March 25, 2017

Peverel / FirstPort pays back £39,377 wrongly taken from Hillside Court, but residents say another £3,498 is owed

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UPDATE March 12 2015: The residents estimate that the underpayment still outstanding now amount to £4148, not £3,498. The amendment concerns a flat sold in August 2001. Carlex strongly advises the residents not to accept that this matter is concluded until all the data is thoroughly examined, ideally by a third party. 

This money is not a settlement and Peverel has acknowledged that it was wrongly taken from the residents.

It is an example of Peverel suffering because the complex and sneaky revenue generating clauses in the leases of retirement flats has backfired – for once, on them.


 

UPDATE March 11 2015: The residents have now made a formal complaint to ARMA, the Association of Residential Managing Agents, concerning Peverel / FirstPort Retirement’s conduct over this issue.

ARMA has already received a complaint about Peverel / FirstPort’s portfolio of house managers’ flats, which many leaseholders (and legal authorities) believe to be communal assets paid for and maintained according to the lease. Instead, leases to Peverel were issued on these flats, mainly in 2009, and they have either been sold off or borrowed against.

The issue is with the ARMA regulator the Rt Hon Keith Hill. Until he has dealt with it, Peverel / FirstPort Retirement will not be considered for ARMA membership.


Just over a week after being contacted by Carlex, Peverel / FirstPort has had to pay back £39,377 to Hillside Court, in Ormskirk.

The money was wrongly paid to the freeholder over the past 15 years after flats were sold, rather than transferred to the retirement site’s contingency fund.

Residents spotted the extraordinary error in June last year and contacted Peverel, but it was only NINE months later when Carlex took the issue up that the money was repaid.

Carlex wrote to Peverel / FirstPort on February 26 – copied into local Labour MP Rosie Cooper, and MP patrons of Carlex Jim Fitzpatrick and Sir Peter Bottomley.

On March 6, £39,377 was transferred to the Hillside Court contingency fund.

But the residents claim a further £3,498 is also owed.

Another four property sales in 2002 are missing from the Peverel / FirstPort’s supplied list of property transactions, and two have been incorrectly calculated.

Peverel simply treated the payments as a “transfer fee”, or exit fee, to the freeholder.

These exit fees, for which no service whatsoever is provided, were the subject of an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading in September 2012, which concluded that they were “likely” to be an unfair contract term. They are now under examination by the Law Commission.

Quite why they require yet further legal examination, rather than simply ended, is unclear. The retirement house builders have stopped including transfer fees in about 2009.

Carlex views them as a blatant example of the worst exploitative practices which have given retirement housing the abysmal reputation it has today.

Although Peverel / FirstPort has paid over the £39,377 last week, it was aware that money was owed months ago.

The accounts for Hillside Court for September last year show an additional payment of £3,880 was paid into the contingency fund in respect of three property sales.

It is unexplained why Peverel / FirstPort did not repay this money when it knew last year that an error had been made, and why it was only paid when Carlex took up the issue and involved three MPs.

Last Friday, Peverel / FirstPort wrote to all the residents offering to “unreservedly apologise” – while giving every impression that it had somehow spotted the error and investigated it, rather than having been rumbled by the residents.

Of the £39,377, an amount of £7,520.21 is paid in lost interest that would have been accumulated on the fund.

Peverel / FirstPort blames the “complex” lease at Hillside Court for the error, although the elderly residents seem to have understood it well enough.

“To explain further, the leases at Hillside Court provide for a transfer fee to be paid to the landlord by each flat owner upon sale or letting.

“The lease separately requires the landlord to pay that money into the development’s reserve fund.

“It is this second requirement that is unusual to see within a lease and which was missed 15 years ago …

“Unfortunately, once the error was made, it continued, and only came to light in 2014 … ”

We have asked Peverel / FirstPort to respond publicly to the residents’ inquiries about the money that is still missing.

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Comments

  1. Just to add to the mix in this extraordinary cock up, I wonder if Peverel has been undercollecting for the last couple of years.

    The OFT ruling in September 2012 said the transfer fee should be collected on the LOWER of the sale price or the original purchase price. Peverel clearly thought they were collecting a TRANSFER fee and so may have done their calculations on this basis. HOWEVER, the contingency fee, which in effect this is, should be based on the ACTUAL sale price of the property, which may be higher. So they may have undercollected, thus disadvantaging the residents. Admittedly the difference may be small and it would only affect sales after September 2012, but the resdients should certainly bring this to the attention of the Regional Manager at their meeting.

    • UPDATE March 12 2015: The residents estimate that the underpayment still outstanding now amount to £4,148, not £3,498. The amendment concerns a flat sold in August 2001. Carlex strongly advises the residents not to accept that this matter is concluded until all the data is thoroughly examined, ideally by a third party.

      This money is not a settlement and Peverel has acknowledged that it was wrongly taken from the residents.

      It is an example of Peverel suffering because the complex and sneaky revenue generating clauses in the leases of retirement flats has backfired – for once, on them.

      This is a good summation of the goings-on by Peverel Group since 2001 when a change in personnel was
      believed to have seen the facts that the poor old Residents were to Old and Timid to Complain.

      This began a slow Disintegration of Standards by those in Power.

      How many Residents who reads this has been stung by one or more of the many scams perpetrated by a small amount of people who readily were prepared to cheat and steal the pensioners money because it is simple to do as only a few of us are prepared to Stick our Heads above the Parapet.

    • Insider,

      How had the Peverel Staff including the Auditors missed this obvious scam for so long it shows that Residents who refuse to check the Invoice Files each year in October along with the Trial Balance and Audit Trail, which are the first pages in the Expenses Files.

      They partially shows each Invoice that was submitted in a Headed Section.

      Having checked the Invoice Files going back to 2006/07 it is obvious that the Invoices are inserted away from the development by admin staff at HQ and under pressure wrong Invoices are charged to wrong developments.

      Having spoken to our Area Manager, who admits, he has no input in the collation of the Expenses File and only checks the Trial Balance/Audit Trail?

      If wrong Invoices are placed in the Expenses File then they are allowed, as there is no check on the contents, so you can find as we have:-

      * Items for other developments paid by your development
      * Items charged twice in different headings
      * Same Invoices paid twice in Consecutive years

      The way Peverel has been allowed to get away with the mistakes/cheating is down to the lack of input by the Area manager and the very residents, by their refusal to attend meetings or have checks to the Invoice Files by friends/family and others?.

  2. Michael Hollands says:

    Peverel/First Port must now check every complex they manage to ensure this mistake has not been repeated.
    And provide every complex with proof that it has not.

  3. Thanks to Carlex for working on behalf of the Residents of Retirement Property We were taken over by McCarthy & Stone Management last year from Peverel The service has not improved and they do not like replying to letters Peverel at least had a folder on procedures in the Lounge they removed it when they went and although M&S Management was started in 2010 they still have not got around to compiling one

    • I’d be interested in hearing from any sites managed by the in house team at McCarthy & Stone. Given the outfit is run by an ex Peverel person – Mark Riddington – it may well be the service standards are not dissimilar or, indeed, worse than his old company!

      Do tell of your experiences.

    • G Farley,

      Forgive me but who decided that McCarthy & Stone would be the new Managing Agent?

      Surely the Frying Pan & Fire would have discussed?

  4. Michael Epstein says:

    Dear Michelle Banks CEO ARMA,
    I hope you do not mind this open communication via Carlex, as you do not reply to my emails.
    You will be aware that it was the actions of leaseholders that brought the attention of the Peverel collusive tendering into the public domain. This issue has yet to be fully resolved by Peverel Retirement/Firstport Retirement. Once again it was the actions of leaseholders that brought the latest Peverel Retirement/Firstport Retirement scandal involving transfer fees. Again this issue is yet to be resolved.
    Currently ARMA are considering admitting Peverel Retirement/Firstport Retirement to ARMA-Q .
    After this latest scandal can anyone within ARMA (even those who hold senior positions within the Peverel/Firstport group) believe that Peverel Retirement/Firstport Retirement are fit to be given ARMA-Q status?

    • Michael Hollands says:

      Michael. I have had a one way communication about this with Michelle Banks the same as you.
      I have resorted to communicating with members of the ARMA Regulatory Board on this subject, after all they are the ones who will make the decision.
      But of course they also ignore me.
      I assume ARMA are getting in “ignorance” training for when the complaints come flooding in.

      • Michael Epstein says:

        Michael Hollands,
        Sorry to hear that you too are finding it difficult to communicate with ARMA.
        Have you tried contacting Sue Petri and Claire Banwell-Spencer at ARMA?
        Silly me! I forgot, Sue Petri and Claire Banwell- Spencer work for Peverel!

  5. Michael Epstein says:

    Michael Hollands,
    Thanks to the brilliant work people such as you do, no one at ARMA can plead ignorance, as so many of the failings are in the public domain.
    Whilst I agree with Carlex that the principals behind ARMA-Q are positive, the complete farce the implementation of ARMA-Q has descended into, highlights the total breakdown of leasehold and by implication the lack of ability for vested interests to reign in the worst excesses of certain freeholders and managing agents. The apparent decision of Miss Banks not to answer to leaseholders, is of course her right, but it is a foolish action that undermines the credibility of ARMA.

  6. Don’t want to sound Pro-Peverel, but in our situation we get Annual Account Statements that list Exit Fee payments to our contingency fund.

    If one is missing for the last year then it is highlighted – very forcibly by letter/email to the Area Manager – [ie He /She who prepared the Statement] that an error has ocured.

    We have had one in the past 10 years that was missed and when it was notified was rectified expediently.

    Assuming that all Peverel managed developments in the UK are administered by the same set of rules, why did it take 15 years to notice that at Hillside Court these were missing?

    Advice to Hillside Court – Get someone – A Residents Association Member – A Relative – A non Residents Association Resident – Any one to check out the Annual Statement for anomalies.

    This will also effect renters so don’t be put off by negative / whimpey answers, their rents will suffer if contingency funds are low.

    Next Step CIB [Citizens Advice Bureu]

    Don’t rely on the house manager – not in the job description !

    Residents must be vigilant, defend your own, Peverel won’t – ever missed a Peverel debt ?, they’ll be the first to let you know..

    • Michael Epstein says:

      Kevin,
      Have you a way of telling if the correct amount has been paid into the contingency fund? For this you would presumably have to know the selling price of each flat

      • Michael – Sorry about delayed reply.

        The way I do this is to record over our current accounting year all the sales and new rental tenants the have occurred.

        Then when we get our “Annual Income & Expenditure Account for the year Ended 31 August 2014” for example, I check section “7 Contingency Fund” in the “Notes To The Accounts” pages for ‘Exit Fee’ payments. I then check these with the house manager.

        If there are any discrepancies I write to the Area Manager.

        I have only caught them out once and a payment was made with interest to our contingency Funds.

        You can evaluate the sale price by adding two zeros to the quoted pounds figure –
        ex. ‘Apartment XX £1430.00’
        If the Exit Fee Rate is 1% then the sale price was £14,3000.00.
        This can be verified by visiting your local area Zoopla or Rightmove site where past selling prices are listed [Taken from the Land Registry, I understand]

        Rented apartments are more complicated, but if I see a rented property entered such as = ‘Apartment YY £700.00’ and I know it is rented then I take it on trust.

        Oh! we are Peverel Managed

  7. Ged Walsh says:

    Fully agree with Michael Holland 100% Peverel/FirstPort must now be made to check every complex they manage and be forced to ensure every homeowner and residents about the facts and reasons why as written proof and evidence for the future if needed!
    I’m

    As for Kevin’s statement don’t rely on your house manager “it’s not in the job description”

    Do Peverel/FirstPort Senior Staff there Management Teams and house managers have a Job Discriptioan and discipline procedure that is fully adhered and followed and affective or are they just given a petrol allowance and moved on to a different complex?

    Ged Walsh

  8. After a ghastly inferno at Gibson Court in September 2011, Estates and Management did not miss the opportunity to cash in. Neither Peverel nor Fairhold, the landlords, lifted a finger to support the stricken families, instead leaving it to us to find alternative accommodation whilst the complex was being rebuilt. Yes, they engaged a company called Countrywide to help, but they were useless. The only organisations which came out of this well were the insurance companies and loss adjustors. My mother, at 95, having lost a friend in the fire, could not face returning to Gibson Court, so we had no option but to attempt a sale or a rental. We managed to find a tenant, but enter E&M, who happily helped themselves to £2500 plus not inconsiderable ‘administration fees’. Of course it was all ‘in the lease’ and so no discretion could apparently be given. Now we have eventually managed to sell the apartment, and again E&M are at the scene. They have again pocketed £2450 of our money in ‘transfer fees’ and another £2650 for the contingency fund. Oh, and another £269 and £135 for the ‘management packs’. Quite why a brand new build requires this sort of contingency is anyone’s guess but the 30 or so sales of the apartments since 2013 will have brought in a huge amount of cash from people whose lives were so badly affected, with no-one culpable. Let’s hope the Law Commission will have some teeth and demand that all the families affected are refunded in March 2016, but I’m not holding my breath!

    • The £2,500 fee on subletting went into the contingency fund, and was not paid to E&M. It is the highest subletting fee we have encountered in retirement leasehold.

    • Ian,
      I am aware of the tragedy, that happened in September 2011. I still wonder why there has been no closure or in-depth investigation on what happened and why the fire spread so quickly and with such vigour?

      The roof space design having Fire Blankets is new build or conversion is unusual?

      The use of this method would have been to save money as the norm are Fire Walls, not Fire Curtains?

      The local Building Control would have records even if it was carried out by an Approved Inspector.

      I remember the Fire Brigade was blamed by Peverel Retirement – Fairhold & Estates & Management for the resulting actual Fire Spread, is this correct?

      I was a qualified Building Control Officer in 2010, when I retired, and I was aware of this design for roof spaces for refurbishments?

      What was finalised, regarding the damaged Fire Curtains that allowed the fire to spread and the contractor who had carried out other repairs, that were considered as the potential cause of the failure of the Fire Curtains?

      It is with respect, that this occurrence should be highlited as the Managing Agents blamed others for the damage, it was like the Postman (Fire Brigade) being responsible for the contents of a letter.

      The payment of the 1% means that the flats had a value of £250,000.00 each is this correct?

      Was McCarthy & Stone involved at any time in this development at Gibson Court.

      Ian, Sebastian has my email if you wish me to contact.

  9. Michael Epstein says:

    As i recall from the inquest the actual fire was accidental, but several key failings by Peverel were identified which possibly led to the tragic death of Irene Cockerton (( that About Peverel is dedicated to).
    Concerns were raised over the condition,inspection and fitting of the fire curtains, which seriously impaired their capability to withhold the fire for the perquisite amount of time. Concerns were also raised with regarding to accounting for residents in an emergency.
    Peverel sought to pass the blame to the Surrey Fire Brigade at the inquest (and shortly afterwards made a donation to the Fire Brigades Charity)
    Perhaps Peverel would now like to make a donation(goodwill payment) to those that sold up in Gibson Court equivalent to the fees forced on the leaseholders?

  10. Chas/Michael – the fire was caused by a faulty TV but spread so fast that 12 fire engines (from memory) fought to contain the blaze. The roof was destroyed. The inquest was inconclusive. We did submit specific information to the inquest about the evacuation but heard nothing and were not invited to contribute formally. Yes our apartment sold for around £250,000, a little more. Yes the lease was originally McCarthy and Stone. Yes please to compensation from Peverel, the last 3.5 years have taken a very heavy toll on the family, with not a word from Peverel or Fairhold except demands for money. We were sent the demand for service charges before the front door of our apartment had been repainted.

  11. Ian,

    I have reread the sorry news regarding the fire at a McCarthy & Stone built development, Gibson Court in Esher.

    The Spread of Fire in such a short period in a roof space should be designed to withstand fires penetrating from one roof space to another should be 2 hours as I remember.

    I found this on the web:

    During cross examination, Mark Watson, representing Peverel Retirement, said it should have been clear to firefighters there was a risk of the fire spreading into the roof space as they tackled the blaze from outside.

    But Mr Strudwick said crews would have expected protection from the fire, in the form of fire walls, would have extended into the roof space and because this was not the case “everybody was let down by the building”.

    What happened after this report?
    What further action was taken by the Fire Brigade?
    How many similar McCarthy & Stone developments have Fire Curtains instead of Fire Walls?

    I remember in 1980s at college a Residential Home was burned down with a loss of 8 residents?

    Can any one remember this fire which resulted in the introduction of Fire Walls in Roof Spaces?

    Mr Travers is expected to deliver his conclusion in the coming weeks.

    Peverel Retirement now FirstPort Retirement Property Services, wonders why residents feel so aggrieved they regular provide reminders to the Senior Management.

    It has been noted the lack of Truth – Openness – Transparency, is still a main fault-line, within this Company?

  12. Michael Epstein says:

    Clearly, we will have to await the full report. Until then i would remind readers of the coroners comments regarding the fire safety inspections at Gibson Court:
    PITIFUL, FLAWED,INACCURATE.

  13. We have just received a letter from First Port telling us that they will no longer be collecting the ground rent for Estates & Management Ltd.
    We will have to pay it direct to E & M.
    Is this due to the mix up with the money not paid into the contingency fund.

  14. Michael Epstein says:

    Dev,
    The change to E&M reflects the partition of the freeholding and management companies when Peverel was forced into administration. Clearly E&M (which is part of the freeholding companies) would not wish to pay Peverel/Firstport any fees for collecting ground rents

  15. Michael Epstein says:

    It may be of interest to note that E&M have been “ring fenced” from the wider financial problems of their parent companies. Presumably, this is to ensure ground rent and other charges can continue to be collected.