Party wall notice to a ghost?

21 Nov 2021
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United Kingdom
I am (trying to anyway) building a loft conversion. This is a (not very upmarket) terrace in London so with a freeholder on one side and a house split into 2 flats on the other.

I have signed agreements with 2 of these and have a PWA on the way with the 3rd and they all seem on good terms.

However in the process of that PWA the surveyor has discovered that I should have served a notice to the freeholder of the flats.

This is where the excitement begins.

The title says the freeholder is a company that dissolved several years ago (apparently their only director is dead). It turns out my neighbours are paying ground rent to another company who claim to be the freeholder, but is involved in some multi year process to try to actually formally achieve ownership of the title.

The surveyors claim I should serve a PWN to the dissolved company (except dissolved companies have no property rights) and then assign another surveyor to act on their behalf. This seems obviously wrong to me and the PWN and subsequent award would be worthless.

Reading the act myself it seems to suggest I should stick a PWN on the property addressed to "the owner" which seems extremely pointless and to generally offer no protection to anyone.

If I was feeling like setting lots of money on fire it seems like there are actually 4 people I could go and get PWAs for. The dissolved company, the mystery not the owner company, the crown estate and the treasury solicitor.

So what do I do?

I'd rather not delay this project by another 2 months as the risk to going ahead when no one knows who the actual owner is seems minimal. Especially as getting an injunction on a property you don't hold the title to seems unlikely.

Also it sounds like my neighbours should get a solicitor and stop paying ground rent immediately? Yikes.
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Years ago I owned a leasehold maisonette in London. The lease had about 80 years to run and I paid I think £25 ground rent a year to the freeholder. I discovered that the freeholder didn't really exist - I've no idea who actually cashed the cheques, so I stopped paying them. Nothing happened.

More seriously the freeholder allegedly had insurance for the two maisonettes, but I could get no response to my request for a copy of the policy so I stopped paying that too and took out my own insurance.
Adjoining owners are those in possession of the building or land, those who receive rent, those who are in contract to purchase or those who exert some sort of significant control over the land.

You can't serve notice on a dissolved company. Such notice will be invalid
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Nothing will happen.
That company collecting the rent is only interested in the rent.
One day by way of adverse possession they will legally become the landlords, unless the leaseholders stop paying ground rent.

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