April 28, 2017

Downy Court seeks sale of house manager’s flat as residents vote on live-out service

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Downy Court is the latest site where residents want to sell off the house manager's flat to save on service charges

Downy Court is the latest site where residents want to sell off the house manager’s flat to save on service charges

Residents at Downy Court in Poole are voting to end their live-in house manager service at the end of the month as a way of cutting service charges.

The flat is one of hundreds owned by FirstPort that was granted a lease in 2009, when Vincent Tchenguiz, who owns the freehold, also owned Peverel, which became FirstPort last year.

The residents have already received £6,200 in LED lighting and FirstPort will put £5,000 into the contingency fund.

A two-bedroom flat at Downy Court is offered for sale at £118,000, so if the residents vote to end the in-house manager’s service they will also be making an extremely generous gift to FirstPort.

On behalf of the residents, Carlex raised a number of questions with Keith Shields, the MD of FirstPort Retirement who responds below:

Does the flat at this site belong to FirstPort? If so, from what date?

Yes, the flat belongs to FirstPort and has done since May 2009.

DownyCourt3The residents tell me that FirstPort is prepared to pay £11,200 into the contingency fund if the residents vote for a visiting manager and the flat is sold. Is this the case, and if so why are you prepared to pay this sum rather than the established £10,000?

The contribution made by FirstPort is usually either a cash contribution into a development’s contingency fund or an alternative contribution tailored to the needs of the development e.g. LED lighting upgrades, lift upgrades, communal furniture or carpet replacement. The final settlement varies on a case-by-case basis depending on a range of factors, but in particular recognising the wishes of the residents.

In the case of Downy Court, a sum of £6,200 was agreed to provide for the installation of LED lighting – something the residents were very keen on.

As this fell below the typical amount offered, we agreed to a cash contribution of £5,000.

They also say that two years ago they had to pay £10,000 on the house manager’s flat, including a new kitchen and bathroom because they were told the freeholder had requested these improvements. Did the residents spend this sum on improving the flat?

I can confirm the following has been spent on the Development Manager flat since it was first built in 1990:

  • The kitchen was refurbished in 2014 at a cost of £4,560 (including VAT)
  • The bathroom was refurbished in 2013 at a cost of £4,056 (including VAT)
  • New carpets in 2010 at a cost of £1,551 (including VAT)

All of the costs highlighted above have been for the benefit of the Development Manager living in the property.

This is their home, and we have a duty to ensure that it is maintained to a good standard. At the time of the refurbishment, the kitchen and bathroom had been in place for over 20 years, so would have been coming to the end of their life and were due an upgrade, regardless of any future plans to sell.

Comments

  1. Michael Epstein says:

    Downy Court,
    Congratulations for falling to yet another Firstport scam. In return for an outlay of 11,000 pounds (plus the recent refurbishments for the house managers flat which you, the residents paid for) you have now gifted Firstport a totally unwarranted 110,000 pound profit.
    You will find to your cost that due to the unique way Firstport is funded, your service charges will increase in short order so that it will soon match your previous charges.
    Not only that, but you have also trashed the market value of your own individual properties.
    This is a completely idiotic decision, though of course as residents it is your right to be stupid!

  2. Michael,

    Residents at Downy Court in Poole are voting to end their live-in house manager service at the end of the month as a way of cutting service charges. The flat is one of hundreds owned by FirstPort that was granted a lease in 2009, when Vincent Tchenguiz, who owns the freehold, also owned Peverel, which became FirstPort last year.

    Chas asks:
    1.Is Firstport the Landlord and Managing Agent?
    2.Why would Residents vote for ending, live-in house manager (LHM)?
    3.Will they have a Visiting House Manager (VHM)?
    4.Will the VHM work from home?
    5.How many hours will they cover per week?
    6.We pay circa £8.50 per hour.
    7.Does the Lease allow for VHM?
    8.We now pay for the Council Tax, Electric, Gas, until resolved.
    9.We also pay their – salary, pension, holiday pay, training costs, travel allowance?
    10.Who benefits from this sale?
    11.Since agreeing to replace LHM, in 2013 we are on fourth VHM.
    12.The HMF is now used as office, we pay for upkeep.
    13.VHM are not fully trained and kept in the dark over historic issues.
    14.Area/Regional Managers are paid 10% when flat sold.

    If anyone from Downy Court reads this, ask Admin for my contact detail.

  3. Michael Epstein says:

    We rightly often speak from the perspective of the leaseholder. But let us pause for a moment to think about the live in house manager?
    How demoralised must they be, knowing that their employers are giving incentives to managers and residents to not just vote them out of a job but take their home away as well.

  4. Michael Epstein says:

    i am confused dot com.
    The house manager’s flat was refurbished on the basis that the freeholder “had requested these improvements”
    And since when was it the role of a freeholder to request internal improvements?
    I presume Keith Shields can show a written copy of the freeholder’s request to refurbish the house manager’s flat?
    After all, there must be some kind of record, otherwise Mr Shields could not have answered the question posed to him, since he was not working for Firstport at the time?

  5. Michael Epstein says:

    According to the About Peverel website, a confidential letter sent to house managers from Vere Osborn, Peverel in February 2014 alerted house managers to the possibility of the sale of house managers flats and the incentives that were available to house managers if the sale went ahead.
    This begs the question that if the letter was sent in February 2014, Peverel had to know that it was their intention to engineer the sale of the house manager’s flat at Downey Court before they required residents to pay to refurbish the house manager’s kitchen?

  6. lynn franks says:

    What are the advantages of live in manager as opposed to a visiting manager 9 to 5 five days a week?

  7. Michael Epstein says:

    It has been noted that developments with a live in house manager attract higher property values (that there is an apartment that is built but not for sale) is factored into the initial purchase price for other apartments.
    A live in house manager, often develops a very good relationship with residents and goes well beyond their statutory duties.
    They are on hand to give immediate advice and they can instantly resolve issues that affect the development.
    They know the development and they know the residents.
    By having a visiting manager, you lose all of this, plus there is far less opportunity to report and resolve problems. The visiting manager will have many other developments to look after, and simply will not have the required time to spend at your development. In so many cases, any problems will “be looked at” rather than dealt with. It may be weeks before you see the manager again, so often you will have to explain any problems from scratch, witch can prove very frustrating.
    Effectively apart from rules governing the age of residents, you are turning your development into an ordinarily managed development by dispensing with a live in house manager..
    Surveys have shown that the savings in service charges are no more than around 4 pounds per week.