December 1, 2020

MPs call for all-party group on leasehold

RTM meeting at Portcullis House. From left: Rob Plumb, HML Holdings plc; Neil Mulhoney, IRPM; Paula Hassall, DCLG; (Sebastian O'Kelly, taking picture); Katherine O'Riordan, aide to Sir Peter Bottomley; Sir Peter Bottomley MP; Martin Boyd, LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation; Nigel Wilkins, Carl; Jim Fitzpatrick, MP Poplar and Limehouse; Cherry Jones, managing agent; Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP Swindon North.

RTM meeting at Portcullis House. From left: Rob Plumb, HML Holdings plc; Neil Maloney, IRPM; Paula Hassall, DCLG; (Sebastian O’Kelly, absent taking picture); Katherine O’Riordan, aide to Sir Peter Bottomley; Sir Peter Bottomley MP; Martin Boyd, LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation; Nigel Wilkins, Carl; Jim Fitzpatrick, MP Poplar and Limehouse; Cherry Jones, managing agent; Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP Swindon North.

The Westminster meeting two days ago on right to manage organized by LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation saw an all-party group on leasehold becoming more likely.

The move would certainly be backed by Sir Peter Bottomley, Conservative Swindon MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland, as well as Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, and perennial campaigner in the Lords, Baroness Gardner of Parkes.

With an increasing number of MPs no longer falling for the self-interested obfuscations of the trade bodies, the voice of leaseholders is at last getting heard.

Indeed, Lord (Richard) Best, a veteran social housing expert, is attempting something similar to an all-party group on leasehold in the upper house.

The Westminster meeting was a clear and unambiguous engagement with leasehold opinion, hosted at last by a leaseholder group.

RTM meeting Portcullis House. Clockwise from left: Sir Peter Bottomley MP; Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP Poplar and Limehouse; Cherry Jones, managing agent; Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP Swindon North; Karen Peel, leasehold activist; Dudley Joiner, Right To Manage Federation; Keith Edgar, Association of Retirement Housing Managers;  Stuart Gardner, aide to Mark Field Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster; Rob Plumb, HML Holdings plc; (obscured) Mark Maclaren, Which?; Neil Mulhoney, IRPM; Paula Hassall, DCLG; Katherine O'Riordan, aide to Sir Peter Bottomley.

RTM meeting Portcullis House. Clockwise from left: Sir Peter Bottomley MP; Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP Poplar and Limehouse; Cherry Jones, managing agent; Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP Swindon North; Karen Peel, leasehold activist; Dudley Joiner, Right To Manage Federation; Keith Edgar, Association of Retirement Housing Managers; Stuart Gardner, aide to Mark Field Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster; Rob Plumb, HML Holdings plc; (obscured) Mark McLaren, Which?; Neil Maloney, IRPM; Paula Hassall, DCLG; Katherine O’Riordan, aide to Sir Peter Bottomley.

Opinions were sought from all sides, although Sir Peter Bottomley expressed his regret that the Leasehold Advisory Service did not accept an invitation to attend the meeting.

This was a surprising absence as Sir Peter attended its annual conference last year, and has even visited LEASE’s offices to meet the staff, whose work he praises.

As well as Sebastian O’Kelly and Martin Boyd of LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation – the latter chaired the meeting with Sir Peter – the attendees included:

Conservatives MPs Justin Tomlinson (Conservative North Swindon) and Robert Buckland (Swindon South), who have been championing leaseholders;

Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar and Lime house in east London, which includes Canary Wharf. Jim has some of the richest and poorest leaseholders in the country;

Mark Field, Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster, was in China but represented by his aide Stuart Gardner. Field has more leaseholders than any other MP.

Also present was perennial campaigner in the Lords, Baroness Gardner of Parkes.

There was also a civil servant from the DCLG present as an observer.

The leasehold interest was upheld by veteran campaigner on leasehold issues Nigel Wilkins, of the Campaign Against Residential Leasehold;

Karen Peel, who single handedly tracked down 133 residents to achieve an RTM in Wakefield;

Cherry Jones, an independent managing agent, in Swindon;

Rob Plumb, the CEO of HML Holdings plc, which is the only large managing agent to acknowledge that there are serious and unacceptable shortcomings to the sector;

Shula Rich, representing the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations.

Dudley Joiner, of the Right To Manage Federation, which has achieved right to manage for numerous sites, particularly in retirement leasehold.

Mark Maclaren, from Which?, had a broad interest in consumer interests in leasehold.

The Institute of Residential Property Managers was represented by chartered surveyor Neil Maloney.

Keith Edgar, the former head of Peverel Retirement, represented The Association of Retirement Housing Managers.

The meeting lasted only an hour and gave quick-fire impression of issues in leasehold – not solely right to manage – by people actually involved in them.

Euphemisms and the obfuscations beloved of the trade bodies in this sector were not adopted.

Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, expressed his frustration that leaseholders’ right to manage can be thwarted on trivial grounds by practiced monetisers.

He and Robert Buckland (Swindon South) have been backing independent managing agent Cherry Jones in her battles with Countrywide property management.

She gave a forthright account of these, and expressed her disdain for practices in the sector. Like many other independent managing agents disgusted with the sector, she refuses to join any professional association where the views of those who play the system predominate.

More can be read here 

What makes her account so persuasive is that she, like Rob Plumb, is a managing agent.

Rob Plumb addressed the 25 per cent commercial property limit, above which right to manage cannot be achieved.

Karen Peel spoke eloquently of how she had tracked down 133 leasehold owners, mainly investors scattered around the world, to achieve right to manage of her site in Wakefield. Karen has helped several other sites to achieve right to manage.

There was discussion on how freeholders, or managing agents could be compelled to hand over contact details of leaseholders.

Sebastian O’Kelly noted that the Institute of Residential Property Management had informed the Office of Fair Trading of “the dangers of coercion within the Retirement Housing Sector” to obtain right to manage. This is a claim in its submission to the inquiry into leasehold management.

As chairman of Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, O’Kelly said he had only encountered self-interested allegations of coercion from freeholders Vincent Tchenguiz and Israel Moskovitz, both of whose companies figure in numerous tribunal cases. “These allegations should be filed in the bin,” he said.

Dudley Joiner, of the RTMF, emphasized the importance of professional management that face residents who opt for right to manage.

O’Kelly cautioned Baroness Gardner against highlighting relatively minor problems among neighbours in the right to manage process: they are exaggerated by the vested interests in leasehold, the trade bodies and the IRPM.

Of more relevance was that freeholders are prepared to take cases to the Court of Appeal to frustrate and or simply to delay right to manage applications. Often these objections are on trifling grounds, and freeholders now routinely deploy barristers to thwart right to manage.

It was regretted that FTT chairmen are allowing appeals against RTMs on minor grounds.

Shula Rich, representing the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations, addressed other means by which right to manage can be opposed concerning common parts and responsibilities. She is to write further on these issues on the LKP website.

Mark McLaren, of Which?, suggested that the housing minister set up a working group to keep an overview of leasehold in the same way one does for the private rented sector.

Comments

  1. Mystified says

    Congratulation to Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, LKP and CARL to get all these MP’s and others together.
    At least they are talking. However I support 100% Nigel Wilkins (CARL) to abolish the Residential Leasehold completely in this country.

    The Leaseholders abuses will never end if it continue as it is and has been hundreds of years. The medieval rip-off system probably will carry on. The property should be owned outright and the property management should be done the way it is done in any other civilised countries all over the world.
    As far as I (as a long suffering Leaseholder for over 30 years) understand it RMT will be only a small step forward.

  2. Mystified…. The writing is on the wall now as the the ‘tricks of the trade’ are being exposed by the credible professionals within the industry who are disgusted with the fruadulent practices that are being carried out within the industry, which equates to Blackmail… They will not get away with it for very much longer you can rest assured… We all need to stand together and voice our concerns and no longer be concerned that if we speak our minds we will be sued there are solicitors and barristers that have seen enough..

  3. “O’Kelly cautioned Baroness Gardner against highlighting relatively minor problems among neighbours in the right to manage process: they are exaggerated by the vested interests in leasehold, the trade bodies and the IRPM.”

    PMSL Area Managers actively brainwash residents into believing that RTM is a very risky business and a number of sites that had gone RTM faced difficulties and asked to return to Peverel! This was said at a Peverel meeting here. Area Managers, and other Peverel staff, also actively drive wedges between neighbours by smearing/isolating their critics, while favouring those that tow the Peverel party line. Not including and giving information to every resident is one example of the dirty tricks tactics used with the intent of wearing a resident down to drive the leaseholder out and sell up; harassment and discrimination.

    Mystified is absolutely right for backing Nigel Wilkins of CARL the campaigner who wants leasehold abolished altogether. This is the only common sense way to go for a permanent cessation of this bullying behaviour and financial exploitation of leaseholders. There will always be a need for managing agents to manage some blocks of flats but the only solution to this centuries old problem of ‘leasehold tenure’ is for new legislation to allow outright ownership of our flats.

    “There was discussion on how freeholders, or managing agents could be compelled to hand over contact details of leaseholders.” And, yes, this must become mandatory to prevent freeholders/managing agents from hiding behind the Data Protection Act!

    • They have not provided any proof of these so called disgruntled leaseholders yet and we are all still waiting….

  4. A Reviewer says

    Fleeced,

    our estate is constructed on built up ground – its on an old quarry in an area riddled by shallow coal mines – and the buildings insurance states
    “insured for settlement EXCEPT on built up ground” – thus we are NOT insured for settlement.

    BUT the moles continued to try and rubbish me personally as opposed to getting the place properly insured. we have taken notification steps which will enable the moles and peverel and the broker – the barking mad group or something – to be sued for negligence in any event.

    peverel will be bust – so not a goer
    chairman mole’s flat will have collapsed – so probably not a goer
    broker has tried to pass on to runciman – but WILL be a goer….

    happy days

    • A Reviewer

      Your mortgage broker/mortgage provider/insurance broker had a duty of care to you to ensure your policy was fit for purpose… I would follow that route and if you need any help please do get in touch…

  5. The fallacy in your thinking is that outright ownership of a flat does not remove the majority of the terms of the lease that will still apply through the unit agreement and commonhold articles and assessment- the relationship between the building owner and the individual. if you fall out over service charges you can go to the FTT, but under commonhold you can’t. While forfeiture is removed there are still going to be arguments and disputes over prams in the halls parking noise pets wooden floors rubbish etc, subletting and holiday lets, alterations, to the scope and cost of works. Each owner is therefore subject to the whim of the majority even if they outright own the flat. Given the number of problems with owner controlled blocks, any revision to the legislation needs to allow the appointment of a trustee, by the residents, who are unable or disinclined to take the responsibility. That way the “RTM,ooh scary” arguments can be assuaged by the residents taking control and appointing a trustee if they don’t want the ultimate responsibility, let alone day to day hassle which an agent deals with.

    • AM

      Isn’t that what a managing agent is employed to do?… manage the covenants of the lease..
      I take the point about a Trustee which may be suitable for some – elderly, infirm etc…. (although not all) blocks..

      • No, an agent only has limited authority that comes from the client, under a contract, whether freeholder or a committee board of say your RTM. Contracts and proceedings are as agent in the name of the client, not them. Over thy years I have even had to become a director of these companies due to apathy disinterest and fear ( of the responsibility) and as a by product of good service, often to prevent them from being struck off. In a few instances I have had to seek the appointment of paid directors as trustees for large schemes ,not only to keep them existing, but to ensure objective management. As I was raised in an old fashioned RICS practice I know not to be naughty, but as you do know there are many that don’t.

    • AM – I don’t deny serious problems can arise among residents under co-ownership schemes; it happened when I lived in shared ownership flats of 48 flats (6 large terraced houses) in London. The CoM agreed to have the worn down Victorian mosaic on the outside steps removed and replaced with tiles. After the work had started we were told the steps were also in very bad repair and needed to be replaced? (rumours abound that the workmen damaged the steps…) so the scope of work significantly escalated but it was agreed to go ahead with the job. But soon after the new steps were installed I noticed they were higher than the original ones and the 6” tiles ordered had to be raised to 7” therefore more tiles had to be ordered and cut down to make the 1” extra needed. The job was a mess and cost us a fortune. Because the steps were higher a handrail was needed which the CoM would not agree to.

      There was also a problem over the inside common staircase due to the original cowboy builders that refurbished the properties (under different ownership) who failed to install a handrail/balustrade for the first four stairs. As a consequence, I fell and was badly injured that triggered the long-term decline in my health. The automatic lighting system set on a short timer was also a contributing factor to the accident. Before the fall I had sent a warning letter to the CoM but it was ignored. Needless to say I fell out with my neighbour, a qualified structural engineer, who was responsible for approving the wrong size steps.

      The moral here is that problems and disputes do happen between neighbours but in spite of the disasters described here I still strongly support co-ownership for the reasons Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation has already explained and equally important because the value of the property remains high that enables owners to move easily if they wish to do so. Yes, there does need to be legal safeguards put in place to act as a referee when things go wrong but it should not impede the final goal of abolishing leasehold and adopting freehold/commonhold ownership. The positives of owning outright outweigh the negatives.

      • PS: I lived there very happily for over 20 years until this happened in 1993 that changed everything. I never understood how the wrong size steps were ever approved by the RBKC borough surveyor as it was a conservation area; I surmise he just rubber stamped the drawings without checking and visiting the property. If wrong windows had been installed the council would have ordered their removal in a flash…

        • PSS: Then in 1994 to add insult to injury I contacted my newly elected Tory local councillor Barry Phelps for Earl’s Court in the hope of getting support over the external steps but was rudely fobbed off; he was the most arrogant and vile man I have ever met. Later he was a witness in a court case against a disabled resident who was threatened with eviction from his HA flat for complaining about a rowdy nightclub involving drugs and rent boys visiting a resident caretaker. Phelps was on the licensing committee so I suspected a bribe was taken from the brewery that owned the nightclub? I read Phelp’s written statement and wrote a counter one as a witness on behalf of the defendant challenging BP’s lies and the case was won. I left in 1999 and then in 2010 TC, the resident I helped save from eviction, phoned to tell me “the pervert BP” had resigned over lewd emails he’d sent on the council IT system. The scandal was reported in the Kensington & Chelsea Chronicle so it’s OK to publish here!

      • But you are missing the point ownership can be conferred by requiring that a head lease, where required, or freehold must be transferred free on completion, and a lease of perpetuity less a year and eliminating or curtailing forfeiture. The remaining clauses in most leases will cover the same ground that will have to be covered in co ownership. establishing new tenure and remedies is re inventing the wheel, and will take years to establish a working body of precedent case law, in expensive higher courts.

        I also recall residents wanting to carpet over a 150 year old mosaic- I paid 50% of its refurb as I couldn’t face the idea of such workmanship being lost.

  6. Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation says

    These are sound, but minor points. Commonhold exists in the rest of the world. What you don’t have is operators using the system to cheat others to the same degree that we see with leasehold.

    There is no excuse for the kind of fiddles and cheating that is repeatedly reported here and on http://www.leaseholdknowledge.com.

    ALL retirement sites should opt for RTM and employ the management they choose.

    • Quote “Commonhold exists in the rest of the world”.

      Well no it doesn’t they have working schemes of outright ownership, we don’t. The idea that the commonhold is boxed ready to go is ludicrous. You might think that it is Mercedes F1 car but in reality its a Red Bull F1 car -looks the part but falls apart or as Ricardo found out doesn’t work like they thought it should.

      Schemes dodges and wheezes, as well as outright theft, can be dealt with in other ways. New builds can start with forfeiture free perpetuity -1 year leases and compulsory transfer of freeholds and a bar on leasebacks of common parts and staff flats leisure areas etc. These can be applied to existing schemes but the problem for flat owners is the compensation of the freeholder and amendments to allow common parts leases to be included in enfranchisement.

      Then we don’t need to redraft commonhold and build up a body of expensive case law in the arguments that flats, however owned, will generate.

  7. Michael Epstein says

    At least if it is your own residents company that operates under commonhold, if it goes pear shaped it is the owners who have screwed up, rather than a systemic attempt by crooked freeholders and management companies to cheat leaseholders.
    Personally, I believe that unless you really know all the laws regarding leasehold/ commonhold it is advisable to appoint a reputable managing agent (there are still many of them in existence, even if they are not members of ARMA)
    The leaseholders can hold regular meetings to project which way they want their development to be managed and then delegate that responsibility to their appointed managing agent.

    • We did have an appointed recommended managing agent/surveyor based in Knightsbridge but in spite of that in this particular incident they too were incompetent over the installation of the wrong size steps. Things can go wrong in any situation.

      • Sadly agents used to be qualified or trained or supervised by those with knowledge and experience. however today, even IRPM membership does not require any basic training in building, as the industry has moved to being administrative and customer service first. But then customers- residents- seem to want to judge on an internet buzz and the companies twitter feed and a happy smiley person, not someone who knows what they are doing.

        • A Reviewer says

          Fleeced

          You should have got the council planning department involved – they have to ENFORCE the building regulations – tho they try like hell to dodge their responsibility with arguments like “we have no authority unless planning permissions are required”.

          I am given to understand that the next version of the building regs will clear that one up … lets HOPE.

          happy days

          • That’s why I contacted the charming ex-Cllr and Mayor Barry Phelps for help and look where that got me..?! I foolishly thought I was somehow at fault until I began to hear similar stories to my own around the borough. That horrendous experience changed my view of politicians and politics forever; most are narcissists only interested in power/control and lining their pockets – and some from brown envelopes.

    • I agree but it is equally problematic when a neighbour has to fight neighbour over inaction or action, or some of the daft ideas that people have. A case in the last two weeks where 3 owners in a conversion, two want to sell and empty the coffers to tart up the front but not address rising damp which affects the ground floor flat who isn’t moving. 2 against 1……….

  8. A Reviewer says

    Guys

    On the subject of lease hold .

    Some estates work like this – which seems to me to work – anyway it has done since 1987 – including recovering a major debt accrued over many years by selling a flat belonging to a “lost” “owner” – the balance remains for return.

    Freeholder is a Limited Company with Shares
    Shares belong to the “owners” of the flats
    When a flat is sold the shares HAVE to be transferred to the new owner
    The “owners” have their leases for 999 years or whatever – upped from the previous 99 years.
    The shareholders appoint a manging agent
    the whole system requires accounts and works per company law

    It works [in putney for 100 and odd flats absolutely fine]

    Happy days

    • AGREE. As soon as we took over the freehold and RTM we had a new lease drawn up; the clause covering ‘redemption fees’ payable after all sales was removed!

    • Proving what I keep saying commonhold is not needed. The problem is who is in control as that is where the abuses stem from. You don’t need commonhold to require, by law, the freehold to be transferred to the resident’s company on completion. Longer leases, perhaps forfeiture free/ curtailed, will and DO work.

      • Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation says

        Or perhaps obligatory residents’ management companies for all new leases.

        In simple capitalist terms, it is outrageous that those with the largest financial stake – the leaseholders – are pushed around by a freeholder whose freehold may be worth five per cent of the total value of the leases.

        • “…obligatory residents’ management companies for all new leases.”

          AGREE: that is the only common sense way forward. The present system of voting by a majority of x% number of leaseholders for the RTM does not work for two reasons:

          1) The huge amount of admin work involved in some cases with the need to contact numerous absent leasehold ‘owners’.

          2) A ridiculous system that causes unnecessary endless conflicts among leaseholders due mainly by those that don’t understand leasehold; like the resident here who stood up at the last accounts meeting and asked what he actually owned..?!

        • Well that is implicit in the earlier post with the transfer of the freehold to residents. Honestly we would have to overhaul such companies as accounting under the companies act, service charge under the lease or the 85 Act, don’t exactly dovetail. While I agree with the imbalance, at the same time the freeholder in many situations ( “Chengooz” empire aside) often have a huge liability with only small ground rents, piddly insurance commission, and the distant hope of a lease extension premium. Not all residents want to go near that, and are frankly happy to have someone else take on the responsibility, look after it after a fashion, even if they are making a bit out of it. it wrong to look at these issues solely in this “Chengooz” context, as the man himself said , we’re not property managers, we’re asset managers.

          • Paul Joseph says

            Piddly insurance commission? There speaks a landlord or someone in receipt of said income.

            We had you pegged for a person with a conflict of interest all along.

            Next you’ll be telling us about vulnerable elderly people coerced into joining RTM claims they don’t understand.

        • Paul Joseph says

          5%? Surely 1.5% is more like it! It’s less than 1% in some cases.

          • Again you are worng. I am comparing the smal reasoanble commissions,for work done, not these 40 /50% merchants.

  9. All leaseholders should have the right to be a memebr of a Residential Management Company that is run by and for the leaseholders of the block in question and landlords or multiple leaseholders should be capped at 1 vote for a maximum of 4 properties to avoid any discrepensies…
    The RMC should be a set up at the outset of any dvelopment having 50% of the development sold …

    • But hang on what happened to “one man one vote” or “no taxation without representation”? If a landlord owns several flats and is paying and contributing in the same way as everyone else, why are they barred from commensurate representation?

      From experience the BTL owners are the ones that have the least interest in getting involved as long as good decisions and reasonable charges are set by the resident owners who do get involved.

      You might have a case for such a limit on companies or their associated companies owning both the freehold and several flats. There are already limitations in place for those rights, and adjusting the % for RTA’s anmd other rights.

      If there is a problem to resolve its the exclusion of house owners on estates from RTM and post RTE, despite paying a lot for common area maintenance etc with none of the protections that flats have.

      • Paul Joseph says

        Owners of multiple flats (3 or more) are already excluded from disproportionate influence in existing enfranchisement processes. Their votes may not be counted toward RTM or RTE quotas. This is done for good reasons (mainly to prevent them blocking such initiatives). All leaseholders are entitled to join an RTM company or RTE company are are entitled to 1 vote per flat.

        • Yes but we were not talking about the makeup of groups exercising RTM or RTE.

          In RTM any flat owner is entitled to apply for an must be provided with membership after RTM has taken over. RTE is little different because of the issue of ownership anmd contributions, however many groups will invite them in after completion, unless they suspect ulterior motives.