August 2, 2021

ARHM: Are we really that bad?

Leasehold: Are we really that bad? was the promising title of the Winter Seminar of the Association of Retirement Housing Managers (ARHM) held in Westminster this afternoon.

But it quickly became clear that ARHM was not going to engage in a bout of self-criticism. Indeed, there was no sign from the organisation’s hierarchy that there was any need for criticism at all.

Leaseholders demanding right to manage, trouble-making internet sites (presumably this one), a few unfortunate LVT and Land Tribunal rulings where the leaseholders actually won, and some flimsy reports on leasehold by the likes of the London Assembly and CentreForum, were the only clouds on a seemingly  clear sky.

Baroness [Sally] Greengross, the president of ARHM and a former head of Age Concern, cheerfully related her unfortunate “barrack-room lawyer” remark in the Lords earlier this year. She had “got into a lot of difficulty” with that one, she told her sympathetic audience, who included Peverel Retirement’s Keith Edgar and Michelle Banks, the chief executive of the Association of Residential Managing Agents. Amid knowing smiles, Greengross referred again to service charge challenges by “the most effective later-life lawyers”. But she did not dwell on the grievances, which she clearly believes are relatively trivial.

Her views could be summarised as: retirement leasehold is working pretty well and six million older people would consider it were it not for the “stigma” of retirement living.

The collapsed capital values, the predominance of a single freeholder (Tchenguiz) and of a single managing agent (Peverel), the inter-company commissions, loaded charges, unfair exit and sub-letting fees and the rest … to all these well publicised and substantiated grievances, Baroness Greengross had no comment at all. This is in spite of the fact that she had attended, but made no comment, at the Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation meeting with MPs on October 30.

But Greengross was very eager to help the ARHM membership in the House of Lords, and urged members to get in touch as “I don’t like being an inactive president”. Retirement leaseholders can expect very little from this former chief executive of Age Concern.

A more pugnacious and entertaining defence of the status quo came from Jeff Platt, chief executive of the Institute of Residential Property Management, which is involved in training managing agents. However, he was speaking in a personal capacity.

He gave a withering dismissal of both the London Assembly and CentreForum reports on leasehold, which he thought were “politically motivated”.

He noted that right to manage was increasing in retirement leasehold, but was strongly critical of it being a solution in the vast majority of cases.

He listed at length the perils of right to manage: debts on the service charges, confusion of responsibility in complex sites with existing management companies, the perils of managing agents offering superficially attractive deals to take the business away from the existing managing agent. “Right to manage is only the solution in a small number of self-contained flats,” he declared.

Although Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation believes every leasehold block in the country should achieve right to manage and is campaigning to make the criteria easier, we would be happy to publish Platt’s extended views on the subject. RTM is the only means of breaking the freeholder and his chosen managing agent’s hold over you without having to prove fault. Few if any residents in retirement development had ambitions to run their own blocks. They were driven to do so to break free from people who were cheating them.

Comments

  1. MICHAEL HOLLANDS says

    What a pity that the ARHM cannot acknowledge its own failures. It is takes a position similar to Peverel and the Newspaper industry. They must know full well their failures, I had dealings with them 8 years ago and found them absolutely useless. They need an independant body to oversee them with legal backing.
    Some of the companies who finance them are the root cause of the problems suffered by the elderly residents. They advertise this style of living as secure and stressfree ( just what us elderly are looking for ) and then proceed to extract from them every penny they can get for sometimes a very poor service.
    It is a pity that Sally Greengross who must have overseen valuble work on behalf of the elderly when she headed Age Concern should then as President of ARHM support the actions of such an unhelpful organization.
    Age concern promote the following
    1 Respect for the Ageing
    2 To improve later life
    3 Equal citizens with equal rights
    In her current position there is so much more she could do to make the lives of residents much more pleasurable and respect the aims of Age Concern. She obviously does not live in one of the complexes managed by the companies who abuse their position.
    How insulting it is for her to mock her elderly customers as ” barrack room lawyers” and “later life lawyers”
    I am sure they do not enjoy the stress of having to undertake these tasks, it would not be necessary for them to do so if the Retirement Managers produced what they promise.
    I would have thought that Sally from her time in the position of Chair of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing would have been well aware of the stress and anguish that can be caused through the unfair treatment they receive.
    There are many elderly like myself who are in a situation where we require this style of living.
    I want a secure and stressfree life and have no wish to be a “barrack room lawyer”.
    So come on Sally ,pull your finger out , put the ARHM in order and control those Managers who abuse.
    That will make us all happy and make your life easier.

  2. Yes, good article Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, and thanks Michael. I know Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation had previously run a story on ARMA and asked the question on how many members had been removed because of bad conduct. If my memory serves me right, I think the answer was zero. It would be interesting to ask the same question of ARHM?