July 20, 2024

Metcalfe Court: how a retirement site has benefited from RTM (including 20% savings compared with FirstPort)

The residents at Metcalfe Court, in Romiley in Cheshire, have taken over the management of the site after 11th hour frustrations

Metcalfe Court, in Romiley, shows that leasehold retirement sites can opt for RTM

The road to RTM

After an embittered struggle with the Tchenguiz organisation – which also saw the involvement of two MPs – Metcalfe Court, in Romiley, in Cheshire, broke free and took over its right to manage last February. Below the RTM directors write to Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation / LKP to share their experience with our readers.

The site was taken to RTM by Pauline Jones Associates, a small managing agent based in Macclesfield, which is accredited to Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation’s sister organisation the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership. This also involved a property tribunal hearing, and the full saga can be read here

Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation strongly advises sites to avoid using commercial right to manage intermediaries which promise low, or even no cost right to manage. This is too good to be true. The charges are also opaque. These agencies make their money, and significant amounts of it, by selling the management contract on to property management companies that are prepared to pay for it.

That is in itself a cause for alarm: all the large managing agents are large because they have come to accommodations with developers or large freehold owning outfits. Not one, without exception, is large through consumer choice – that is, appointed by leaseholders themselves.

The fees paid to a right to manage facilitator by an incoming management company may not be reported to residents.

The RTM intermediaries may also involve sites in complex property management contracts that bind in a new management firm for up to five years.

In short, leaseholders set on right to manage do need to oversee the process closely, and be in sole charge if a freeholder contests a right to manage action in the property tribunal. This was the case at Metcalfe Court, but the resident directors of the RTM were sufficiently formidable to deal with Tchenguiz’s efforts to hold on to the management.

As a result, Peverel / FirstPort was given the boot.

Progress at Metcalfe Court

As we prepare for Metcalfe Court’s first AGM as a Right to Manage Company, we are now able to take a step back to assess what has been achieved since the takeover in February this year.

One of the main successes was to put minds at rest for those who had serious misgivings about how the block might be affected after the RTM took over. We managed to retain the services of the well-liked house manager and the Careline service. These were the two main concerns for a lot of residents, who were both for and against taking Metcalfe Court to right to manage.

Continuity was the key.

Nobody undertook this process to cause upheaval and in the first few weeks after the takeover it became very apparent that there was actually little change in the way the development was being run on the surface.

The main changes were behind the scenes. Considerable work has been carried out at Metcalfe Court, all the hallway lights have now been converted to LED, rather than needlessly changing perfectly good light fittings; the lights on all stairs have also been changed to LED; new emergency lights have been installed.

These are all works done in order that the running costs in the long term can be reduced and work carried out become self funding.

The front of the building has seen new benches installed, flagged areas and planters to make the building look more homely, new washers and dryers have been installed in the laundry and now the latest decision to be made has been to change over the heating system in the lounge area.

Gone are the old fashioned inefficient storage heaters and in their place now stand modern, instant heat heaters that will save the site around £200 per heater per year as opposed to the storage heaters.

All these jobs are done in order that not only does the building look better, but in most cases done on the basis of saving money in the long run

The directors of Metcalfe Court have been supportive from day one, they have not been fazed by anything that has been asked of them and without their on-going help the whole process would have proved a lot more difficult than it has been.

We still have to inform the landlord of any alterations that are due to be made which can be construed as alterations to the fabric of the building but, as long as these alterations are being done for the benefit of the individual or site, we have had no problems at all.

On just a purely financial basis, all the above has been done at a reduced cost per year for each resident.

We are extremely careful with all expenditure.

Any possible major spending is run by the directors beforehand, and nothing is done without the agreement of the managing committee – the service charge since the RTM has taken over has been reduced by approximately 20% per property compared with the proposed FirstPort costings, despite the considerable investment into the building this year the service charge has actually been held at its current level.