Alex Ellison, whose mother lives at the site, wrote explaining that all the leases at Mere Court (registered under the freehold title of CH261040) were created 20 years ago.
In all 39 leases there is a clause on page two:
“the lessor has previously granted leases or intends hereafter to grant leases of the flats in the building other than the premises hereby demised and other than the House Manager’s flat.”
And on pages 14 and 15 the responsibilities of the leaseholders towards the upkeep of the house manager’s flat are described.
In June 2013 the managing agent Peverel encouraged residents to give up their interest in the flat and move to a non-residential manager so that it could be sold off.
Peverel repeatedly said in writing that it had no interest in the matter and that it was liaising between the leaseholders and the Tchenguiz freehold-owning vehicle Proxima.
Alex Ellison was then appalled to discover from the Land Registry that the flat had been registered to Peverel itself on August 24 2009.
It is recorded under titles CH588914 and CH588931.
The residents’ confidence in Peverel’s proposed changes evaporated and they refused to opt for a live-out house manager.
Peverel and the Tchenguiz organisation habitually compensate residents with £10,000 into the contingency fund after selling a house manager’s flat.
It now emerges, thanks to the residents of Leonard Hackett Court in Bournemouth, that the Hanover housing association has been following the same practice, but pays in £15,000.
Mrs Ellison asked the Land Registry how it could register an alternative owner of this property when it states so clearly in the 39 other leases that the lessor would not grant a lease on the house manager’s flat.
Peter Whalley, a former regional manager who left Peverel’s employ last month, frankly admitted that Peverel’s decision to issue a lease to itself could be challenged. In a letter to a leaseholder at nearby Ash Court on October 31 2013, he wrote:
“Should the house manager’s apartment be sold, the general apartment leases will not be changed. The existing leases of the house manager’s apartment are surrendered, the finance security is released, and a new lease is granted out of the freehold title in a similar form to the general apartment leases.
“In doing this, both the landlord and Peverel accept that there is a commercial risk that doing this could be successfully challenged.
“To date, there had been no such challenge.
“If there was a successful challenge, Peverel or the landlord would have to purchase suitable accommodation and re-instate a resident house manager.”
Mrs Ellison complained about Peverel’s handling of the affair to the Association of Retirement Housing Managers, which is overwhelmingly funded by Peverel.
But the complaint was rejected.
It ruled that Peverel’s communications with the residents “could have been improved”.
“However, on balance, we do not find that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that Peverel were driving the option of a non-residential position to any extent, or to prejudice residents during the consultation and ballot process.”
Meanwhile, the Land Registry said it could not give Mrs Ellison “advice of a legal nature” and said she should “seek professional advice”.