May 29, 2024

Service charges increase by £40,000 in ten years at Arkle Court, says resident

Arkle Court, Chester: Service charges have risen from £74,264 in 2003 to £113,444 in August 2014 for the 58 flats

Arkle Court, Chester: Service charges have risen from £74,264 in 2003 to £113,444 in August 2014 for the 58 flats

We have received the following from Ged Walsh, of Arkle Court, Chester:

Dear Sirs, Madams and Readers

I write as a pensioner homeowner living in a Retirement Block built in 2000 by McCarthy & Stone with freeholders Fairhold Homes (No4) Ltd and Peverel / FirstPort as the Service Managers.

We purchased our flat in 2003 in the northern City of Chester at the cost of £110,000 which was placed in the Council Tax band of “D” which our homeowners find very high for the amenities provided for this retirement building.

Our service charges for the development when we purchased in 2003 were set at £74,264 per year to be paid and divided between 58 one and two bedroom flats but unbelievably had risen to £113,444 by August 2014 what a percentage rise for the elderly on a pension.

We also feel we are overcharged for a live in house manager and her accommodation and service charges for a basic 31 hours a week, we have also lost and our guest room concession averaging £1000 income per year for challenging the leaseholders about these charges. . .

The Retirement building has also continually suffered with structural roofing defects and faults causing ongoing repairs and maintenance works since built, blame being pointed mainly towards poor design, build, workmanship and its age, which is believe it or not is still only 15 years old this year!,

The building has had at least 2 full roofing surveys many major repair works plus its yearly inspections and maintenance work all in all costing over a six figure sum!

I feel we have been misguided, misrepresented and mismanaged since we purchased.

At our age the homeowners who purchased at Arkle Court in its infancy years have done well to live through these high taxes, service charge increases, repairs and the recession, never mind all the stress and anxiety, caused by all these concerns and worries of our problematic roof and its structure.

I think us residents and pensioners in this sheltered accommodation now deserve and are at the very least owed a truthful explanation by these companies’, the council, and this government for showing the need and reason for these charges and percentage increases enforced on us elderly homeowners.

Please do not advise me to present my case to or through the service managers complaints procedures or Property Ombudsman I have taken that route and found it time consuming, frustrating, stressful and costly taking years without any end result, believe me I have been campaigning and battling these systems since 2003.

Retired Homeowner

Ged Walsh


  1. Michael Hollands says

    Very soon you may have another organisation to complain to.
    At the present time ARMA are considering First Port/ Peverel’s application to join them.
    ARMA’s slogan is “Only residential managers committed to the highest professional standards can be ARMA members”
    This slogan was displayed on a large banner at the LEASE conference this week.
    ARMA Q is recognised by many organisations and Governmemt Departments as the bees knees when it comes to regulating.
    So if First Port/Peverel succeed either they will have improved their ways or ARMA are misleading us.
    So if your management company obtains Q give it a go, that’s what ARMA are there for.

  2. Michael Epstein says

    Michael Hollands,
    Such is the rigour of the process that managing agents are put through by ARMA to obtain ARMA-Q status, that in one case a company that was liquidated and dissolved in July 20014, have just achieved ARMA-Q accreditation.Presumably that a company does not exist is no bar to ARMA-Q status?

    • Michael Hollands says

      I would have liked to have been there when that company was interviewed by the Accreditation Board.
      Perhaps they have been awarded a posthumous Q award.

      • Michael Epstein says

        That would have been interesting. Especially if the interview was carried out by Sue Petri and Claire Benwell-Spencer (both very senior members of the ARMA board and Peverel Group. (No need to redact Editor) . In no way do i seek to imply any improper conduct from either of them. I wish to make the point that were Peverel to fail to achieve ARMA-Q status, it would hardly inspire confidence in ARMA-Q that two very senior members of the ARMA board, hold senior positions in a company that cannot qualify.
        I was referring to Stonedale Property Management. Incidentally, it might be helpful to know that from 4/7/2011 until the company was dissolved, Andrew Davey was a director.

    • Michael Hollands says

      I assume the company you were referring to was Stonedale Property Management.
      I can see on the ARMA website that they have just gained Q Accreditation.
      You say they were dissolved and liquidated last July.
      They do still have an active website and appear to be a member of the First Port Group.
      When you click onto their website it comes up with First Port.
      What is the situation here? Does this now mean that First Port should obtain Q fairly easily?

  3. Hi Ged

    I sympathise with you and the other residents on your site and it does sound as though you have exhausted all area’s for complaints.

    The one thing that could possibly have been done a long time ago when you received your surveys was a possible claim via the buildings 10 warranty or perhaps for defective building claim, but maybe you were not aware of these routes, I don’t know.

    I would also ask you to check your lease and see if there is a provision in it for a Residents Management Company and if so you and a few other owners could apply to be directors of the company and get rid of the current managing agents and take control of the management and management fees for your homes.

    If I were in your position now, I would speak to a few of the managing agents on the Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation/LKP website and invite them to your development. Show them around and ask them for a quote to
    manage the development for you and the owners on a 12 months contract. Obviously this would need to be discussed with the other owners.

    If you need any help please do ask and I would be happy to look at your lease for you and give you a few pointers…

  4. Michael Epstein says

    The plight of those at Arkle Court serve to highlight yet another problem faced by leaseholders in “new build”
    Both the developer and managing agent could have a vested interest in not making use of the NHBC guarantee.
    If the developer does not have to repair defects, they save money. Indeed such could be the defects, the costs could push a profitable development contract into a loss.
    On the other hand, if a managing agent can push the cost of repairs onto the service charges, they stand to make a substantial profit. All at the expense of the leaseholder, of course.

    • Remember the NHBC warranty is basically an insurance backed remedy. If there are a lot of claims the premium goes up. It is therefore in the interests of the builder to have a “compliant” agent i.e. one that will not try and pass on claims under the warranty, but instead pay for them via the service charge.

      And if the agent is compliant, the builder will reward them with more management contracts. Neat!

      When Peverel and McCarthy & Stone were hand in glove I am sure many potential warranty claims were quietly buried or ignored only to resurface many years later when the warranty had expired.

      Of course McStone now have their own in house agent and one wonders if they too are “compliant” when it comes to NHBC claims?

  5. Trevor Bradley says

    Absolutely spot on, as usual, with your comments/guidance ME.
    The early day probs with the roof/building should have been sorted by the builder or NHBC warranty (But oh, the NHBC is only another one of those “clubs” isn’t it). Later faults on such a young building should have at least been done as a gesture of goodwill by the builder.

    Ged, the advice given by Karen is excellent and, if possible, definitely the way to go.
    I have personal involvement in property management (Only Freehold though!!) and, unless I knew them inside out, I would not recommended any company that is not approved/recommended as those listed on the Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation website.

  6. Michael Epstein says

    May i be permitted on this occasion to indulge myself in a “flight of fancy?”
    Suppose when purchasing a retirement development flat a payment of £101 towards the cost was paid using a credit card? even better a RBS credit card (since they financed Peverel). Then, if there is a major structural fault (such as the roof at Arkle Court) could a claim be made under section 75 Consumer Credit Act as the “purchased goods” (Arkle Court0 was not of merchantable quality?
    Could this act not also apply if service charges are paid by credit card?