UPDATE August 12
Yesterday evening Susan Earnshaw returned Carlex’s phone call and we discussed the issues of Tatton Court and Willow Court and the services provided by her company.
We publish her full response below, but make a number of points:
1/ We tried but were unable to contact Mrs Earnshaw prior to publication of this article.
The website and contact details of the Select Retirement Services were not available until yesterday afternoon, when came on line. As soon as it was possible to do so, Carlex phoned Mrs Earnshaw. She was not in, but subsequently phoned back in the evening.
2/ The concerns we have raised are directed at Mrs Earnshaw failing to take Tatton Court and Willow Court right to manage, the process having begun more than a year ago at the former.
Getting a correct right to manage application is complicated, particularly with this freeholder who does not want to lose the management appointment.
We have offered assistance to Mrs Earnshaw to realise right to manage, but if she has lost interest or impetus in these sites she should let some other leaseholder-oriented management have a go.
It is not encouraging that the dates of birth of all four of the resident directors at Tatton Court are given as “February 1950”. If this is indicative of the precision of the RTM applications, they will not succeed.
3/ The point about Jonathan Earnshaw not being a director but the company secretary of these RTMs is not valid. As company secretary, he shares the legal responsibilities with the directors, and has others. He sits on the board. If Select Retirement Services has ceased to attempt to obtain RTM for these sites, he should stand down.
4/ We have informed Mrs Earnshaw that we saw no merit in her company seeking to be appointed the managing agent by the freeholder through Estates and Management. Such an appointment would mean that she was working for the freeholder, not the leaseholders.
5/ Carlex is very pleased that Mrs Earnshaw has set up a property management company (which manages less than 100 flats) and we wish her enterprise well. The more plurality and competition in property management the better. Not one of the large property management companies – FirstPort, Countrywide – is large through consumer choice. They are large through appointment by developers, large freeholders like Tchenguiz and through takeovers.
FirstPort repeatedly and wrongly describes leaseholders as its customers. They aren’t its customers; freeholders like Mr Tchenguiz are.
6/ Mrs Earnshaw appeared a pleasant and courteous person. She was obviously a popular Peverel area manager. We suspect she cannot do RTMs at this level at this stage unassisted.
If she wants to persist, we have indicated how we could assist. If she wants to pull out, that would benefit the residents as management companies adept at RTM could take over.
Dear Mr O’Kelly
I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you yesterday evening and I trust you will report this on your website that I did return your call after you left a message at our office.
I have attached my original response which I wrote prior to our conversation which you may wish to print confirming it was written before our contact
Dear Mr Kelly
I am writing in response to you recent bulletin posted on CARLEX. I am saddened and disappointed you have found it necessary to attack myself my son and my company having never met me or spoken to me at any time. You have no idea about my work ethics or employment record.
We have a website selectretirementservice.co.uk which has been available for the past 12 months. It has clear information including our office address and telephone number email address and contact page. To date we have had no contact from you.
We set up a business to offer an alternative management package giving excellent customer service working for residents for a fair and reasonable Management Fee with no hidden costs or commission .
The CMA have recommended in their recent report that residents should have more input and involvement in their choice of Managing Agent which I am sure this is something CARLEX would be supportive of.
We have presented at over 13 blocks and this has been on an invitation only basis by residents.
I can confirm we did send out marketing information that is common business practise and no different to any other companies. We have not commissioned any ballots unless residents have requested we distributed the forms.
We have had no further involvement as it was the residents responsibility to count and record the results often these have been counted externally by a local councillor and local clergy. The result was in every case a minimum 95% wanting to appoint SRS at one block it was !00%. On notifying the landlord the residents were told that we would not be appointed as we were not on their preferred managing agent list and the residents were offered Rendall and Ritner or Freemont.
Residents in retirement schemes do not always want to pursue RTM as they believe it is onerous task and lack volunteers to see it through although attitudes do seem to be changing this has been apparent from messages we have received on our website contact page.
We accept we are a new company but feel we should be given a chance to prove our capabilities on an initial 12 month contract. We know residents would not be disappointed and we could save them thousands of pounds on their budgets.
I would point out that Jonathan Earnshaw is not listed as a Director of any RTM company easily checked at Companies House however he is listed as Company secretary for them this was by invitation from the RTM directors this position would cease on the inception of the RTM.
For your informaton we have already been appointed at some non retirement sites and they are delighted with our service and I am sure if we are appointed by any RTM/RMC companies in the future they will be happy to share with CARLEX how they have found our service .
UPDATE: August 10 2016. Select Retirement Services website has appeared today here
More than a year has gone by since the residents of Tatton Court, in Altrincham, Cheshire, began asking for right to manage from the Tchenguiz / FirstPort fiefdom and it looks like they are stalled.
The same seems to be the case for Willow Court, in Gatly, Stockport, also in Cheshire.
Both are supposedly being taken right to manage by Susan Earnshaw, a former Peverel area manager, whose son and business partner Jonathan is – alarmingly – a director of both the RTM companies.
They jointly own Select Retirement Services Limited, which is on record as a dormant company and has filed no accounts. There is no website or contact details for the company.
Residents at both Tatton Court and Willow Court have contacted Carlex in desperation after their right to manage applications headed nowhere.
Tatton Court has involved local Labour MP Ann Coffey and Carlex patron Sir Peter Bottomley.
Estates and Management is taking a robust line in opposing the moves, acting for the freeholder Proxima – both entities, of course, belong to Vincent Tchenguiz’s rickety property empire based in the British Virgin Islands.
Part of the problem facing Tatton and Willow Courts appears to be Mrs Earnshaw herself, who was an employee of Mr Tchenguiz, the former owner of Peverel (now FirstPort) until his arrest and the implosion of his then much larger property empire in March 2011.
For someone whose job would have involved thwarting residents’ ambitions to escape the joys of Peverel, Mrs Earnshaw does not seem to be very adept at organising the right to manage of Tatton and Willow Courts.
Indeed, the fact that she is a Peverel gamekeeper turned poacher seems to be making things more difficult.
On April 22, Estates and Management wrote to the RTM directors at Tatton Court and passed the letter on to Carlex (in full attached).
Its contents do much to undermine Estates and Management’s reputation for humourlessness.
“The Residents’ Association (RA) for Tatton Court originally wrote to us on 22 May 2015 to say that the residents wanted to replace the current managing agent, FirstPort Retirement, and appoint Select Retirement Services Limited.
“This company was established by Susan Earnshaw, a former employee of Peverel Retirement (now called FirstPort Retirement), who we understand was the local property manager for Tatton Court during her employment with Peverel Retirement.
“It transpired that SRS had been to Tatton Court and purported to conduct a residents’ ballot relating to the future management of the development without approaching our client for consent to do so, or even offering the courtesy of prior notification.
“Our client … is perfectly willing to work with residents to find a suitable alternative managing agent where residents are unhappy with the existing service being provided, but cannot always agree with the choice of agent preferred by the residents.
“This is, unfortunately, such a case and it is disappointing that the RA have not so far been prepared to allow our client to discuss the matter openly and transparently with the residents’ body, or offer a choice of agents which our client considers would be suitable …”
Carlex readers will be gleeful to read that the Tchenguiz organisation of several hundred companies ultimately controlled offshore – and once described by a judge as of “quasi-Biblical complexity” – is criticising pensioners for not acting “openly and transparently”.
That they wanted to shaft Estates and Management, and do so sneakily, can only be a case of payback in the same coin.
And, of course, the residents can invite whoever they like into their site to conduct surveys etc, and, no, they do not need to give the freeholder any explanation why they want right to manage, which is a no-fault application. It is also worth reminding readers that the freeholder’s financial stake in this site is minimal, compared with the collective value of the leasehold flats. This, if for no other reason, is why ALL retirement sites they should have right to manage structures.
But the letter has more:
“We can confirm that we had previously been in correspondence, and met Ms Earnshaw of SRS in April 2015, to discuss a number of similar direct marketing approaches she had made to residents of developments owned by our landlord clients [Translation: owned by our boss Mr Tchenguiz].
“Our clients were concerned at the way in which these approaches were being made, but wanted to meet with Ms Earnshaw in the hope that SRS might be an agent our clients would be willing to voluntarily appoint to manage properties in the future.”
But because SRS is not a member of RICS, ARMA or ARHM, “SRS did not, and we believe still do not meet any of these requirements, and our client [Translation: ourselves] does not consider SRS suitable for appointment as agent of Tatton Court.”
The rest of the letter concerns the unfortunate treatment by the residents of Louise Smith, the only Tchenguiz employee it seems who actually visits retirement sites.
One of her key tasks is to stuff right to manage applications, and she regularly visits sites where there are RTM stirrings. But the residents at Tatton Court gave her short shrift.
First, they would not fill in her “customer satisfaction survey” on June 9 2015, then she received “a somewhat hostile letter” from the RA chairman saying no one wanted to speak to her, and finally:
“She attended the development on 8 September 2015 to try to do so, but unfortunately the residents were not prepared to do so.”
In spite of this rough handling of Ms Smith, Estates and Management remained prepared to replace FirstPort at Tatton Court. “Our client [Translation: themselves] would have replaced FirstPort some months ago had discussions with the residents been more constructive.”
The last part of the long letter says because the Earnshaws made such a mess of the right to manage application – “a number of failures to comply correctly” – Estates and Management would resist it.
At Willow Court it appears to be the same story.
Carlex attempted to trace contact details for Mrs Earnshaw so that she could comment on this article before publication. However, SRS does not appear to have publicly available contact details.
She is welcome to comment now.
The residents at Tatton Court and Willow Court appear to appreciate Mrs Earnshaw owing to their previous connection when she was employed by Peverel.
But we have a number of concerns here.
It is not encouraging that her company Select Retirement Services Limited does not seem to be active.
It is worrying that a shareholder of this company, Jonathan Earnshaw, is a director of both the Tatton and Willow Court RTM companies. This directorship should end immediately. It may be an acceptable arrangement to get an RTM company founded, but there is an obvious conflict of interest issue for this directorship to continue.
It is also worrying that Mrs Earnshaw appears to have proposed to Estates and Management that her company be appointed by the freeholder to run the site.
A freeholder changing the appointment of his managing agent addresses none of the fundamental issues in leasehold management. In these circumstances, the management company will do the freeholder’s bidding, or be sacked.
Right to manage, on the other hand, means a property management appointed by the leaseholders and accountable to them. This is a fundamental difference, which is why Parliament brought in the RTM legislation in 2002.
Carlex is quite happy to advise Tatton and Willow Courts RTMs and they are welcome to get in touch.
A determined and correct RTM application is likely to be accepted, grudgingly, by Estates and Management. But if there are errors in the paperwork, they will throw it out.
Getting this right takes expertise, to which Carlex has access.
We are unaware of any RTM involving a retirement site that has been contested in open tribunal by the Tchenguiz organisation.