July 19, 2024

Warner Court, in Berkshire, breaks free of Tchenguiz and FirstPort with right to manage

Warner Court residents ignored the Tchenguiz organisation trying to frighten them off exercising the right to manage. Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation argues that all retirement sites with Tchenguiz freeholds should appoint property managers accountable to the residents

Warner Court residents ignored the Tchenguiz organisation trying to frighten them off exercising the right to manage. Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation argues that all retirement sites with Tchenguiz freeholds should appoint property managers accountable to the residents

Another day, another retirement site – Warner Court – decides to break free of the Vincent Tchenguiz organisation and FirstPort to appoint its own management through right to manage.

The RTM at Warner Court, in Sandhurst, Berkshire, takes over on September 15, which means another retirement site will almost certainly slip from FirstPort’s grasp.

The residents in 31 flats have opted for right to manage in spite of the usual efforts by the Tchenguiz freeholder, ultimately the Tchenguiz Family Trust based in the British Virgin Islands.

Louise Smith, the only Tchenguiz employee who actually seems to visit retirement sites, made her customary pitch at Warner Court about the perils pensioners would be facing if they actually appointed a management answerable to themselves.

Far better, runs this argument, for residents to stick with the management that is imposed on them by her employer.

On other occasions, she has tried to derail right to manage by offering the residents an alternative management company, appointed by Tchenguiz naturally.

Rendall and Rittner, Freemont Property Managers (which is run by the old Peverel politburo) and Warwick Estates have all been offered in the past at various sites.

But a gift from Tchenguiz is one to decline.

It would make not the slightest difference. The problem is less the management company, but who appoints and fires it.

All these companies can be relied upon to do Tchenguiz’s bidding just as assiduously as FirstPort, formerly Peverel, which Mr Tchenguiz used to own until he was arrested by the Serious Fraud Office in March 2011 (on wrong evidence) and his property empire unravelled.

The bulk of FirstPort’s business, variously 65 -75 per cent still comes from Tchenguiz’s freehold-owing companies. These include the bulk of retirement housing freeholds, including those sites built by McCarthy and Stone and Pegasus.

Warner Court residents are to be congratulated for their achievement in seeing through their right to manage.

It did not come cheap: £9,000 was spent on lawyers and the RTM application had to be made twice. But there was no tribunal hearing.

Generally, the Tchenguiz organisation does not try to resist RTMs in open court in the tribunal, which would also allow the issues that gave rise to right to manage to be publicly aired.

Many congratulations, too, to Nicola Frith, an accountant and daughter of a Warner Court resident, for organising the RTM.

Retirement sites that opt for right to manage and break away from Tchenguiz and FirstPort are reported to save 20 per cent on their service charges.

Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation is happy to put residents in touch with other retirement sites that have opted for right to manage to discuss their concerns.

We are also here to provide any help to achieve RTM, including suggesting a network of professional advisers.

The question anyone undecided about right to manage needs to ask is:

If a site is being managed as economically and efficiently as possible for the benefit of the residents, why do Tchenguiz and FirstPort resist right to manage so determinedly?


Martin Boyd writes:

Congratulations to all the residents at Warner Court. We went down to see them last year – a very nice and active group of leaseholders. We wish them all the best after their hard work.

If it were not for the hard work of Nicola Frith things may not have worked out, and there is a fair chance there will have been the usual claims about people being pressured of bullied. Given that Nicola is an accountant, we look forward to hearing how much their new managing agent will save them.

We were invited along to the talk by Ms Smith, of the Tchenguiz organisation. It seemed better to allow her tell the E&M story on her own. Clearly, the residents saw through what she had to say about the easy option of one of their “preferred” managing agents.

For what is meant to be a no fault right, it has to be wrong that leaseholders seeking right to manage end up facing £9K of bills because it is almost impossible to get everyone’s details right on all the notices. Not the least of a would-be RTM company’s problems is that the Land Registry records are sometimes wrong.

It does not matter which agent the landlord chooses to appoint, or how nice the landlord may even be, that agent is always legally obliged to act on behalf of the landlord not the leaseholders. It is not an option, it is simply what the legislation requires.

The only point where a managing agent is allowed to work for the benefit of the leaseholders is when they take control of a site via and a Residents Management Company, that was set up in the lease, or an RTM company.

Some landlords falsely claim they should be in charge as they are the only ones with a long term interest in the building.

The truth is the landlord has no interest in the building other than to meet their his obligations through expenditure which he passes to leaseholders.

There is the theoretical prospect of owning the building at the end of the lease, but that assumes nobody extends their lease.

The reality is that leaseholders are the only ones who have a major financial interest in the building and are the only ones with an interest in getting value for money from the managing agent.

There is certainly no point in an RTM involving themselves in a bit of dodgy collusive tendering when they are the ones who pay the bills.

Quite why some landlords fight so hard to keep control of the managing agent is for others to guess at. A landlord should, of course, make no additional profits from running the site but somehow that just seems to happen. Sometimes.

Without a third party landlord at Charter Quay [a prime riverside site in Kingston, Surrey] our service charges are now at least 25 per cent below what they used to be even though the standard of service is higher and the amount put into major works is much higher than it used to be.