April 25, 2017

Five ways retirement leaseholders can fight back

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CaptManCarlex and LKP have pushed leasehold abuses up the political agenda. There are serious retirement leasehold disputes now being addressed in the constituencies of several members of the Cabinet.

Sir Peter Bottomley, Tory MP for Worthing West, is determined to see these issues through and there will be a Commons debate before Christmas. He is backed by Energy Secretary Ed Davey, MP for Surbiton and Kingston.

There are now retirement leasehold issues in the constituencies of several Cabinet ministers.

In addition, the Office of Fair Trading will soon be reporting on the Peverel / Cirrus price-fixing scandal.

Retirement leasehold – the worst residential property investment bar none – is overwhelmingly a Tory issue. More than 70 per cent of private retirement leasehold managed by Peverel is in Conservative constituencies. See where here

Public political and media scrutiny can be very effective, and it is vital to kick these MPs into action.

Here’s how to fight back:

1/ Use MPs (they are not totally decorative). If you have a service charge or other dispute, involve your MP. Prepare your argument with care and demonstrate that, for example, service charges, have risen inexplicably compared with previous years.

Indicate the size of your site, and the election of 2015.

Send this to us at Carlex and we will ensure it is properly drafted, copied in to the housing minister and other relevant politicians and sent on.

The murky operators in leasehold do not like public scrutiny and have, to date, always responded to MPs questioning.

MPs are also important as they are the gateway to free barrister representation via the Bar Council Pro Bono unit. Sir Peter Bottomley went this route with Oakland Court in his Worthing constituency.

2/ Ombudsman schemes: these are useful for sub £1,000 disputes. But the reports are not made public so they are pretty feeble.

They help no one else and brush the problem under the carpet. This form of redress is much favoured by the property sector for obvious reasons.

3/ Complaints to RICS and ARMA.

In the past, almost completely pointless. The organisations exist to protect their members, after all.

ARMA now has ARMA Q, which will tighten up some of its rogue members – it may even throw one out at last. ARHM (Association of Retirement Housing Managers) is far more compliant to the interests of its paymasters.

4/ Court action at LVT, or First Tier Property Tribunal as it is now (after July 1) called).

This is not for the faint-hearted.

Freeholders have not hesitated to deploy solicitors and even barristers against lay applicants.

This can lead to a legal feeding frenzy, as was seen in the case of Dennis Jackson. Here a  dispute of £10,000 ended with legal costs of £134,000. Jackson escaped forfeiture by a hair’s breadth after contacting LKP / Carlex. He is having to sell his flat and the whole saga will have cost him well over £100,000.

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Another favoured wheeze of the legal profession is to arrive on the day of the hearing with 500 pages of submissions which could – should – have been submitted earlier.

It is an established, unsettling dodge. Tribunals should put an end to this.

Lay applicants must not accept this. You MUST demand an adjournment. You MUST state that you cannot agree to the case being heard in these circumstances.

Otherwise, the documents will be considered by the tribunal. Several important cases have been lost because of this manoeuvre.

5/ Buy the freehold. Opt for right to manage. Or, sell up. For retirement leasehold right to manage is the best option. All retirement sites should opt for right to manage AS A MATTER OF COURSE.

Unfortunately, some freeholders will fight all the way against this. Hence the cases of Elim and Regent Courts. But provided the application has no errors, there will not be grounds to oppose it.

See the LKP site for managing agents who will carry out right to manage.

If the freehold of your site comes on to the market, BUY IT! If you don’t, someone else will. These are among the most unsavoury monetisers in residential property.

If none of the above work, cut and run by selling up. It is not brave. It helps no one else. It costs money. But you escape.