August 8, 2022

Dispatches reveals a host of leasehold fiddles on TV

The long awaited Dispatches documentary last night, Property Nightmare: The Truth About Leasehold, was an excellent and welcome overview on the issues facing leaseholders.

The best part of it was the report on the plight of those leaseholders who have bought ex-local authority properties but where the block is still run by the council.

Profligate, ruinous expenditure by councils on property maintenance resulted in one pensioner on the Tremlett Grove Estate, north London, receiving a bill for £28,000, with no warning at all. This stupid bullying was more or less what one would have expected from a council – Islington –  but the revelation that many councils get kick-backs from contractors after a certain level of expenditure was shocking.

This is obviously a green light to abuse and over-expenditure. One hopes that this is stopped immediately – shouldn’t Shapps order an audit? – and Leasehold Knowledge Partnership will do its bit in the naming and shaming.

It was also gratifying to see our old favourite Charter Quay, in Kingston, Surrey, figure prominently. Here four Leasehold Valuation Tribunal rulings have won back £500,000 for the residents from their landlord, the Tchenguiz.

Dispatches should be congratulated for its open-eyed depiction of Vincent Tchenguiz, who some in the media – the Financial Times, for example ¬– seem to regard as a saintly victim (though he was wrongly arrested). Here viewers were reminded that he was a landlord, whose associated companies provided a string of services at Charter Quay at inflated costs.

The section on the semi-derelict Earlham House, in Norwich, revealed that landlords Bellgold shared offices and directors with Hackwood Homes Limited, who had been appointed to refurbish the 60 flats. The local media appear to have taken this up.

Peverel made its inevitable appearance presiding over a truly squalid block of flats in Hounslow – believed to be Madison Heights – and awarding itself repeated handsome fee increases for doing so.

Although no longer owned by the Tchenguiz, Peverel still manages the family’s 200,000 freeholds, which are up for sale, and has close dealings with them. If new owners don’t like the management company and it gets the boot, Peverel will lose more than half its business.

This is worth bearing in mind when Janet Entwistle, the new chief executive, bangs on about serving leaseholder customers – they are pretty marginal compared with her freeholder employers. But this was not an issue raised on Dispatches.

Finally, there was an interview with Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister who dumped Labour’s protections of leaseholder funds when he came to office and is the single obstacle to leasehold regulation and reform.

He said he would be looking “very, very carefully” at leasehold abuses.

But the interview did not explore Shapps’ perverse and isolated stance on leasehold reform, which he has rejected on grounds of costs for landlords. This is untrue as the British Property Federation supports regulation. The interview was the weakest part of the programme and has generated criticism on Twitter.

Nonetheless, Dispatches deserves praise for raising this issue and presenting a raft of information in an accessible fashion. It has hugely helped the cause of those of us who want to reform this truly crap form of property tenure, and expose those who exploit its many opportunities to cheat people.

Comments

  1. I watched with great sadness the programme “Dispatches” , featuring the abuses of unregulated management. We are managed by Peverel, owned previously by the Tchenguiz bros. and now who knows. Our situation is bad enough, but to think we call ourselves a democracy, and dare sell it to the world. Those peoples lives, and ours are blighted through no fault of their own, and there is no redress.

    We cannot change our manager because of the freehold / leasehold
    layout. A situation similar to the site in Burford, Oxfordshire, where the the Prime Minister waved a magic wand and told Peverel, they were not wanted!

    The problems here I won’t go into, suffice it to say, we pay too much, over £2,000, and the service is poor, tradespeople do a poor job, in-house contracting, sweetheart deals, you called it “fiddling”. And now under the guise of a Residents Charter, visible bullying.

    Is there any change in sight? Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, under the care and guidance of the late Don Heady, exposed this fiasco and started the ball rolling. Please help us and others by getting the changes we need. Help give people like our development, the freedom to change management company, at least. And then watch people power!

    Best to you, Elaine Simpson

  2. The failure to ask Shapps about his being David Cameron’s fund raiser and the six figure donations to the Conservative Party by the Tchenguiz Family Trust was disappointing. I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering if Mr Shapps and Mr Tchenguiz know each other socially (“country suppers” or whatever).

  3. The C4 programme showed us there is serious mismanagement of the “service charge accounts” and many leaseholders are feeling the pain inflicted by the leasehold tenure system.
    The leaseholders at Charter Quay thro’ sheer persistance were successful over 3 years in claiming back 0.5Mil at the LVT from their Managing Agent in overcharged service charge fees. What about the overcharging on many thousands of other sites managed by this same agent. This has happened since there is no Government regulation of “unscrupulous agents” put in charge of spending leaseholder’s service charge money.
    Grant Shapps was seen in the programme saying he would “name and shame councils” which engaged in leasehold abuse, But this is not enough, as Housing Minister with the powers of Government , he should be legislating to stop the abuse by those companies put in charge of handling service charge accounts.