June 28, 2017

Housing and Care 21: We’ve made a mess at Ashfield, so manage the site yourselves

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Ashfields2Housing and Care 21 handed over the management to residents at Ashfield, a retirement site in Telford in Shropshire, after admitting that it had been badly run.

For the past three months, the complex of 26 semi and detached bungalows with a community centre and flat above has been self-managed by the residents through a residents’ management company structure. A board of three directors have appointed a local managing agent to deal with the day-to-day administration.

On Wednesday two resident directors from the site, Judy Jones and Harry Butler, gave evidence to Lord Best’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People.

Bruce Moore, of Housing and Care 21

Bruce Moore, of Housing and Care 21

To his considerable credit, the residents were invited to give evidence by Bruce Moore, the chief executive of Housing 21, who is on the panel of the APPG.

“We recognised that we were failing at Ashfield,” Mr Moore told the APPG. “If you cannot provide the service that is acceptable then someone else should do so.”

Sebastian O’Kelly, trustee of Carlex / LKP, praised Mr Moore for handing over the management of a site.

He expressed the view that private freeholders and management consortiums would “walk over hot coals” before they would hand over the management to the residents.

Lord Best heads the All Party Parliamentary Group into retirement housing and care

Lord Best heads the All Party Parliamentary Group into retirement housing and care

Such a move would end their power and cut off numerous income streams. Mr O’Kelly referenced the case of Elim Court, Plymouth, whose right to manage application appears set to go before the Court of Appeal, with tens of thousands of pounds in balance depending on the outcome.

Self-management at Ashfield is in its early stages, but already there is more harmony and service charges have been reduced.

Their chosen managing agent is Nock Deighton, which is based only 10 miles away, and from April 1 the residents say they will be paying £27 a month less in service charges compared with last year.

The resident directors were questioned about what would happen if the management company fell apart. In such circumstances, Housing 21 would resume control.

Carlex / LKP pointed out that this was a risk everywhere where residents, who are the overwhelming majority shareholders in a site, control their affairs. That is, in the rest of the world including over the border in Scotland.

Bickering between residents in flats, and major fallouts, are far from unknown elsewhere.

But it is only in England and Wales where a freeholder, with perhaps 5-10 per cent of the equity in a site, totally controls it and has enormous and unjustifiable powers such as forfeiture.

It is even more galling in retirement housing where the Tchenguiz organisation, which owns the old McCarthy and Stone freehold portfolio among others, obfuscates its operations behind a myriad of companies that are ultimately controlled by a supposed family trust offshore.

Comments

  1. Housing and Care 21 deserve even more credit for behaving honorably because both they and the leaseholders knew from the outset there was no right apply for the right to manage because the properties are bungalows rather than flats.

    Had Housing and Care 21 not handed over the site there was no chance the leaseholders would have found a way to take control under current legislation. Like many things in leasehold the law talks about flats not houses so often leasehold houses have far fewer rights.

    Unlike most other agents and landlords who do everything they can to undermine any chance of leaseholders taking control Housing and Care 21 has actively helped the leaseholders find a solution. While many landlords try to describe leaseholders who try to exert their rights as a small minority of accuse them of being bullies Bruce Moore has not only helped the leaseholders he has had the courage to ask them to speak to Parliament and explain where his company had failed.

    Having got things wrong Housing and Care have now even gone to the trouble of asking an independent group to asses where they made mistakes and will also make the results of those findings available to Parliament.

    They say the difference between a good manager and a bad one is they both make mistakes but the good one learns from their mistakes. On those grounds alone we commend both Bruce Moore and Housing and Care 21 for learning from their mistakes and their honorable actions. It is such a pity many more landlords and managing agents do not do the same.

  2. Michael Epstein says:

    My message to Bruce Moore is simple.
    You should not have got things so badly wrong at Ashfield.
    That said your subsequent actions are to be commended.
    That you have agreed in light of your failings to allow Ashfield residents to manage their own affairs, should give confidence to residents of other developments that you manage that you are brave enough to own up to mistakes and your are sincere in your efforts to provide a very good service to your residents.