June 17, 2024

No porkies at Sandbanks, but is ending the in-house manager going to save money?

Sandbanks2UPDATED August 1 2016. 20:17

Residents at Sandbanks at Hoylake, in the Wirral, are pondering the issue of whether to continue to have an in-house manager.

It is a later McCarthy and Stone retirement site, completed in 2008 and one of the last freeholds to be sold off to Vincent Tchenguiz’s interests, in this case, Fairhold (20), which is ultimately based via the Tchenguiz Family Trust in the British Virgin Islands.

In these later McCarthy and Stone leases the house manager’s flat had a lease from the start which belonged to the freeholder. So no porkies from FirstPort at Sandbanks: they told the residents that their freeholder owned the flat, and they were correct.

In older McCarthy and Stone sites there were originally no leases for these house managers’ flats at all. Hundreds of leases were then issued by Tchenguiz in 2009 to himself, and in the meltdown of his property empire in 2011 (when he was arrested by the Serious Fraud Office, on wrong evidence) these ended up belonging to Peverel (now FirstPort).

But at these newer sites the lease of the house managers’ flats stayed with the freehold-owning entity, and remain with the Tchenguiz group.

The ownership of these house managers’ flats is highly controversial.

The issuing of leases in 2009 and their subsequent ownership by Peverel was pivotal in taking the management company out of administration in 2012. On the basis of the  portfolio, Peverel could borrow money.

FirstPort / Peverel Retirement has eagerly supported residents who want to end a live-in house manager service in favour of a cheaper visiting one as this decision – following a formal, regulated ballot by the Electoral Reform Society – means they can at last sell them off.

In their eagerness to achieve a sale, Peverel / FirstPort staff have occasionally misled residents about the ownership of the flats.

In June the regulator of the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) severely criticised Peverel / FirstPort for its handling of the proposed sale of a house manager’s flat at Mere Court, Knutsford, in Cheshire.

Residents were told repeatedly and in writing that the flat belonged to the freeholder. In fact it belonged to Peverel / FirstPort and the local staff were in for a bonus if they pulled off the sale.

It is thanks to Alex Ellison, whose mother lives at Mere Court, that this issue was considered by ARMA.

ARMA’s regulator ruled against FirstPort Retirement Services:

“In respect of the complaint about the sale of house managers’ flats the Regulatory Panel found FPRS [FirstPort Retirement Services] to have been in breach of ARMA Byelaw 2.7.10 in the case of Mere Court in 2013 in relation to a failure to disclose an interest in the ownership of the flat and payments made to individuals associated with the proposed transaction.”

At Sandbanks the house manager’s flat does not belong to FirstPort at all, and the drive to end the in-house manager’s service comes from the residents.

The Tchenguiz organisation does not appear to have expressed an opinion on the matter, although ending the house manager’s service – if done with some formality – will mean it could sell its flat.

If so, one hopes it will pay the residents a decent sum for freeing up the process.

FirstPort has been paying £10,000 into the site’s contingency fund following a flat sale, and unlike service charges this figure has not risen for some years.

At some point, the whole issue of these house manager flats assets and sales needs to come under judicial scrutiny.


  1. Michael Hollands says

    Even if it is another Mere Court in the making, First Port know they will only get a “slap on the wrist ” from ARMA

    • Michael Epstein says

      Michael Hollands,
      If the ARMA excuse is that if the house managers flat sales were dishonest, it was an “historic issue” and Peverel/Firstport are under new management, that would indicate that ARMA believe it was the old management that was responsible?
      And that “old management” would include Nigel Bannister and Keith Edgar, currently directors of Freemont Property Managers.
      In which case, why on earth are Freemont Property Managers members of ARMA?

      • Michael,
        At Ashbrook Court we were informed by our then Area Manger and Regional Manager the House Managers Flat was owned by our Freeholder, Mercian Holdings Ltd.

        It was only later in 2014/15 we were informed our Landlord Meridian Retirement Housing Services Ltd, (registered as dormant) is a subsidiary and part of the Peverel Group. Meridian Retirement held the Head Lease, therefore owned the right of sale?

        We were NOT offered £10k, but were informed that we would no longer have to contribute any money towards the upkeep, this again was false information as we contribute to the Council Tax, Gas, Electric, Heating.

        In 2016 our last AM stated we would receive £10k into contingency fund, when the HMF was sold. Soon after we were informed he was removed from Peverel/Firstport on a days notice.

        The AM also informed that major changes would happen in August 2016, but would not elaborate?

  2. Michael Epstein says

    Apparently residents at a Peverel/Firstport managed development on the Isle of Wight were also under the impression that the house manager’s flat was owned by the freeholder, when in return for a 10,000 pound contribution to the service charge reserve fund they agreed to dispense with the role of a live in house manager. Though happy with their current visiting manager, they are concerned that the manager is totally overworked and has to travel all over the Island under great pressure of time to keep up with the work load.
    And before anyone says that can’t be far (it’s only an island) it measures 23 miles by 13 miles!

  3. Alex Ellison says

    It is very easy to check if Firstport (ex-Peverel) has a lease on this house manager’s flat by contacting the Land Registry – for the Hoylake area that should be the Land Registry office in Birkenhead – who for a small fee of £3 will give written details of all registered ownerships on an individual property. If a lease has been ‘created'(between the freeholder and Peverel – now known as Firstport) on this house manager’s flat it will be one of many hundreds of others which have been ‘created’ and subsequently mortgaged to provide the millions of pounds needed to fund the company . Whether the creation of leases from areas classed as ‘common parts’ is legal is still to be challenged.