Two long leasehold flats in two different blocks in London. Two elderly tenants in dispute nominally with their respective management companies, but in reality with their neighbours, who would bear the cost of any dispute through increased service charges.
Marjorie had lived in her flat for almost fifty years. After Marjorie’s husband died her daughter, an interior designer, persuaded her to refurbish the flat including replacing the carpeting throughout with modern wooden floors. Marjorie’s neighbours in the flat below complained that they could now hear Marjorie moving round the flat, particularly at night when Marjorie, who suffered from insomnia, got up repeatedly to make cups of tea. They complained to the management company and, after several letters had been ignored, it threatened proceedings for nuisance and an injunction requiring Marjorie to replace carpeting throughout the flat. Marjorie’s daughter was adamant that there could be no nuisance from noise because she had specified the very latest sound insulation in the wooden flooring. Privately she believed that Gladys, who lived downstairs and had been a good friend, was jealous of her mother’s smart modern flat and was just trying to cause trouble.
Raymond had lived in his flat, the top flat in his block, for over 50 years and was increasingly frail although very forthright in his views. He had a running dispute with the management company about the maintenance of the lift which was frequently out of action. He felt vindicated when it had to be replaced. He then turned his attention to the heating system, saying that his radiators and water were lukewarm at best and the boiler clearly needed replacing. He obtained a report from an expert which supported his claims that there was inadequate hot water in the bathroom and that some of the radiators did not achieve adequate heat. Armed with that report he started proceedings against the management company, requiring them to replace the boiler and would not countenance any other solution. The management company believed that the problem was largely caused by Raymond’s failure to bleed his radiators and the solution lay with him.
Two years and many tens of thousands of costs later, Raymond was still, he said, in a cold flat with no hot water. At a residents’ meeting at which the estimate of legal costs to trial caused widespread dismay, a new resident who had just joined the management committee suggested mediation. Raymond reluctantly agreed to give it a try.