September 27, 2022

Service with a snarl: anatomy of a leasehold ground rent demand

Leaseholdgroundrent1A Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation reader has got in touch with his leasehold ground rent demand from Estates and Management, which he feels is a little peremptory and abrupt. So, let’s take a look.

Before doing so, it is worth informing any new readers that the Tchenguiz Family Trusts owns one per cent of all the freeholds in England and Wales and bought up the freeholds of McCarthy and Stone and Berkeley Homes, among others. Estates and Management is the Tchenguiz property management company.

Up to 70 per cent of Peverel’s business comes from this source.

There is a reason why companies and individuals buy freeholds. Where there are, say, 40 flats that cost leasehold buyers £100,000 each, the freehold would have been sold for around £200,000 – £400,000, or even a bit less if it was a deal at an auction.

Leaseholders are supposed to be offered the opportunity to buy freehold, but it is easy enough to flummox them and flog it off to whoever is offering the most.

What this means is that the freeholder, with only five to ten per cent of the asset, makes all the decisions to run the property, placing insurance and other contracts, choosing the managing agent … and gathering the ground rent.

Which brings us back to the demand from Estates and Management below.

First off, there is “PROPERTY ALTERATIONS? Please see overleaf”. This means: if you have done anything to your property we want to know about it so we can see whether we can charge you anything.

Then there is “STOP! You could register for paperless billing … “ and save your freehold owner a bit of money. It is probably best to pay by post and send the cheque by registered mail.

Then comes the figure of £230. Plus a couple of threats. “Please note: interest may be charge on late payment and a £45 administrative charge may be applied to your account.”

And again: “We will add an administrative charge of £20 to your account for any cheque that is not honoured by your bank.”

On the second page the threatening tone continues.

“The landlord may be able to claim additional sums from you if you do not pay by the date specified on this notice. You have the right to challenge the reasonableness of any additional sum at a leasehold valuation tribunal.”

Plus:

“Section 167 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 and regulations made under it prevent your landlord from forfeiting your lease for non-payment of rent, service charges or administration charges (or a combination of them) unless the unpaid amount is more than £350 or consists of, or includes, an amount that has been outstanding for more than three years.”

Is the demand over-aggressive, as the leaseholder complains, or is it simply an accurate and revealing expression of where the power lies in retirement leasehold? There is no touchy-feely Janet Entwistle rubbish here: it’s pay up, or we will push you around! But then, is that worse?

“It’s no big deal and, yes, it may be me being somewhat sensitive having been clobbered by McCarthy and Stone and Peverel in the past,” says the leaseholder. “But the form betrays what we residents have been warned about: that Estates and Management are a very ‘hard’ company to deal with and that they will accept no allowances … Oh for sweeping reforms in the leasehold sector!”

Leaseholdgroundrent2

Comments

  1. The need for regulations is obvious— this system is totally open to abuse to the detriment of leaseholders— it is commonplace in other institutions –law,banking,policing,councils, — as Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation has highlighted before that ARMA has only a very small proportion of agents who belong to them, therefore, the argument for an independent Ombudsman is a total no brainer.

  2. My 92 year old blind mother has just received an almost identical invoice, along with a very aggresive introductory letter. An absolute disgrace. It came from the brand new landlord that wonderful & caring (I can prove they are not) Taylor Wimpey have just sold the 28 bedroomed complex to. The residents are over 85, many in their 90s.
    The new landlord is E&J Groundrents No 10 Ltd, letters sent out by their appointed agent E & J estates, Owslebury Nr Winchester.
    The intro letters just states E&J are the new landlord and then goes on to demand the £100 PA ground rent. If payment not being sent they demand we send proof that we have paid it (Due on !st Feb) – disgraceful aggresive mannerism. Why should we have to prove payment at this early stage
    Had they been half decent and customer caring they could have just sent a nice letter of introduction. All they needed to do re ground rent was contact the managing agent (Trinity Estates) who would confirm that all ground rents had already been paid by DD to Trinity on 1st Feb. For 25 years the residents have always paid their MAs the ground rent by DD on 1st Feb.
    I am sick of these “dictators” preying on the old and vunerable.
    Can anyone give me any good or bad comments re E&J Groundrents No 10 Ltd or E & J Estates. Thank you

  3. Trevorb :
    1. You can collect information on any UK registered company by search at http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk (CH) and http://www.duedil.com . I am not able to find any listing for E & J Estates which may not be trading as a reg.company.
    2. E & J GR No. 10 Ltd ( Company No. 07971689) was incorporated on 1 March 2012 ( last year) and has declared an issued capital of 2 pds. Were the leaseholders offered the right of first refusal to buy the freehold?
    3. I suggest you buy a copy of (a) the Appointments List (gives names of directors ) costs one pound from CH and (b) the freehold title from Land Registry Online ( download info and cost about 3 pds by credit card ) and check if there is any charge holder ( Finance lender).

    • Hi Ollie, Many thanks for your response. Yes, I am up to speed about companies house etc etc. E & J estates state in their letter to my mother that they are the appointed agents of E&J GR No 10 Ltd
      E & J estates give a web address on their letter but try to enter and it states still under construction!!
      Although not trading long E&J GR No 10Ltd seem to have many other connections to other company names on, see web site, companycheck.co.uk
      I think they specialise in buying up freehold.
      What is niggling at the back of my mind, especially in view of the aggressive letter they sent mother, is I am sure I have read very negative reports about them somewhere on the internet – hence my original question

      • Ollie, forgot to say. Residents were offered freehold but just under 50% said yes. All these residents are in late 80s or over 90. So Taylor Wimpey sold it on straight away – it must have been all planned by TW to be sold so quickly

  4. Trevorb:
    What does the wording in the lease for your mum’s flat say about paying annual ground rent to Lessor or to Managing agent ?
    Did the leases for all flats in your mum’s block commence with 99 years term from 1988 ? So your mum’s flat has 74 years left on the lease and needs to urgently seek a 90 years statutory lease extension ? – It cost more to extend leases fallen below 80 years as “marriage value” enters the compensation formula .

  5. Details on Estates & Management Ltd ( Co. No. 03244100) can be obtained from searching the records listed at http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk . This company is again listed showing “accounts overdue” since 30 Sept 2012.

    This company E&M is a member of Consensus Business Group and you can see a “organisation structure with nearly 400 companies controlled by offshore companies ” under section headed ” LVT ” at http://www.cqra.org

    This company E&M was identified by Barry Gardiner MP ( Brent North) in a speech in parliament in early Feb 2002 as being a “ground rent” grazer but this practice was stopped when Legislation required ground rents due to be served on the leaseholder. Previously ground rents became due whether “demanded or not” and man agents just did not send them out so as to collect the recovery charges from leaseholders in arrears . Nowadays E&M have gone up a level by “grazing for subletting consent” and many leaseholders are asked to pay fees of around 400 pds for “global subletting consent”

    • Many thanks for your input Ollie, much appreciated.
      I will look at mothers lease about to whom the GR should be paid to. As mwntioned it has already been paid.
      Once I know where I am I intend to send a letter off to E & M telling them how, if they are half decent, they should have “introduced” themselves.
      I note what you say about lease extension but all these residents are all abount “burnt out” I’m afraid. Familys/relatives never seem to want to know, probably because they don’t understand pitfalls of leasehold.
      Due to having to manage my own probs in life it would be just too much for me to try and help the residents all on my own. I have spent the last 2 years proving the MA they had was “out of order” with S/Charges, expenditure and sinking fund.
      I took all the evidence to Land lord Taylor Wimpey but they told me I had got to “back off totally” or else the sinking fund could take up to 5 years to recover from the MA and transfer to a new MA. Looking back I think I was “had”. TW appointed a new MA (Trinity Estates) and then sold the freehold to E&J GR No 10.
      Will update with the response I recieve from E & J Estates re GR demand letter

  6. Trevorb:
    4th line down in your post dated 19 Feb, you quote “writing letter to E & M” ? Dont get confused as your Landlord agent should be E &J Estates – right ?
    I think you are wasting your time asking for a “letter of introduction” from E & J Estates – “Business Curtesy” is old fashioned way of thinking- we don’t live in this kind of world anymore.( not under the leasehold environment )
    You should write to E & J Ground Rents No.10 Ltd ‘s managing director requesting :

    1. copy of document showing when the company became the freeholder of your mum’s block
    2. Names of the appointed Directors.
    3. Copy of the appointment letter for E&J Estates to collect ground rent. from your block .