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June 2, 2020

Our nine years in a retirement leasehold development

EddingtonCourt

Norman Greed, of Eddington Court in Weston-super-Mare, writes his personal account of how he and his neighbours disputed charges at LVT – where they had £12,000 of costs awarded against them – but eventually broke free with right to manage

 

NormanGreedIn August 2004 we purchased a two-bedroom McCarthy and Stone retirement leasehold flat from a fast-talking salesman who more or least told us that we could have all the little extras we wanted at a price once we signed and paid a deposit, and use their appointed solicitor.

Once we paid the deposit we were told we had a week to complete as there was another party ready to sign.

Once all the formalities were completed and we moved in, then the problems started.

 First, we wanted to form a residents’ association, which four residents and me tried without success. The resident house manager discouraged the majority of the residents, by saying it would cost them money and they would have a lot of their freedom of choice taken from them.

 The four other residents and I tried to tackle a few of the items: we thought we were paying too much for i.e. the Rent for the house managers flat, the building’s insurance and Careline.

  We tried to form a dialogue with the area manager; we were told by her that we should write to the freeholder.

 A meeting was held in the Eddington Court Lounge on May 31 2007, it was agreed that a resident should write to the freeholder and suggest that the house manager’s flat rent should be reduced to between £6,300-£7,150 per year a rent suggested by a local letting agent in place of the £14,848 (with a projected figure of £15,295 for the year 2007/8.

 On August 27 2007 we received an offer from Louise Smith, property manager at Fairhold to reduce the rent to £13,500, which she considered reasonable considering all the added benefits that we enjoyed. But there was no reference to the £2,000 per year that we were paying for these added benefits.

 It was at this point that we found that we had a new Landlord and that all our freehold at Eddington Court had been transferred to Fairhold Homes (No9).

 A further meeting was held on September 13 2007 when it was agreed that the above offer was not acceptable, and a letter would be written explaining why!

 This letter was answered by Kevin Barr, director of estates accounts (Peverel), upholding Louise Smith’s offer. He confirmed that Fairhold Homes would exercise the right to retain the income from the guest room.

 A meeting was arranged between Louise Smith, Kevin Barr and the four residence of Eddington Court. No further compromises were forth coming. We agreed at a meeting on November 14 2007 to file a case with Leasehold Valuation Tribunal…

 A public Leasehold Valuation Tribunal hearing was arranged for the four Eddington Court on April 2 2008 in front of a chairman and a surveyor.

 Present for the freeholder were barrister Paul Letman, Ian Rapley, Kevin Barr, Jane Canham (Seddon Solicitors) and Louise Smith.

 It was obvious from the start of the hearing that these legal professionals had presented this sort of defence many times before and knew exactly how to persuade the tribunal.

 We won some points, but the LVT awarded £3,000 towards the respondent’s legal costs, which Peverel paid from the Eddington Court contingency fund.

 In the chairman’s summing up, he said that should we be unable to agree as to the amount the landlord should repay, we should return to the LVT.

 We went through the formalities of appealing to the LVT and the Lands Tribunal, only to be told by both parties that they stood by the decision of the LVT.

 We tried appealing to the landlord over a period, and on the July 14 2008 a cheque was sent out to each residence of Eddington Court, and in the words of Ian Rapley, “We have looked at the ruling and interpreted it in the way we think is correct”, and went on to say “I was once told that, a compromise, by its nature, is a decision acceptable to neither side”.

 Over the next several months letters were exchanged and meetings were arranged.

 At a meeting requested by Keith Edgar, head of Peverel Retirement, I asked why he wanted to speak with me in particular. He replied: “To listen to your venomous comments.”

 It was at this point we realised that that we could not negotiate any longer with Peverel and requested a meeting with Ian Rapley (Fairhold Homes).

 A meeting was arranged between four residents of Eddington Court and Ian Rapley. At this meeting we explained in detail our concerns, only to be told that if we pursued our concerns by returning to the LVT, he would make sure that we would be made an example of.

 In September 2009, under reference no. CHI/00HC/LIS/2009/030, various leaseholders of Eddington Court, including myself, asked the LVT to determine various matters.

 The LVT found against us in what was, in my opinion, a gross miscarriage of justice.

 However, the process by which these determinations were reached was, in my view, also flawed and totally inadequate to ensure that justice was done.

 In particular:-

 The respondent, Fairhold Homes (No 9) Limited, through its solicitor and barrister, submitted its final case and arguments to us and the tribunal the night before the hearing.

 This was notwithstanding the Chairman’s clear instructions at the pre-trial hearing fifteen weeks previously (May 28) that all evidence and submissions should be with the tribunal at least five weeks (July 30) before the hearing.

 We complied fully with this requirement, but the respondent willfully failed to comply, in our opinion as a deliberate act of legal “gamesmanship”.

 This same respondent has done the same thing on more than one occasion at other tribunals; in our view is a deliberate strategy to take advantage of the inexperience of lay applicants.

 As a consequence, we were presented with complex legal arguments and precedents to which it was impossible to form any reasoned answer within the limited time available.

 We could have asked for an adjournment, but this would have meant rescheduling the hearing and the incurring by all parties of additional costs.

 We wanted the matters dealt with without further delay after six months in preparation.

 To avoid this, we decided to continue with the hearing. The chairman mildly rebuked the respondent’s barrister for his failure to comply with his earlier directions (it was all very chummy, from one legal man to another). Notwithstanding his powers to reject the respondents’ late submissions, the chairman allowed them.

 If there are rules for the timely submission of evidence to a tribunal then the Chairman should ensure these are complied with, failing which they should be rejected as out of time.

 Why have rules if they can be flouted with impunity? The chairman was, in our opinion, excessively lenient to the respondent.

 The respondent’s case was that the matters we had raised had already been determined at an earlier hearing. The entire hearing thereafter dealt with the respondent’s lengthy legal arguments in support of this assertion.

 We were never given an adequate opportunity to present our case that the matters we were raising were totally new; we were always on the defensive and the panel, in our opinion, decided in favour of the respondent prematurely.

 We were left with the impression that the chairman preferred to deal with legal professionals and rather looked down upon those who try, to the best of their ability, to represent themselves.

 The LVT process is presented to the world as accessible, affordable justice available to the man in the street who is entitled to represent himself in a non-confrontational environment.

  The reality is that it favours the wealthy landlord who can afford legal representation, creating an intimidating environment for the inexperienced.

 Where the elderly are concerned, I am sure that the vast majority of applicants are leaseholders with the landlord as respondent (not many elderly leaseholders are likely to give the landlord cause to take them to a tribunal).

 It is usually the case, therefore, that a handful of pensioners are representing themselves, as in our case, against legal professionals.

 The costs structure favours the freeholder who, if he is successful, can claim all his legal costs against the leaseholders.

 But leaseholders costs are limited to £500.

 This has been changed with the new rules for the First Tier Tribunal, which replaces the LVT.

 Many potential applicants, especially the retired, are deterred from taking matters to an LVT due to the risk, even if slight in some cases, of having substantial costs awarded against them – in our case £12,000 to date.

  In our case, in his award of costs against us, the chairman made no allowance whatsoever for the fact that we had expressed our willingness from the outset to have the matters determined in writing and that it was the respondent who insisted on having a hearing.

 Our case had been clearly put in our written submission. Since the freeholder’s contention was that these matters had already been determined by an earlier hearing, his case (which was essentially a legal case, not a matter of the facts) could quite easily have been presented in writing also and there was no need for a hearing.

 In addition, the freeholder had earlier, in as many words, stated to us that he would insist on a hearing “to make an example” of us with his costs.

 We informed the chairman of this threat but he made no allowance whatsoever for it.

 A tribunal would not normally expect to award costs against an applicant unless the case he had brought was trivial or vexatious. The case we brought was neither of these and the chairman made no suggestion that it was; it was sincere, well researched and presented.

 The Lands Tribunal upheld the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal, preventing us from taking any further action.

 In 2009 we managed to rid ourselves of Peverel, and to date we have had good service from a new management company.

 As a RTM development we have continued to pursue concerns that still exist: guest room income, house managers flat rent, exit fees and a refund of the excess Insurance commision we were charged by Kingsbrough/ Peverel prior to 2009 when we achieved RTM.

Comments

  1. Michael Epstein says

    Norman,
    Thanks to Neil Healey (a hero for us leaseholders) and his staggeringly brilliant result at LVT (City Heights) All the information you need to challenge the insurance commissions are contained in BIR/00FY/LSC/2008/0031 City Heights.
    In addition, if you go to the “Virginia Quay Residents & Friends website” they have published a step by step guide to challenging insurance commissions, including the relevant acts to be quoted.
    I hope this helps.

    • Norman
      I rise my hat Sir, and will pass on your message of your resolve to others who are in the beginning or middle of their campaign against Peverel Retirement Division.

      Your resolve to do the correct thing deserves a medal.

      We thank you for your input.

      Chas

      • Trevor Bradley says

        I also take my hat off to you Norman. Absolutely brilliant.
        I hope there are people reading this site to see what disgraceful tthings are going on these complexes.
        It is disgusting what residents are having to do and the stress they are suffering.
        Who would expect to have to go through such experiences when all you expect when you buy into these places is a nice quiet and safe stress free retirement life

    • Can you point me to the Virginia Quay website which gives details of how to claim back excessive insurance commissions. I can find their forum but no reference of this matter.

      • Michael Epstein says

        Les,
        Google ” How City Heights Won The Battle Of insurance Commissions?”
        City Heights allowed Virginia Quay to reprint a step by step guide, which is proving very useful.
        It also highlights a major problem that Peverel have. When we win we club together to show others how they can win. When we lose we publish the reasons we lost, thus enabling others not to repeat any mistakes we may have made.

        • Found it – thanks Michael. Now need to have another go at the disinterested residents association to encourage them to make some efforts to get our money back, which, according to Peverel Action is around £45,000!

          • Michael Epstein says

            Les,
            Isn’t it ironic? I bet every one of your fellow residents will scream blue murder if they receive a £120 parking ticket. Yet, if a property management company steals £120 by direct debit, apathy rules!

  2. Thanks Michael
    We have information that Peverel Retirement Division receives the £8,000.00 commissions paid to Kingsborough from Oval, and others.

    I have looked at the two websites mentioned above and I will copy.

    We have been offered the freehold for our development which is a tripartite lease.

    The Head Lessor is Mercian Developments Ltd, who I have spoken with in the past and have found their Mr Ian Crabtree a gentleman and very helpful.

    The Lessor is Meridian Retirement Housing Services Ltd which is a Peverel Services Ltd company? They have a 125 year lease from Mercian Development Ltd.

    We can purchase the freehold which is great but Mercian requires a 250 year lease for the Wardens Flat from the purchasers of the freehold.

    What are the implication of the 250 years as this seems out of tilt with the sale.?

    As I have stated Mr Crabtree has always behaved with decorum and well mannered and helpful, problem is he is away on leave and we do not have a lot of time to decide.

    So far I have had positive responses from the residents I have spoken with.

    What are the implications of the sale and 250 years lease?

  3. Chas,

    So you are saying Mercian Developments Ltd (Co. 1060746) are the owners of the freehold title for your estate. Does freeholder collect annual ground rent from every flat in your block ( including warden flat ?

    Meridian Retirement Housing Services Ltd ( Co. 1833177 ) have a 125 years lease on the entire estate or just the Warden Flat ? Does Warden flat have a separate leasehold title at .Land Registry showing MRHSL is the named leaseholder ?

    If your leaseholders buy the freehold title under the enfranchisement rules under legislation, it would remove Mercian’s presence entirely from your estate . You should be able to buy this without changing any of the existing leases.

  4. Michael Epstein says

    Chas,
    i may be wrong, but i think i understand what is happening here.
    It is normal process after buying the freehold to create a new lease, which no doubt you will do.
    Mercian Developments do appear to be under financial stress. Three years ago they had a book value of over £1m. This has declined to £-194,862. This possibly explains the need to sell.
    Enter Meridian Retirement! You are right to suspect the insistence of a granting of a 250 year lease for the House Managers flat. I fully expect after negotiation they will agree to a standard 125 year lease and you will be happy to accept this. DON’T!
    This could be a trick!
    Suppose for a moment that at present(and has been challenged on other developments) Meridian do not have a lease on the House Managers flat? You will have accidentally granted them a lease. Bingo, you will have given them a £200,000 asset to sell.

  5. When we got the bill for the ground rent, I noticed the final number on the demand was not our flat number but was two lower. The explanation was that there was no flat 13 and the manager’s flat did not pay ground rent,

  6. Michael – ollie
    The original Lease for ABC was between:

    Mercian Site Equipment Ltd (trading as Mercian Buildings and Mercian Homes) called the (Lessor) and:
    Spiral Housing Management Ltd called (“the Association”) This Lease had 2 companies involved.

    The Underlease is a Tripartite Lease, between:

    Mercian Site Equipment Ltd (Head Lessor) and (Freeholder) now called Mercian Properties Ltd and
    Meridian Retirement Housing Services Ltd (MRHSL) (Lessor) now a (Peverel Company) and (Landlord)
    28 Residents (Lessee)

    Our Underlease contains 8 Schedules,
    The First Schedule is The Estate

    THE SECOND SHEDULE REFERERS TO THE RESERVED ROPERTY

    FIRST ALL THOSE gardens, grounds drives, car parking areas, paths, staircase,Wardens Flat and guest room steps, bin stores and other parts of the buildings forming part of The Estate.

    The house in the lease, is called the Wardens Flat???

    We all pay Ground Rent (GR) to the freeholder, Mercian Development Ltd by paying the GR to Peverel Management Services Ltd.
    MRHSL are (as I have been informed by Peverel Services Ltd) the Landlord who have a 125 year lease. on the 28 flats.

    On our Under Lease MRHSL are the Lessor, complicated???
    Why would a Freeholder require a 250 year lease??

  7. Michael Epstein says

    Chas,
    There should be a separate lease for the House Managers Flat granted by Mercian and Meridian.
    It has to be separate as particular restrictions apply.
    The possibility of the sale has raised the prospect that it will be discovered that proper procedures were not followed, meaning a lease for the House Managers flat does not exist.
    By agreeing to a 250 year lease (which in my opinion is a ploy for you to think you have done well by settling for a 125 year lease) puts that right wrong. The purchase of the freehold must include the House Managers flat. It should be your asset. Don’t let Peverel trick you into giving them such a valuable asset.

  8. Chas ,

    Buy a copy of the freehold title and site plan from Land Registry Online and then you should be able to identify all the leasesehold properties under the title. Sometimes the freehold of the estate may be split under 2 or more separate freehold titles.