June 24, 2017

A year of disillusion with ARMA-Q …

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… Left to themselves, the leasehold managing agent sector seems incapable of reform

 

A personal view by Michael Hollands

(Michael Hollands lives in a retirement development in Nottingham and has long been campaigning to improve conditions in retirement housing and the wider leasehold sector)

It all started in mid 2014, with the announcement that ARMA-Q would operate from January 2015.

There were great expectations, that ARMA-Q would be the answer to the problems that befall many unfortunate leaseholders. It was announced with great fanfare, even the Government were on board. We could all now forget the ARHM – the Association of Retirement Housing Managers –  and the ineffective control they have had over their members. ARMA was going to be the Phoenix that rose from the ashes of despair.

The regulations that ARMA-Q members had to adhere to seemed comprehensive, so I for one could not wait until January 1 2015.

The first sign of concern and disappointment came with the way that ARMA announced the management companies who had qualified. In fact, they refused to tell us.

I made repeated requests, and was told to be patient. Announcements were only made on Twitter and the full list was not published until after Easter. The Twitter announcements  appeared rather frivolous and jolly, and not as professionally written as I would have expected.

I asked if Peverel Retirement, McCarthy and Stone Management Services or Countrywide had qualified, but with no success. This seemed strange as one would have thought their residents would have liked to know who had signed up to the good conduct scheme.

Wait until after Easter was the reply.

When the list of members was announced we were told it would not include Peverel/FirstPort as they were under investigation by the ARMA Regulatory Board. They had applied for membership in September 2014, so even by Easter 2015 consideration had been continuing for over 6 months. Now a further 8 months on it is still not at an end.

I would have thought that at present ARMA would have the upper hand and could force/persuade Peverel/First Port to mend their ways and adequately compensate those of their leaseholders who have suffered in the past. From the Peverel / Cirrus price-fixing scandal to sales of managers flats etc, etc. I have continually pressed ARMA on this point, but get little or no reponse. On average it takes about 10 e.mails to ARMA to get one negative response.

I also note that ARMA will never support leaseholders with complaints against ARMA-Q members, they will only advise their members and this can take many weeks. The most one can expect is a temporary expelling of a naughty member, which is no help to the afflicted leaseholder at all.

In fact, when I queried this with ARMA, I was told that it was the ARHM which disciplined companies in the retirement sector. Some advice that was!

The ARMA Conference was held with great fanfare, with many important speakers including the Housing Minister. I hoped that there would be some announcement in one of the speeches that would encourage leaseholders, but I doubt there was.

In fact, I shall never know because ARMA refuse to publish the speeches, apparently it is for members only, leaseholders cannot be told. Strange, because it is leaseholders who are at the receiving end.

So, all in all ARMA-Q has been a disappointment to me. It appears to be something invented more for the benefit of its members. A bit of an “Old Boys Club”.

So, come on ARMA you have got one more chance, do not be a clone of the useless ARHM.

And get the Peverel/First Port situation sorted.

If you can get them on the straight and narrow with full compensation for the past, you could be the toast of the leasehold industry.

Comments

  1. Can I make clear this article sets out the view of Mr Hollands and not CARLEX.

    We had already been critical of ARMA earlier this year when they took so long to release details of who had been accredited under ARMA-Q. However, details of qualified and associate members have now been on their web site for many months so this is a bit of an ex issue.

    We also accept the delay was because ARMA had vastly underestimated the workload associated with their new accreditation system. Not the best of marketing strategies from ARMA but perhaps better than rubber stamping everyone automatically just to meet a self imposed deadline?

    The accreditation system is of course only needed because the government refuses to regulate the sector. At the moment everyone will still needs to reserve judgement on how ARMA-Q will work and it may take at least 2 years to settle down. The reports we have from some of the better agents is that going through the accreditation process did make them review a number of procedures as well as putting systems in place which should ensure more transparency. The fact that large organisations such as Countrywide appear to have decided to leave ARMA should also send yet another strong message to government that self regulation inevitably has severe limits..

    ARMA has of course always been a trade body designed to represent its members not the interests of leaseholders or landlords or non member agents. The ARMA-Q system creates a new set of rules and procedures by which its members should now operate. However, it should not be seen as a regular form of redress for leaseholders as that role still sits with the courts, the Tribunals and the Ombudsman.

    How many investigations are ongoing for potential breaches of ARMA-Q is always going to be unclear as only when a report is concluded and a finding is made against the agent do the results appear on the web site.

    As for Mr Hollands demand to know how things stand with ARMA’s ongoing review by the regulator of the FirstPort Retirement application what does he expect? Again is it better the process takes a long time or would he like a rubber stamp one way or the other. Is the regulator expected to give Mr Hollands some special preview of his current thinking even though Mr Hollands is not part of the case and as far as I know has never lived at a FirstPort managed site.?

    Mr Hollands and others may like to know there is a meeting due to take place soon concerning the FirstPort retirement application. We will report on the matter when we know more.

    As for Mr Hollands idea that he and presumably everyone else should somehow be entitled to copies of speeches and technical papers provided for the ARMA annual conference what does he want. Non members were charged £480 to attend or does Mr Holland’s think those agents who choose not to be ARMA members should still somehow be getting everything for free?

    The Housing Minister was never booked to attend the ARMA conference so quite where that idea comes from seems odd. Maybe Mr Hollands is confusing matters with last years LEASE conference. Both LKP and the FPRA did get invitations to the ARMA conference and reported back. The FPRA only reports to its members but the LKP/CARLEX sites are open to all . As Mr Hollands may have noticed we did not report what the Housing Minister said as he was not there.

    • Michael Hollands says:

      Can I also make it clear that I speak for myself and not Carlex/LKP.
      Apologies for the mistake. I think it had been announced earlier that Martin Brandon was to attend and speak.
      With his absence not being reported anywhere I assumed he was there.
      There may have been good reasons for ARMA’s secrecy but I think that the way they announced Q qualifiers was very frivolous.
      I steel feel that 15 months is too long to consider a companies qualification. If they do get accepted how long will it take for the many Leaseholders unresolved complaints to be considered
      ARMA state that Tribunal results will be published, so it is reasonable to assume none published/ equals no results. Maybe there are some in the pipeline.
      What you call my Demand was a request to know if any of the speeches contained hope for Leaseholders.
      As they refuse to tell me I assume there was nothing. I assume that the money Leaseholders pay to Management Companies helps pay for their attendance fee. So why should they object to us hearing good news.
      So Martin please do not be too critical of me. I have tried very hard over the past five plus years to get some Government action. I have had about as much success as you.

  2. Michael Epstein says:

    How can it be possible that any Peverel/Firstport company has met the criteria for ARMA-Q accreditation?
    Is that not a slap in the face for those genuine property management companies that have striven to meet the ARMA-Q standards?

  3. Carlex!

    I was surprised at the tone of Martin toward Michael. He had made it clear that it was a personal comment and it was his view.

    December 29, 2015

    … Left to themselves, the leasehold managing agent sector seems incapable of reform?

    A personal view by Michael Hollands

    (Michael Hollands lives in a retirement development in Nottingham and has long been campaigning to improve conditions in retirement housing and the wider leasehold sector)

    It all started in mid 2014, with the announcement that ARMA-Q would operate from January 2015.

    Michael I will personally say that you are Beacon of Light in the Dark that is Leasehold and ARMA.

  4. Michael Hollands says:

    Thanks Chas. Although LKP/Carlex may be the only organisation supporting this effort there are many other individuals working their socks off, voluntarily, to help improve the situation.
    To be attacking and criticising them on a campaigning website is counter productive and will please the opposition.
    Let’s all stick together and get this sorted, preferably during our lifetimes.
    We can’t wait 2 years for ARMA to sort themselves out. At the moment they appear to be DEAD STOP.

    • I note Carlex has posted, in a around about way, an apology to you!

      I agree that attacking and criticising those who work their socks off to help improve the Leasehold Situation is counter productive.

      We still need a site that can voice the situations that occur/occurred and be treated with a respect that was shown when Carlex began.

      Having said that Sebastian has my details and he can pass them to you and we together can help others who are unaware of the Leasehold Tragedy’s.

  5. I am putting this down to post-Christmas dyspepsia …

    The only person to blame here is me, as I asked Michael Hollands to write a piece about ARMA-Q, about which he has strong views and some experience.

    The whole object of ARMA-Q was to reassure the public that the leasehold management sector was improving, and it has been pretty useless at that.

    There were months of silly game playing by ARMA at the beginning of last year, when it refused to say which companies had signed up to ARMA-Q and which had not. This was exasperating for us, but also for companies that had paid significant amounts of money to join ARMA-Q.

    Frankly, I could not care less whether ARMA’s bureaucracy was overstretched or not. It reverted to type and was the very opposite of transparent.

    Regarding complaints about companies referred to the regulator, if Carlex / LKP is aware of a complaint (such as that against Peverel / FirstPort Retirement) we will report it and, subsequently, report the ruling.

    At present, the ARMA regulator (former Labour housing minister Keith Hill) is having to consider a/ why Peverel / FirstPort has a portfolio of house managers’ flats with leases issued in 2009 when the freeholds and management of retirement sites were owned by the Tchenguiz organisation; b/ the procedures concerning their disposal and sale.

    Other parts of FirstPort are already members of ARMA, and the organisation would dearly like to admit FirstPort Retirement, and declare past sins to be history. Fortunately, thanks to people such as Alex Ellison who has raised the issue of house manager flat sales, that process is not going to be so easy and the regulator is going to have to make a decision.

    It is understandable that Michael Hollands is frustrated by this process. He is also absolutely right in taking ARMA to task: it is a trade organisation with an undistinguished history that for far too long was hoodwinking officialdom about the parlous state of flat ownership in England and Wales.

    The key message for civil servants (and their here-today-gone-tomorrow ministers) is that ARMA itself says that ARMA-Q is not enough and that the sector needs statutory regulation.

    In no other area of the economy is so much money belonging to other people under the control of individuals and companies who are unaccountable and unscrutinised.

    I also want to thank Michael Hollands for his letter-writing efforts which, at times, have unearthed useful information.

    Sebastian O’Kelly
    Carlex / LKP

  6. Sebastian,

    Here at Ashbrook Court, our House Managers Flat/House does not show on the Leasehold Title Deed Number SL13497. The Lease is owned by Meridian Retirement Housing Services Ltd of NOTE:-
    Queensway House, 11 Queensway, New Milton NH25 5NR. Home of Peverel Retirement now FirstPort Retirement? I was informed that this company had a 125 year lease?

    There are 28 Flats and 1 House on the ABC development yet the House Number 17 used as the House Managers Flat is not shown on the Title,(as of 13/07/2015) dealt with by Land Registry, Telford Office

    We have recently been informed that £10,000 will be transferred into our Contingency Fund once this HMF/House is sold.

    If this HMF/House is not shown on the Title, then, WHO:-

    1) owns the HMF/House
    2) benefits from the sale
    3) failed to provide correct information and WHY.

    Will you help unravel this puzzle?

  7. What I fail to understand is why this view is posted as a headline by Carlex? Then we find Carlex giving explanations of why it is a view of an individual. Seems very odd!! After all Carlex does not post views of everyone as a headline article. The policy of when a view is simply posted in the comments section, and when it is posted as an article is not consistent. Personally I think that no personal views should be posted as main articles, and especially with such a dramatic headline.

    • We often publish bylined articles on both Carlex and LKP written by those who feel strongly on a subject, or who are experts. Michael Hollands has strong views over this and has been corresponding with ARMA for some time. The headline reflects his piece, and he has not raised it as an issue.

  8. Michael Hollands says:

    Thanks Seb for your kind words on my comments about ARMA
    Now that is sorted I would like to ask a question about the cost of this extended ARMA investigation into First Port’s operating systems, following their application to join Q
    The Iraq Inquiry cost £11m and the Hacking Inquiry £5.5m
    I realise that the First Port Retirement one cannot be compared to those, but there are several high ranking experts on the Disciplinary Board and it is 15 months since First Port applied and there is no end in sight.
    My question is who pays for it, I doubt that the experts work on a voluntary basis, like us.
    1 Do First Port Retirement pay
    2 Or is it paid for by existing members companies subscription fees.
    3 Or does the cost of the Inquiry eventually find its way down to the Leaseholders, either Peverels or others.
    Number 3 would seem unfair if Leaseholders had to pay an inefficient Professional organisation to investigate an inefficient Company seeking membership.

  9. Michael Epstein says:

    Sebastian and Martin are to be commended for their instant clarification.
    The truth is we are all friends and companions that share the same aims. Sometimes we express things in the wrong way, or simply make a mistake.
    Above all, be assured, all of us are UNITED!

  10. Michael well said,

    With members of ARMA working for both Peverel/Firstport and themselves, surely the resolution was discussed over a year ago but not published.

    ARMA would have stated the compliance required, Peverel/Firsport could not attain the pre-requisites end of story for now regarding 1, 2, 3.

    Leaseholders always end up paying for inefficient Managing Agents such as Peverel Retirement who for over 10 years scammed residents every way they could, now spend most of the time “saying not me gov”

    They even move those that failed to developments where the residents are not aware and arrange for Trouble Shooters to get the off the hook.

  11. Michael Epstein says:

    How is this for a misleading impression?
    The Firstport Retirement website displays the ARMA logo,the implication being that Firstport Retirement are members of ARMA (which of course they are not).
    What they have done is below the ARMA logo written that Firstport Services and Firstport Bespoke are members.
    I trust ARMA will take note of this subtle deception.

    • Michael,
      Subtle deception is how they have kept the hundred of thousands of residents in the 1465 developments they manage or should I say, under-manage in their place.

      Can anyone show this deception so ARMA will believe it?

  12. Michael Hollands says:

    I have repeatedly informed ARMA of this deception but as is normal get no reply. And nothing ever happens.
    The strange thing is that M&S are ARMA Q members but don’t want anyone to know

  13. Surely a company that spawned Peverel as a Manager in the 1990. Then were fined for false advertising? Then challenged the newspaper that exposed them costing close to £800,000 to challenge that they were over pricing can be a member?

    We know that Peverel have been the may stay of ARMA and employees and director of Peverel work also for ARMA, so they refuse to provide ARMA-Q to themselves?