concerns. This had caused the Leaseholders to escalate their complaint, which was supported to that extent.