October 26, 2020

Leaseholder Association Pt 2 (Originally headlined: I don’t like our RTM, but what can I do?)

This article initially addressed this reader’s question (below), but evolved into an extended discussion of the Leaseholder Association again.

This was the initiative of the Leaseholder Association itself, with replies from website readers, rather than of Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation.

Hopefully discussion of the Leaseholder Association can now cease until there is something of relevance to say.

The reader’s question was:

My name is XXX, aged 75, and I live in a McCarthy and Stone private retirement apartment block in xxx [the north of England].

We operate a RTM system and approx 2 years ago we changed from Peverel to a local Management Company, [a local estate agency chain].

Our board think they are wonderful as they gave a cheaper price, but it is difficult to have face-to-face contact. They put a desk diary in reception for people who have concerns.

I am working behind the scenes to try and find out both the board and the management company can be monitored to check if they are doing things as they should.

All organisations that i read about ie ARHM etc say the company you choose should be members of one of the organisations.

The estate agency chain are members of RICS, at a general meeting they told residents these organisations are nothing: all you do is send a cheque and you can join; they are no good.

Is this the case? I source all my information from these organisations.

My question is AM I WASTING MY TIME? I think Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation is fantastic. Can you guide me to the right web site, our board members think they are running their own semi.

regards

XXX

Dear XXX,

Yes, you and your neighbours should ensure that you keep and eye on the management and money of your site. I am not sure about the property managers: if they are responding helpfully to the directors, it is not reasonable that they have to repeat themselves to each and every resident as well.

I think you need to consider what you are actually complaining about.

You site has achieved right to manage and you have broken your connection between Peverel and your freeholder, who is almost certainly the Tchenguiz Family Trust via Proxima or Fairhold.

This is because McCarthy and Stone flogged all their freeholds to this outfit (and suffered the reputational consequences as a result). Obtaining RTM is a very desirable outcome, and should be replicated across the country at all similar sites.

Essentially, your issue is that you don’t think your neighbours who are the directors of the RTM are doing a very good job, by running the site like “their own semi”. The solution is to win the support of other residents and become a director yourself.

Working behind the scenes to undermine the directors is not a laudable standpoint, although keeping a good eye on directors and management to ensure the site is being properly managed is another matter.

The residents have democratic control of the site; unless this process is being abused (as can happen), you should accept it. Democratic control is actually the wrong way of looking at this: you leaseholders are the principal financial investors in this site (the freehold is probably worth no more than one flat) and therefore you should make the decisions.

Retirement sites that opt for RTM routinely save 20 per cent of their running costs. Most importantly you spend your money when you think it is necessary to do so, rather than Peverel dreaming up jobs for itself.

The estate agents are quite right to dismiss the ARHM, and as members of the RICS there is no point at all in them joining this discredited trade body (which is mainly funded by Peverel).

There are many examples of sites having disputes with their RTM, reported here and on www.leaseholdknowledge.com. A recent example concerns Quadrangle House in east London, where the residents are finally regaining control of their own RTM and site (it would appear). More here

Hope this helps. Best wishes for 2015.

Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation / LKP

Comments

  1. Hi XXX

    I have to agree with Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, in that there is no advantage to any company joining ARHM.
    As any management agents being a member of that organisation would not tempt me to appoint them just because they have those initials on their letter headed paper. In fact it would have the opposite effect for me and I would avoid companies that are a member of ARMH like the plague.
    From my experience should you make a compalint to ARMH about one of their members it will fall on deaf ears.

    I also am unsure of what it is you wish to discuss with the MA that run your site. Have you checked to see if any of your co owners are unhappy about the services that are being provided? Could it be that you are unsure of what you should be getting for your management fees.

    Why don’t you ring the MA up and ask them to visit you on site so that you can air any questions/concerns face to face.

    You are entitled to see every invoice that is spent on your behalf and you can make an appointment to call into their offices and view/copy any invoices paid from the management fund for your development.

    Try this method first to see if your concerns are justified.

    • “You are entitled to see every invoice that is spent on your behalf and you can make an appointment to call into their offices and view/copy any invoices paid from the management fund for your development.”

      That is incorrect in the terms that it has been posted.

      Members of an RTM have no such right in company law, the right exists for a leaseholder only if first a certificate is prepared for expenses under section 21 LTA 1985 and then the right to inspect under section 22 kicks in.

      • AM
        Isn’t that I implied? Anyone can see for themselves what their rights are if they look on the Government/LEASE websites.

        “Quote”

        Summary of service charges accounts

        Leaseholders have a statutory right to seek a summary of the service charge account from the landlord under section 21 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The request must be in writing and can be sent direct to the landlord or to the managing agent. It can require a summary of the ‘relevant costs in relation to the service charges payable’ in respect of the last accounting year, or where accounts are not kept by accounting years, the past 12 months preceding the request.

        Where a landlord has received such a demand he must provide the summary within one month (or within six months of the end of the 12-month accounting period, whichever is the later).

        The summary should show:

        how the costs relate to the service charge demand, or if they will be included in a later demand;
        any items for which the landlord did not receive a demand for payment during the accounting period;
        any items for which a demand was received and for which no payment was made during the accounting period;
        any items for which a demand was received and for which payment was made during the accounting period; and
        whether any of the costs relate to works for which an improvement grant has been or is to be paid.
        Where the service charge is payable by the leaseholders of more than four dwellings, the summary must be certified by a qualified accountant as a fair summary and sufficiently supported by accounts, receipts and other documents produced to the accountant. Where the landlord is a public sector body, one of their officers who is a qualified accountant may certify the summary, but otherwise the accountant must be independent of your landlord.
        —————————————————————————————————-

        Rights to further information (inspecting accounts and receipts)

        As well as receiving the summary, the leaseholder has the right under section 22 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to inspect documents relating to his service charge as a follow-up to provide more detail on the summary. Within a period of six months from receipt of the summary, the service charge payer (or the secretary of a recognised tenants’ association) may write to the landlord requiring him to allow access to and inspection of the accounts, receipts and any other documents relevant to the service charge information in the summary and to provide facilities for them to be copied.

        Facilities for inspection must be provided within one month of the request, and must be available for a period of two months.

        There are further rights of investigation of service charges and management provided by the right to a management audit under the Leasehold Reform Act 1993 and the right to appoint a surveyor under the Housing Act 1996. Full details of those rights are set out in our leaflet ‘Appointment of a Surveyor, Management Audits’.

        —————————————————————————

        Failure to provide a summary or allow access to further information

        Where a landlord fails without reasonable excuse to comply with either a request for a summary or to inspect supporting documents they commit a summary offence on conviction and are liable for a fine of up to £2,500 (level 4 on the standard scale). The local housing authority has the power to bring proceedings, or they can be brought by the leaseholder. Local authorities are exempt from prosecution.

        “Unquote”

        • Sadly no, notice has to be given to comply with section 21 and then again in section 22 as you need one to do the other.

  2. Michael Hollands says

    From personal experience making a complaint to the ARHM about one of their members would be dealt with as follows.
    1 Every effort will be made to ensure that your particular complaint is not covered by the conditions of their Charter. You will then be advised to engage your own solicitor at your own cost to sort it out.
    2 If the complaint is covered then every effort will be made to excuse the offence. For example the complaint procedure has not be followed correctly, the management are already making efforts to correct the problem or the complaint is not serious enough to require ARHM .action.
    3 If the offence is serious then they sit down with the offending company and discuss ways of improving their systems to avoid a repeat.
    None of these will be much use to the complainant.
    It may be still worth making a complaint, if only to prevent the ARHM boast that they only receive a handful of them each year.

  3. Michael Epstein says

    XXX,
    Also please bear in mind that your apartment now has a 15%-20% premium over the equivalent Peverel managed apartments. It does seem that your managing agents comments concerning the worth of ARHM is a reason to trust them. If you take the advice given by Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation and Karen, I would think you can relax.

  4. Well far from not being laudable it is natural for retired secret agent triple XXX to enquire behind the scenes… 🙂

    But “Scheriouschly”, what is it that you are concerned about? The first and best step is of course to stand for election as a director at the next AGM, though it helps to present your involvement as positive rather than out of suspicions…

    Putting a diary in reception is a bit 1972 in an age of twitter and emails and texts, and I can assure you the RICS rules require that they must respond. They also require that you follow the firm’s compulsory client complaints procedure and then progress to the ombudsman or if it is a case of negligence or a breach of the rules, to the RICS.

    A typical mistake is “they gave a cheaper price” which is of course a misunderstanding. The service charge that you pay is to the RTM, even if via the agents client account and consists of two things 1 having agreed their role and reasonability their fee for management services, and 2 everything else – the scope and cost of each supplier or services being agreed or delegated or a mix of the two between board and agent. If the fee is competitive and they perform you may find that the cleaners are not or the insurance cheaper elsewhere and the handyman darn good value.

    In terms of administration though it’s a little out of date the RICS authored approved code of practice 2nd ed ( 3rd due out soon) gives a board outline but in terms of services it’s a question of agreeing the service levels and ensuring that the board and agent regularly check on and re tender services, bearing in mind the bar is fair and reasonable not cheapest or fastest or shiniest. Common problems tend to be failing to value the building for insurance purposes fail to have fire and common parts risk assessments, and report as dormant when an RTM cannot be dormant, and forget to report on service charges as the lease requires not simply using RTM accounts or a I & E with a section 21 certificate.

    Be careful too that if sister or associated companies are used that as long as comparable quotes are obtained you can see that the cost is fair. While Peveral et al do this on a massive scale designed to keep the cash in house, in the mainstream cross ownership does exist but that doesn’t mean it is not good value as poor service an d overpricing reflects badly on the agent if its their cleaner or surveyors, and they lose the instruction, as they serve at your pleasure, not that of a BVI freeholder.

  5. This is typical of the situation where support and advice from The Leaseholder Association (LA) could assist. With its impartial remit The LA will be in a position to bring together the parties to try to resolve any disputes regardless of their trade body membership. In my time at Age UK I learned that a great deal of dissatisfaction arises from lack of communication between managers and leaseholders along with misunderstandings about the role of organisations such as the ARHM. As appears to be the case here, few leaseholders seem to know that a manager’s ARHM membership gives retired leaseholders the protection of its Government Approved Code of Practice, which requires regular consultation and in Section 3 sets out clearly the services a leaseholder should expect from a managing agent.

    • Michael Hollands says

      Mark
      It is good to hear that this is an issue that the Leaseholders Association could help with.
      When they have solved a few problems like this their image will improve amongst the doubters.
      You are correct in what you say about the ARHM code of practice but they never seem to put it into practice.
      Their own members are far more important to them than those they claim to protect.
      Can this new Leaseholders Association persuade them to act more fairly.

    • Mark,

      While nobody disputes the ARHM code says the right things the problem is it has no teeth. The new code will be even better but as you know we announced here recently that Peverel who is by far and away the largest ARHM member has applied for their retirement section to become an ARMA member and apply to become ARMA-Q accredited. (ARMA being an entirely separate group to ARHM)

      The entirely toothless ARHM code found Peverel not guilty of any disciplinary action on the collusive tendering findings, took no action on the sale of house managers flats. In contrast, took no action on insurance commissions. Somewhat perversely it did choose to expel the well regarded Bob Bessell and his firm Retirement Security becasue he seems to have had the decency to help out an ARHM staff member in a disciplinary action.

      If ARHM were not in enough problems already it now faces another group called ARCO (Association of Retirement Community Operators) where a number of the better providers choose to work together rather than become ARHM members.

      However the important thing to note is that the RICS code applies to all agents and since this one is a RICS member they are also required to apply the RICS bye laws as AM mentions.

      Rather than suggest this is another example of a leaseholder not understanding their rights I would much rather see it as a problem of an agent and the RTM board perhaps not communicating as effectively as they might.

      • Michael Hollands says

        We have all now had the opportunity to give our views on the merits of the Leaseholders Association and the performance of the ARHM. It is to the credit of this website that these views and criticisms can be expressed.
        I think we all agree that the ARHM Code which Mark helped to revise is good , but the way the ARHM implement it is abysmal.
        We have itemised all the ARHM failures since their formation in 1991.
        Can those of us who care, all now try to move forward in harmony to help those at the receiving end.
        Bickering amongst ourselves will not help them.

    • Michael Epstein says

      Mark S,
      So the leaseholder pays out his £150 and asks the Leaseholder Association to intervene. The RTM company tell the Leaseholder Association to “Get Stuffed” Then what?

      • Michael Hollands says

        I would hope that Mark has an answer to this question publishes it on this website.
        There were quite a few influential bodies at the Leaseholders Association launch and I would hope that some would cooperate to give it “teeth” so this situation does not occur.

        • Michael Epstein says

          Michael Hollands,
          It is true as you say that there were quite a few influential bodies at the Leaseholder Association launch. Unfortunately the bodies that have done the most to champion the cause of abused leaseholders (Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation and LKP) had their invite withdrawn.

          • Michael Hollands says

            Michael
            That was not how I remember it.
            I think that Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation/LKP were finally invited but did not attend, and then heavily critisiced the event the next day.
            On the Leaseholder Assoc website it states their aims
            Providing information at the point of sale
            Ongoing advice and support throughout your property ownership
            Impartial complaints advice service
            Independent conflict resolution for prompt determinations
            These are very laudable even though one may think unobtainable.
            I would like to see some support for this to give it a chance to succeed.
            Perhaps Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation/LKP could get involved.
            I cannot see the likes of ARMA, ARHM or the Government ever coming up with a satisfactory solution. And it appears that Leasehold will survive for many years to come.
            Maybe the time has come for less confrontation and more cooperation with those who are prepared to help our cause.
            Otherwise the battle will be waging in ten years time when many of us will be gone.

            Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation adds: Mr Hollands is incorrect. The Leaseholder Association held its meeting on November 18 and we reported it on December 10, not the day after. At this point, the LA was circulating its leaflet – which it later demanded that Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation remove from the website – to MPs and others as part of its lobbying exercise.

            Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation / LKP has excellent relations with the current housing experts at AgeUK; the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations; the Campaign Against Residential Leasehold; the Brighton and Hove Leaseholder Association and plenty of other representative organisations, not least numerous RTMs /RMCs across the country.

  6. Hi XXX,

    1. You own a leasehold flat and are bound by the terms of a lease (probably for 99 years from first sale date of flat. Under the terms of the lease , you are required to pay annual ground rent to the freeholder company and service charge to the managing agent who are appointed by the freeholder to administer the service charge account. The lease is a legally binding contract issued by the freeholder. The setting up of a RTM company by a “majority of leaseholders in the block” is the legal mechanism to take over the powers of the freeholder to collect the service charges under the lease. So you should accept the RTM company is in your best interests.

    2. The management of the service charge account and correct spending of service charge money is usually written into your lease. So read up the terms of your lease.

    3. What is the unexpired years term remaining on your lease ? To protect the value of your premium in the leasehold flat , you must seek a statutory lease extension before the unexpired term falls below 80 years.

  7. The Leaseholder Association (LA) is unable to comment on the effectiveness of the ARHM in general but we would regard the ARHM code as helpful as in my 15 years experience members did comply with the code in the vast majority of cases. I was on the working group that helped to revise the ARHM code and following consultation with a group of leaseholders we put forward many amendments that should enhance best practice in the retirement leasehold sector and benefit leaseholders.
    Dispute resolution relies upon both parties actively participating and although we expect that most landlords and managers will recognise its benefits we cannot guarantee that they will all accept this. In these cases The LA is likely to support its members by helping them to take their complaint through the complaint procedure and if all else fails assist with an application to a First Tier Tribunal. I should also clarify that leaseholders joining The LA will pay £150 for membership that will last for the entire period they own their flat and they would receive advice and support on other occasions and not be paying just for one intervention.
    The LA has been set up with the remit of providing information and advice at an early stage and helping to resolve disputes in a timely and cost-effective manner. This has been recognised by all of the organisations The LA has consulted and I greatly appreciate the view of Mr Hollands that Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation/LKP might embrace the aims of The LA and give it time to prove the effectiveness of its procedures. My experience suggests that although there will always be a minority of landlords who will reject any attempts to resolve matters by negotiation, most will agree that less confrontation and more cooperation is the way forward as an alternative to other time-consuming and costly actions, such as application to FTT.

    • Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation says

      Dear Mark,

      I don’t know why your new organisation is shy of commenting on the ARHM’s effectiveness. Silence and complacency to established failings have been the bane of this sector.

      I am also surprised that you found the ARHM code helpful over the past 15 or so years. Our experience of the ARHM and, more importantly, the application of its code is far less enthusiastic.

      Fifteen years covers the second big flare-up over retirement housing (the first involving Peverel and McCarthy and Stone in the late 1980s resulted in a failed £800,000 legal action against the Daily Telegraph in 1991. More here)

      The code has been in place during the Tchenguiz ownership of retirement freeholds; his purchase in 2006 and loss in 2011 of Peverel; the issue of exit fees: the OFT inquiry that concluded that they were “likely” to be an unfair contract term, and developers dropping these clauses from leases; the mining of value from retirement properties, particularly the issuing to the freeholder of new leases on house managers’ flats (mainly in 2009); the use of these assets by Peverel, which inexplicably owns a portfolio of these flats, to borrow £25m from RBS to finance its resurrection in 2012; the copying by housing associations such as Hanover and Anchor of the same dubious practice; another OFT investigation this time into the Peverel / Cirrus collusive tendering scandal; numerous property tribunal cases and numerous parliamentary interventions, during which all the leading companies in the retirement leasehold sector have been named.

      Clearly, the ARHM code has failed to avoid controversies in this sector. More worrying is that it has failed to ensure that there is any serious redress. The Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation archive is here

      The ARHM showed the greatest possible reluctance to comment on the activities of its primary funder Peverel over the truly disgraceful price-fixing scandal. It took seven months to do nothing but monitor the situation.

      You will forgive me, but most fair-minded people were pretty sickened to learn that the ARHM annual conference last year – only months after the OFT had ruled on its price-fixing – was sponsored by the perpetrator Cirrus.

      Then there was the ludicrous expulsion from the ARHM of Bob Bessell’s highly regarded Retirement Security and the ARHM’s rejection of Alex Ellison’s complaint about the proposed sale of a house manager’s flat

      Here is something else to ponder:

      “There are limited penalties for ignoring the ARHM code and few resources to follow up complaints. Ignoring the code can offer some managing agents the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by hiding or misrepresenting their costs …

      “The proposals to bring together the ARHM code with ARMA-Q, may improve clarity and help to promote best practice across the sector, but on its own this is unlikely to be enough.

      “Although key players in the sector have made a public commitment to follow best practice, older leaseholders should not have to rely on the good will of the industry to be assured of best practice and guaranteed standards.”

      Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation being strident and exaggerating? No, this is, in fact, the AgeUK submission to the Competition and Markets Authority last September.

      The AgeUK and Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation analyses of the retirement leasehold sector are now identical, and widely accepted. Perhaps this is something the LA needs to take on board, as it evolves its role.

    • Michael Hollands says

      I am pleased that I have at last found somebody who shares my point of view.
      There must be a silent majority out there who would agree.
      I think in the short term we must accept that Leasehold will be around for sometime yet, and do what we can to improve the conditions for all those who live under it now.
      This may mean working together with companies and organisations we sometime disagree with but it is the current crop of retired leaseholders who are the priority and they need help now.
      When this is accomplished we can then turn to erradicating Leasehold completely and putting the rogue or uncooperative companies out of business.
      I appreciate that helpful organisations like Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation/LKP have done a lot to help those who have approached them.
      But there are many thousands out there who also deserve fairer treatment. They will not have heard of Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation and many do not even know they are treated unfairly.
      We should cooperate together to help them

  8. Michael Epstein says

    Mark S,
    Thank you for your clarifications. Now everyone is aware that membership applies only to the length of time a property is owned. So another £150 is payable each time a leaseholder purchases a new property.
    With regard to a situation in which a freeholder/managing agent refuses to deal with the Leaseholder Association, it has been noted that you can only say the Leaseholder Association is likely to support its members. This is not entirely a convincing position and does not inspire confidence. Certainly such a position can hold no legal liability on the leaseholder Association.
    However laudable the aims of the leaseholder Association are, is it not the case that something similar has been attempted?
    I refer to Property Law Services Ltd, which regrettably was struck off and dissolved on the 6/05/2014.
    Perhaps Mark, you would care to publish the name of the director of this company?

  9. To be fair to the ARHM Code, its doesn’t help that the whole collusive tendering investigation was carried out by a lot of toothless idiots. Sorry I meant toothless organisation. The whole point of an ACOP is that it sets out an objective standard against which issues are measured, but when the ARHM face the commercial reality of disciplining its single largest contributor, self regulation cannot work. When many in the sector ask for statutory regulation and more toothless idiots at the GLA round table a few years back mumble on , you realise that government has no hunger it for either ( though their toothless idiots would get it horribly wrong anyway), mumble in response what a lot of “duckwits” and go and do something worthwhile, and fee earning..

    And that folks is a large part of the reason why “established”recognised”failings” persist- its not commercially viable to do so and the government doesn’t understand the sector. So those of us in and around the sector try and do as much as we can building our own reputation and service levels speaks for itself.

  10. Michael Epstein says

    AM,
    Like you i was to say the least left totally dissatisfied by the OFT investigation.
    However, i can see that there may well have been massive consequences for any other result.
    It should not be forgotten that had the investigation been conducted as it should at the appropriate time, that it would not have been Peverel that would have collapsed. it would have triggered a whole series of company defaults, affecting both Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz companies.
    At a time the banks were in serious trouble a multi billion default on over valued property assets could not be risked.

    • The OFT failed carry out the Price Fixing Scams as I believe as instructed by the Government?

      The investigation was not to rock the boat, as the Church of England and prominent Money People who run the country, using politicians as their voice, to ensure that the Rich Stay Rich?

      It is no surprise that the OFT was closed down straight after the resulting report allowed Cirrus/Peverel to be immune from prosecution.

      The Banks as AM stated were caught with their hands tied?

  11. Yes it is true as it has ever been, owe the bank a £1M and they have you by the man vegetables, Owe the bank £10M and you have them by theirs. And, as we found out, they had a firm hold on everyone’s all the time.

  12. AM

    I do feel that you have your finger on the pulse and I thank you, for the way you post comments.

    I feel that I have a lot to understand regarding Managing Agents especially Peverel Management Services Ltd who trade as Peverel Retirement.

    Note Peverel Retirement Ltd I believe no longer trades, am I correct?

    • Michael Epstein says

      And not to be confused with FirstPort Retirement either?
      Whoever they are, I understand they have applied to become members of ARMA.
      Given the number of legacy issues facing the company, it must be a tough decision for ARMA as to whether they are suitable to be made members(bearing in mind the revulsion that will be felt by other members if Peverel Retirement/FirstPort Retirement are admitted?)
      Faced with such a dilemma, what to do if you are Sue Petri, a member of the Governance Board at ARMA?
      She of course heads up Business Development at Peverel/Firstport.
      And if it were to be decided (correctly) not to admit Peverel Retirement / FirstPort, how could ARMA continue to have a senior member of a company declined membership sitting on their Governance Board?

  13. The LA has always intended that membership would be attached to the ownership of a particular property and other organisations have indicated that a one-off fee of £150 represents good value for ongoing access to advice, support and more significantly conflict resolution. When I said that the LA is likely to support its members in cases where the landlord rejects dispute resolution, we might wish to take expert opinion on whether it might be effective to refer the case to a First Tier Tribunal as this may not be appropriate in all of the cases we deal with.
    We appreciate that Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation/LKP have made achievements but we also agree with the view of Mr Hollands that co-operation with other organisations is necessary to resolve disputes as it is apparent that adversarial methods are usually costly, time-consuming and often prove to be ineffective.
    The LA is a new organisation and we would not wish to focus upon historical matters with respect to the ARHM and my previous comments related only to the ARHM code of practice. Whilst I would not wish to deny there have been occasions when ARHM members have not followed the code it still proved helpful in carrying out my previous role. It has not been mentioned that failure to comply with the good practice contents of the ARHM code will be admissible as evidence at a First Tier Tribunal. Chapter 6.0 of the ARHM code which covers the ‘variation of special services’ allows leaseholders in the retirement sector a level of consultation not afforded to other leaseholders.
    The LA is fully aware of the submission Age UK made to the Competition and Markets Authority and whilst we realise they were critical of self-regulation I note one of their key points was ‘an alternative dispute resolution and redress service is now required to give better legal and financial protection to older leaseholders who wish to make a complaint’. We would hope that The LA will soon be in a position to provide this service.

    • Michael Epstein says

      Mark S,
      In the interests of leaseholders, would you not agree that by forming a Residents Association, leaseholders could join the Federation Of Private Residents Associations, a well respected body with a proven track record.
      Would you agree that they appear to cover most of the ground the Leaseholder Association covers and would you further agree that for a development of 100 flats a one off joining fee of £50 for Resident Associations plus an annual fee of £160 (£1.60 per leaseholder) represents great value for money.
      I note you did not feel able to answer the question i posed regarding the ” struck off and dissolved”
      Property Law Services Ltd. For those that might be wondering who the director of Property Law Services was at the time of the strike off and dissolution, it was Mr Dudley Joiner.
      One final question if i may Mark? Before teaming up with the Leaseholder Association did you research how many dissolved companies Mr Dudley Joiner has been involved in?

      • I am compelled to post a formal response to the libelous and defamatory remarks posted by Michael Epstein in response to the earlier post by my colleague Mark Spall. Mark did not respond because it was not within his knowledge.

        On 6th January Mr Epstein posted the following comment: –

        ”However laudable the aims of the leaseholder Association are, is it not the case that something similar has been attempted?
I refer to Property Law Services Ltd, which regrettably was struck off and dissolved on the 6/05/2014.
Perhaps Mark, you would care to publish the name of the director of this company?”

        On 8th January Mr Epstein posted a further comment: –

        “I note you did not feel able to answer the question i posed regarding the ” struck off and dissolved”
Property Law Services Ltd. For those that might be wondering who the director of Property Law Services was at the time of the strike off and dissolution, it was Mr Dudley Joiner.
One final question if i may Mark? Before teaming up with the Leaseholder Association did you research how many dissolved companies Mr Dudley Joiner has been involved in?”

        By these express statements Mr Epstein is alleging that Property Law Services was set up to meet the same aims as The Leaseholder Association. By further unambiguous statement he implies that PLS failed in these aims and as a consequence was struck off. This is wholly untrue and utterly without foundation. It is nothing but irresponsible supposition on Mr Epstein’s part and appears to be a naïve attempt to cast a slur on my name and inflict damage on the companies I am associated with.

        For the record and in order to mitigate the damage his comments have caused I can confirm that Property Law Services Limited was incorporated for a totally different purpose completely unrelated to the aims of The Leaseholder Association. At the time PLS was formed the RTMF was considering establishing in-house legal services to handle Right to Manage cases and PLS was incorporated for this purpose. In the event RTMF decided to engage the services of an outside law firm rather than do it in-house, a fact well known to Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation and its regular readers. As a consequence PLS was no longer required and was dissolved. There is nothing sinister or insidious about this whatsoever.

        Likewise, there is nothing sinister or underhand in the fact that I have from time to time incorporated and become the founding director of companies that stayed dormant and were subsequently dissolved. This is often done to safeguard a trade name or to have a shelf company available for a new enterprise. I have done this in a few instances for family and friends. Mr Epstein has presented these facts in a disparaging manner with the clear implication that this is evidence of impropriety. It is total nonsense.

        There is nothing to hide and Mr Epstein’s comments in this regard are completely irrelevant to the proposed activities of The Leaseholder Association. He should withdraw the remarks and apologize.

        Furthermore, as the secondary publisher of the offensive statements Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation should take action to remove the defamatory posts and publish an apology.

        I welcome freedom of the press and free speech but such freedoms are not unbridled. The media have a responsibility to ensure that material put into the public domain is ‘fair comment’ and/or ‘justifiable’. The comments made by Mr Epstein are neither.

        Since drafting this response I have read a post made yesterday by ‘Mystified’ who states: – “LA seems to be created by former or current People connected with the medieval rip off Leasehold…” This further example of the unfair, unjustifiable and defamatory comments which the Administrator of this website seems prepared to allow.

        Unlike many contributors to this website, I try to avoid personal slurs. I sign my posts in my own name and anyone taking issue with me can contact me via my company websites and by email. Those readers with genuine questions about the aims and objectives of The Leaseholder Association may contact me at djoiner@lease-assn.org.

        • Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation says

          Dear Dudley,

          It is understandable that leaseholders will have strong feelings about the formation of a national association nominally founded on their behalf by a commercial practitioner in the sector.

          But I urge everyone discussing this subject to be courteous, temperate and fair-minded.

          Contrary to your expressed view, you yourself have not been faultless in this regard describing Martin Boyd on LKP on December 17 as “unethical”, “irresponsible and “discourteous” regarding the reporting of the LEASE stakeholders’ forum in October. I am unaware of anyone else present who shares these views. I am sure that you will agree that your comments were wrong and ill-judged.

          To address your points.

          I find it difficult to deal with an allegation of defamation where the complainant has taken the decision to re-publish the words complained about.

          The comment by “Mystified” was an expression of outrage concerning leasehold, and those who work in the sector, rather than defamatory to you. Although so generalised as to be unserious, I accept that part of the comment may have been seen as potentially rude and I have redacted it.

          I have written to the author asking him/her to consider an apology / clarification, as I do not believe offence was intended to you or Mr Spall.

          In accordance with the Defamation Act 2013 guidelines for website publishers on unsolicited comments, I have also contacted Michael Epstein to ask if he wishes to modify any of his statements.

          I do not see that it was improper of Mr Epstein to ask questions regarding your former company Property Law Services.

          Could you confirm whether or not what he said was accurate:

          1/ Do you accept that you were the sole director when Property Law Services was struck off the register at Companies House;

          2/ That you are linked to a number of companies that have been struck off;

          3/ That you accept that both Property Law Services Ltd and the Leaseholder Association Ltd were/are both intended to provide advice on matters related to leasehold law.

          You state that the former was to provide in-house legal advice on leasehold matters for the benefit of your customers with the Right To Manage Federation (and, perhaps, Team Property Management or Harrison Property Management Ltd).

          The Leaseholder Association, on the other hand, is intended to provide more general advice on matters related to leasehold law for customers of that company, who may or may not be customers of the RTMF.

          If these points are accepted then Mr Epstein appears to have had some grounds for thinking that the two companies have similar roles.

          In any case, he addressed this as a question rather than assertion or an express statement that they were the same:

          “However laudable the aims of the leaseholder Association are, is it not the case that something similar has been attempted? I refer to Property Law Services Ltd, which regrettably was struck off and dissolved on the 6/05/2014.”

          We are unsure why you consider this remark defamatory, and why this matter is not concluded with your published explanation on this website of the different roles of Property Law Services and the Leaseholder Association.

          Finally, it must be noted that it was your company’s decision to promote its commercial services through a comment on this particular post on Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, which does not concern the Leaseholder Association. That gave rise to Mr Epstein asking his question. Indeed, this decision gave rise to the extended discussion here on the LA by several people, some of which is unwelcome to you.

          In the future, if you wish to assert that a post has been inaccurate or defamatory to you or your businesses you may like to follow the more normal practice of writing to us rather than submitting it as a post blog, where you publicly repeat the remarks that you claim are unacceptable.

          Yours sincerely,

          Sebastian O’Kelly
          Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation

          • Dear Sebastian,

            I welcome your call for courtesy, temperance and fair-mindedness although these are not characteristics I would readily associate with many Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation articles of the past.

            As you are well aware my remarks about Martin Boyd were addressed very specifically to his premature disclosure of events at the LEASE stakeholder forum, before LEASE had published its formal minutes. The critical report, which appeared on Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation on 13th October 2014, cherry-picked contributors’ comments and mentioned some by name. I think my remarks were fair and justified in this regard. As you know the protocols were reviewed at the subsequent Forum meeting, when it was formally agreed that meetings would operate according to the ‘Chatham House Rule’, which provides anonymity to participants to encourage openness and sharing of information.

            With regard to my complaint about the offensive remarks of Michael Epstein, I chose to reference the offending remarks in my response to make my complaint clear in order to limit the damage his remarks caused. If I knew Mr Epstein’s address, or indeed if he is using his own name on the posts, I would have written to him directly.

            I will answer your direct questions (which I repeat for ease of reference): –

            1/ Do you accept that you were the sole director when Property Law Services was struck off the register at Companies House;

            Yes, I confirm I was the sole director, but I question the relevance and the implication made by Mr Epstein, and now you, that there is something sinister about this simple fact. PLS was a shell company. In the event it did not trade, it was not required and was struck off the register. Why is that an issue?

            2/ That you are linked to a number of companies that have been struck off;

            I have already stated I have been a director of a few shell companies, formed for various reasons, but which did not trade. Most of these were formed for third parties. For example I formed a limited company to hold the intellectual property and ownership of Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation when Melissa Briggs handed it over and walked away. That company was subsequently dissolved after we assigned the website over to you. Is that sinister? Is it relevant to the Leaseholder Association? I don’t think so! If you think it is please explain?

            3/ That you accept that both Property Law Services Ltd and the Leaseholder Association Ltd were/are both intended to provide advice on matters related to leasehold law.

            An elephant and a mouse share common features insofar as they both have four legs, two eyes and a tail, but one would hardly call them similar! I have already made it clear that PLS was formed to employ an in-house solicitor to undertake RTM legal work in the tribunals for RTMF. This was shelved when the legal work was contracted to an independent law firm. PLS was NOT formed to provide advice on leasehold law, or to provide any form of advice or conciliation service.

            The disparaging comment posted by Mr Epstein in relation to The Leaseholder Association, that ‘something similar had been attempted before’ is wholly incorrect and is defamatory. That is the elephant in the room, or the mouse in the room, as Mr Epstein may say!

            I note you are aware of your obligations under the ‘The Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations 2013’ and I await the response from Mr Epstein.

            Yours sincerely
            Dudley Joiner
            The Leaseholder Association

          • Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation says

            Dear Dudley,

            The key point is that you claim Michael Epstein’s comment is defamatory (ie unlawful) and that Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation has also defamed you / your companies by publishing it.

            You have asked for the removal of Mr Epstein’s comments and have demanded an apology from Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation for publishing them.

            But then you re-published the comments that were unacceptable, and offered your explanation.

            The offending statement from Mr Epstein is in the form of a question, and you have answered it. He appeared to believe a former company of yours performed a similar role to the Leaseholders Association and was closed, and asked whether this was the case. You have publicly responded and explained why the two are different.

            I think that this was the right way of dealing with this, and it is concluded.

            I cannot see the inference in Mr Epstein’s comments that the opening and closing of companies is “sinister”, which you seem to believe is present here. Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation has certainly expressed no such view.

            I have to be alert to you maintaining that we are publishing something that is defamatory.

            If we hear nothing further from Mr Epstein, I have to take the decision whether or not to remove his comments.

            But if I do so, we will be in the ridiculous position that you have yourself re-published them. In other words, I remove Mr Epstein’s original offending remarks, but retain your repetition of them.

            This is an interesting conundrum, and you have not at this stage demanded the removal of your own comment on the grounds that it is defamatory.

            I do not think that it is possible in law to defame yourself, but perhaps you can. If so, you then have to demonstrate some material damage and if successful, one must suppose, compensate yourself.

            Martin Boyd replies below separately to the criticisms you make of his conduct in connection with the LEASE stakeholder meeting in October.

            Yours sincerely,

            Sebastian O’Kelly
            Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation

          • Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation says

            From Martin Boyd

            Dear Dudley,

            I will respond specifically to your comments relating to the LEASE meeting and your earlier assertions concerning me on this matter. Your position is entirely incorrect . You say:

            “As you are well aware my remarks about Martin Boyd were addressed very specifically to his premature disclosure of events at the LEASE stakeholder forum, before LEASE had published its formal minutes. The critical report, which appeared on Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation on 13th October 2014, cherry-picked contributors’ comments and mentioned some by name. I think my remarks were fair and justified in this regard. As you know the protocols were reviewed at the subsequent Forum meeting, when it was formally agreed that meetings would operate according to the ‘Chatham House Rule’, which provides anonymity to participants to encourage openness and sharing of information.”

            1) If you check with the LEASE chief executive you will find that he raised this issue of disclosure at the start of the December meeting. This did not result from our report, as you believe, but followed on directly from a point raised by a delegate during the October meeting.

            2) There was, and is, no restriction on us reporting the meeting or “cherry picking” as you disparagingly choose to call it. You should know that the Chatham House rules impose no restriction on reporting, only on attributing comment to named individuals without permission.

            Do you think we did not check with those people who were named to establish that they were happy with the comments to be attributed?

            There is no basis for you to claim that our report was “premature”, or that we had breached Chatham rules. I would remind you Chatham was intended to allow more information into the public domain, not to keep information hidden.

            3) Should you choose to check with the LEASE chief executive, you will find that he suggests the future meetings operate as follows:

            Chatham will apply until the minutes are agreed, at which point they will be published with comments appropriately attributed.

            We have also suggested that LEASE posts the notes of the meeting once agreed on their own web site to allow others to review.

            Again, this has no impact on the reporting of our views of the meeting.

            The key difference in any report we produce is that ours is available to the general public rather than restricted to members of a particular group or interest within the sector.

            4) Despite your assertion that the report we produced went so far as to “sensationalise”, and was “disrespectful ” and I was “unethical” and “irresponsible and “discourteous”, you are simply wrong.

            You clearly do not understand the work that goes into producing the articles we provide on this site.

            The reason the site does not have to remove articles, or apologise for what we write, is because we do a lot more checking than you seem to have done in this instance.

            I leave others to speculate why there are so many in this sector who are still so keen to keep issues behind closed doors.

            The only people normally excluded are, of course, the leaseholders who never get to see information.

            Maybe that’s why the CMA was so critical about the lack of information available to leaseholders?

            Yours sincerely,

            Martin Boyd,
            Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation / LKP

    • Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation says

      Dear Mark,

      Well, it will be interesting to discover whether AgeUK reckons the LA fits the bill.

      Where we see a serious (and non-commercial) mediation service is with the property tribunal. This service has expanded rapidly since the autumn, halting a number of cases heading for full hearings. We will shortly consider it in more depth, as it seems a really promising improvement in leasehold dispute resolution.

      We have, in fact, reported that failure to comply with the ARHM code can be cited in the property tribunal.

      In this service charge dispute at Elim Court the ARHM code was the basis of criticism of Y and Y Management, which is not actually a member of the ARHM, but a member of ARMA.

      So, it wasn’t strictly fair that Y and Y got pasted on these grounds but, frankly, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving outfit.

      Obviously, we are sceptical that a further layer of behind-closed-doors insiderism, as offered by the LA, is much of an advance in leasehold dispute resolution.

      But we are glad that you are now engaging with leaseholders about this organisation, which you first unveiled solely to commercial interests in the sector and then lobbied MPs etc. Your proprietor was indignant that Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation reported the LA at a moment that was not of his choosing.

      While Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation is happy to continue to host your now extensive comments, it might be more helpful to readers if these weren’t at the bottom of this post that is actually about something else.

      It might be time to re-consider publication of your account of your launch meeting – or an updated version – which you insisted that we remove. It is, after all, the LA in your own words. Please get in touch if this is a suggestion that would be welcome.

      Best wishes,

      Sebastian
      Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation

      • Michael Hollands says

        To be fair to a Mark S his first post on this article was to say that the Leaseholders Association could help solve the very problem this article publicised. This is the problem suffered by xxx aged 75.
        All his subsequent comments came as a result of the Leaseholders Association then being criticised by others. So he was entitled to come back in their defence

        • As you will have seen nobody is stopping Mark posting.

          As Sebastian points out, it’s pity the LA wants to pick and choose when people are allowed to comment on what they say.

          The comments here are about the ways problems could be solved. LKP/Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation spends most of its time trying to help leaseholders with these problems behind the scenes, in the same way most of what we do trying to change the law sits out of sight for most of the time.

          • Michael Hollands says

            The difference being that the a Leaseholders Association do not criticise Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation/LKP on their website.
            I think we have got to accept that there are others who are trying to help even if we do not fully agree with their methods. Nobody is forced to join and pay £150, although I am sure they will if it proves to be successful.
            Why not give them a chance, wish them the best of luck, and concentrate our efforts and criticisms on those who either cause the abuses or those who are not prepared to help out.

            Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation writes: Actually, they have criticised Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation on this website, and are free to do so, as is anyone.

            If it shows signs of life, this is a subject that we will doubtless re-address.

      • Age UK was represented at the LA Preview and expressed enthusiasm about The Leaseholder Association (LA). I will be meeting with them later this month to discuss how we might work together. I was surprised to read that Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation has excellent relations with the current ‘housing experts’ at Age UK. I am informed that although the Policy Team at Age UK responds to documents such as the CMA report there is no longer a specialist leasehold housing adviser in the Age UK national office since the restructure in the summer of 2013.
        I should emphasise that the LA is not operating for commercial gain and that we will be providing a wide range of conflict resolution, which will cover many cases that do not reach a First Tier Tribunal. With regard to your comment on ‘behind closed doors insiderism’ I should re-iterate that regardless of the view Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation has of some landlords, co-operation with other organisations is usually necessary to resolve disputes. Adversarial and ‘non-cooperative’ methods are usually costly, time-consuming and often ineffective. The LA will be an organisation accountable to its membership who will be leaseholders and it will be their choice if details of their cases remain anonymous. I should clarify that The LA would hope to publish details of cases without revealing the identities of the parties unless all parties agree otherwise.
        I am surprised to see your comment that The LA first unveiled the service solely to commercial interests in the sector as this is incorrect. There were a variety of organisations represented who are not commercial such as LEASE and Age UK and there were also individual leaseholder representatives present. I should also emphasise that the meeting you refer to was a preview of The LA and not a launch, which is apparent, as we have not begun accepting membership yet.
        I should conclude by saying that I have only made posts in response to inaccurate and misleading comments about The LA. When it is operational The LA will be posting news items on its own website and if any of your readers have questions, information or feedback they may send this to info@lease-assn.org.

  14. THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN REDACTED JAN 9 17.06

    I have made my position absolutely clear. No more new bodies [REDACTED …] the Leaseholders adding yet
    an other fee £150 (and more) on top of the so called Service Charge.

    In the past a Leaseholder contacted Age UK and ARMA and got nowhere no help what so ever.
    Could it be due to their connection at the time with Peverel Group of Companies?

    [REDACTED …] Leasehold which should have been abolished hundreds of years ago.
    Instead everybody should aim to get rid off the Leasehold. A new business and job opportunities on the back of the Leaseholders a new little earner.

    LA serves nobody sound like a secret Service just prolonging suffering of the Leaseholders. We are not children although it seems that’s the way we are treated.
    Unbelievable that still in the 21st Century anybody wish to continue with the Leasehold by adding an other expense.

    It is very disappointing and disheartening after all the disgraceful treatments of many Leaseholders there don’t seems to any solution or end in sight soon. What a shame!!!

  15. Michael Hollands says

    It’s time to stop all this bickering, both parties should now put on a united front.
    Our mutual enemies must be laughing their socks off when they read some of this.

  16. Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation says

    From Michael Hollands

    Surely anyone has the right to defend themselves on this website if they are being criticised here.
    The original post from Mark was to say that his organisation could give help to someone like XXX aged 75.
    I always assumed that his comment was in part trying to be helpful and in part in defence of some of the criticism they have received.
    It would be best to now put all this nonsense to bed concentrate on our main mission.

  17. In reply to Martin Boyd’s letter posted at 2.24pm on 12th January 15.

    Dear Martin,

    I apologize if my comments were misplaced or too harsh. We do seem to have a different understanding on some matters. For example, I do not agree with you that the Chatham House Rule was intended to allow more information into the public domain. To the contrary my view is that it was intended to increase openness of discussion and address the real possibility that attendees might feel disinclined to offer comments or information where there is a likelihood the comments would subsequently appear in the public domain via the media etc.

    I do not agree with your policy that everything should be made public. As a matter of general principle I personally believe more benefit can flow from the various forums hosted within the industry if participants can feel free to comment without having to think about every word they say for fear it will get reported on a website somewhere. That is not lack of transparency or ‘insiderism’. It is simply a practical working protocol that is more conducive to achieving productive debate and accords with the premise that the outcome of discussions is usually more important than the content.

    I understand a lot of work goes into preparing articles. My complaint is that in a number of recent articles featuring RTMF and The Leaseholder Association there is evidence of not ‘checking’ facts before their publication. Where facts are incorrectly stated we will continue to seek corrections and when appropriate request redactions and/or apologies.

    Kind regards,
    Dudley

  18. Dear Sebastian / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation

    It is unfortunate that you have denied the ability to post a specific reply to your comment posted at 1.56pm today.

    The conclusions you have drawn are manifestly absurd. Of course I cannot defame myself. However, I have a duty to mitigate any damage caused by the offensive remarks. It is worthy of note that Mr Epstein, who up until now has been quite loquacious on this topic, is now noticeably silent!

    Sincerely
    Dudley Joiner

    • Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation says

      Dear Dudley,

      You are incorrect. I have not denied your ability to reply.

      This particular website limits the number of replies that can be attached to comments unless you apply them manually as the administrator of the site.

      If you wish the above comment to go directly below mine above, I will have to place it as “Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation” and indicate that the reply is from you. Message me privately if you wish me to do this. Otherwise, your reply stays here.

      The absurdity of your claim that we have defamed you is of your making. Were I to address your claim that Mr Epstein’s comments published were defamatory, you would have to indicate what you want me to do about the comment that you yourself published, which repeats the offensive words and responds to them.

      Mr Epstein’s questions concerning your affairs were unwelcome to you and I can see that they might be irritating, but nothing more.

      Yours sincerely,

      Sebastian O’Kelly
      Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation

    • Michael Epstein says

      Dudley,
      Pay attention old chap! You posted at 9.33PM that i was “now noticeably silent” Clearly you did not read my post at 8.43 AM?
      A couple of questions if i may? According to Mark S, “It will be the leaseholder’s choice if details of their cases remain anonymous” Does that mean the Freeholder/Managing Agent has no choice?
      According to Mark S, “I should emphasise that the leaseholder Association is not operating for commercial gain” So tell me, if you get 10,000 leaseholders on board at £150 a pop, what happens to the £1.5m revenue that would generate if you are not operating for commercial gain?
      And if I accept the Leaseholder Association is not operating for commercial gain, what appears to have got you so rattled?
      I do wish to express my gratitude for your use of the word “Loquacious” With your kind permission i would like to use it in my next game of scrabble!
      Finally, you mention the Elephant and the Mouse. Did you know that their is less than a 2.43% difference in the DNA between the two?

  19. Michael,

    My apologies, I did not see your post of 8.43AM. To answer your questions: –

    Both parties would have to agree on the terms of confidentiality. The process is outcome driven and for the benefit of the parties themselves, not the public at large. If a conflict can resolved between the parties, and confidentiality is the key, that is in the leaseholder’s interests.

    The LA is a not-for-profit organization but it needs to make an operating surplus to succeed. The £1.5m revenue you mention is pretty close the the sum the tax-payer currently spends to keep LEASE going, yet that organization strugglers to provide the full range of services the market deserves. All surplus funds generated from revenue will be held in a designated trust fund. These reserves will, inter alia, provide the funding for the conciliation service that has received so much focus of late.

    I am not rattled. I pointed out that your implication regarding Property law Services was unfounded and unjustified. I remain of that view but you have now moved to another subject entirely.

    The reason we had sought to keep our preview event behind closed doors is to enable us to fine tune our procedures and terms of reference out of the public eye. I have a fundamental difference of opinion with Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation in that I think certain things should be allowed to take place in private. All our processes and procedures will be made public when the time is right.

    If the word loquacious should win you a game of scrabble, perhaps you can say something nice about the LA in return!

    I believe there is even less genetic difference between a human and a chimpanzee but I think that is probably missing my point!