The Association of Retirement Housing Managers launched its new ARHM code of practice this week, which has at last obtained approval from the secretary of state.
This means breaches of the code can be referenced in litigation, which can be very useful in a property tribunal dispute.
The code has been worked on for some years, but has at last seen the light of day.
It can be read as a download here
Carlex warmly welcomes the code, and acknowledges that the former code was also thorough.
Unfortunately, the ARHM does not offer a redress scheme and sanctions are restricted to criticisms of a member’s conduct, calls to put right wrong practices and, in extremis, exclusion from the association.
It does not have the power to award compensation to complainants.
The fact that Peverel / FirstPort Retirement is the largest single funder of the ARHM is also problematic.
Peverel / FirstPort Retirement has a poor history: an Office of Fair Trading ruling in December 2013 of collusive tendering involving the systematic cheating of pensioners at 65 retirement sites managed by Peverel; an unaccounted for portfolio of hundreds of house managers’ flats; tribunal cases; parliamentary debates; media and the rest.
On the other hand, the funding to publish the ARHM code of practice came from Housing and Care 21, formerly British Legion Homes, whose practices Carlex has applauded when it acknowledged messing up the management of the Ashfield site in Telford, Shropshire, and handing it over to the residents. More here
The ARHM code of practice was presented at a reception at Portcullis House, the MPs offices in Westminster.
ARHM chairman Richard Wheeldon, of Housing and Care 21, said that the revised code had greater relevancy as retirement housing “moved away from the traditional model to the provision of extra care”.
He also said that “managers are under far greater scrutiny than was the case in the past”.
Mr Wheeldon pointed out that in the new code the word “should” had been toughened to “must” in many instances; that commissions had to be declared; and contracts parcelled out to related companies, and that service charge monies had to be kept in clearly defined separate accounts.
Stephen Lewis, the Law Commissioner examining event fees, also spoke at the launch meeting. There is now a separate section on event fees in the code.
A number of the ARHM code of practice features struck Carlex as interesting:
- Leaseholders should be able to see a copy of the management agreement of their site on request.
The correct procedure for ground rent demands is given.
- Lease forfeiture should only be “a last resort”, and landlords should pay back to the leaseholder the value of the forfeited lease, lease the outstanding court established debt and costs.
- Leaseholders “should be offered” view of supporting receipts, invoices, bank statements etc relating to their service charges.
- “Funds for each scheme should be separately identifiable”.
- Managers should not profit from employing contractors, and associated links between the manager and other companies should be declared.
- “If a manager provides a service through an associated company or associate and that service has not been competitively tendered, then the manager should allow any scheme to choose not to use that service.”
- Leaseholders should have the option of finding their own buyer on re-sale, or appointing an estate agent
- Managers should make clear to leaseholders and buyers whether event fees apply on sale and sublet, and be clear that this is “not related to the provision of any services”.
- Property management firms should not be named and embedded in the lease, or place unreasonable conditions in leases to thwart right to manage.