March 25, 2017

Law Commission: Don’t ignore £318 ‘information packs’ that leaseholders have to pay

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As well as exit fees, monopolising estate agency with exorbitant charges, sellers of retirement property also have to pay for ‘information packs’ to the property manager and the freeholder.

Here, Alan Eadie, a long-standing supporter of Carlex who is a leaseholder at Homepine House in Folkestone, tells the Law Commission to include these information packs in its investigation into event fees given that they are compulsory.

I have recently started to prepare my submission in response to your consultation (to be submitted in a week or two) and in doing so it has become clear to me that however effective you are in getting Age UK to distribute hard copies of your papers, the response you are likely to get is going to be negligible. Leaseholders in retirement developments will find it just too much of a hassle. You mentioned the other week about producing a leaflet on one folded sheet of A4, which could be posted back with responses on it to three key questions. I now firmly believe this is your best method of getting any realistic feedback on your consultation.

The vast majority of leaseholders in retirement developments are not connected to the internet and consequently are unaware of how they are being treated by unscrupulous landlords and managing agents. At this late stage in their life they are not looking for any hassle but really prefer a quiet life in this twilight stage of their life. The Managing Agent Peverel/FirstPort are well aware of this fact and they are undoubtedly skilled masters of the art of ‘mushrooms management’ in that they keep their leaseholders in the dark and feed them bullshit (despite all their talk about so called ‘transparency’). Sebastian O’Kelly and Martin Boyd of Carlex are however both extremely well aware of the leasehold situation generally and are well qualified to express the views of leaseholders in general and retirement leaseholders in particular.

I came across the attached on the ‘About Peverel; website recently (http://www.spanglefish.com/aboutpeverel/news.asp) and believe it accurately describes my situation. You may well find it interesting background so as to better understand the situation many retired leaseholders find themselves in.

Consequently I decided some time ago that my best course of action was to sell my leasehold flat. After some two years on the market I have at last received an offer (below my purchase price). I am now keeping my fingers tightly crossed that it progresses through to the contract stage, so much so I have cramp! Naturally I intend to use the Small Claims Court to endeavour to recover the Event Fee (Exit Fee) that I have to pay to my landlord based on a breach of the UTCCRs (neither my solicitor or the estate agent drew my attention to the Event Fees when I purchased my flat in 2008 and even belatedly the small print mentioning the Event Fees (Exit Fees) in the actual lease contains some 26 pages).

Another aspect I believe the Law Commission should consider investigating are the exorbitant fees charged to obtain the First Port Management (Managing Agents) information pack – fee £318 and the Landlords information pack – fee £135, necessary to enable the transfer of the property to proceed. Both these information packs simply contain information already known to the leaseholder (assuming they keep reasonable records) but they must be purchased to enable the property to be transferred. If not purchased the property will not be transferred. I am not sure if these fall within your definition of Event Fees? They only become apparent when the leasehold is sold.

I also attach for your background information only, an email I sent to Barry Everett, the National Technical Manager of Peverel, some time ago, [REDACTED …]. Needless to say I received no reply. This email also clearly illustrates the fierce determination of Peverel to pursue profit at the expense of their elderly leaseholders. I appreciate your natural response would be to say why did you not pursue this at a Tribunal? I did not do this, simply because the Tribunals appear to be somewhat biased against the leaseholder and I was just not prepared to risk having to pay the landlords very high legal costs, which are frequently awarded even when the leaseholder wins the case! (I might add that I have experience of sitting on Employment Tribunals as a side member, which most leaseholders in retirement developments do not have.)

Regards and best wishes for 2016.
Alan Eadie

Comments

  1. Michael Hollands says:

    And there’s yet another “exit” fee that was certainly in existence 10 years ago, and maybe still is.
    That was upon selling your property the Management Company had the first opportunity to find a buyer.
    When we sold my mothers flat (Retirement Care), we had to give them 10 days to find a buyer. They already had a waiting list of interested purchasers and they charged a 2.5% Estate Agent fee. Double the normal.

  2. Hi Alan,
    We have corresponded in the past and I wish you the best of the new year and future years.

    I placed this long comment on About Peverel on 28/08/2015 which shows, not only Exit Fees are hidden but other costs are added to Management Fees, that are mentioned in Welcome Packs, but now denied by Carol Crowe, Director of Peverel Retirement now Firstport Retirement, who has denied these Booklets have any relevance and the information provide are not legal Tender?

    Due to the denial by Director, Duplication of Costs can be seen and read if you ask to see the Expense Files.

    Green A4 Book 2003
    Blue A5 Booklet 2011
    Yellow A5 Booklets 2015
    Latest Peverel Uncovered

    Friends
    It has taken me 3 years to get a hold of the Blue Book which has been available at Residential Developments but kept quiet and hidden. It explains charges that we pay for in the Management Fees. These Management Fees include many of the individual costs that have been charged, then charged again under different headings within the Service Charge Budget each year.
    These items covers a Range of Activities that have already been paid for in Management Fees. The Blue Book dated 07/2011 from Peverel Retirement and another dated 05/2015 from Firstport Property Services Ltd explain in detail what is covered in Management Fees. The Heading are similar with subtle changes as below:-

    From these two booklets it has become clear that we have been paying twice for a Range of Activities and for the publications of The Welcome Pack and we also pay for the magazine Life & Style, the list begins:-

    1.Management Fees
    2.Service Charge Assessed & Verified
    3.Independent Audits
    4.Arrange Tenders
    5.Development Managers Training
    6.Staff Visits & Travel Costs
    7.Major Works Consultation
    8.Health & Safety
    9.Risk Assessments
    10.ARMA Codes of Practice
    11.Welcome Pack
    12.Life & Style Magazine

    1. Management Fees (MF)
    Management Fees are not shown complete as Peverel/Firsport separate costs giving the impression that the actual MF at Ashbrook Court (ABC) is less than half what we pay for the Service Peverel Supplied. Included in the Service is the RHM who received Remuneration which we paid nearly £12,000 a year. Then Relief Costs if required, allows the costs of traveling which is also in the Management Fee?

    Management Fee £12,920.40

    Remuneration £11,715.38

    These two costs added together are £24,635.78, Roger Cooper (RC) stated this was for clarification only, when I asked why was Training was not a separate heading, RC said nothing?

    2.& 3. Service Charge Assessed and Verified/External Audit
    This is shown as being included in the Management Fees, yet we have been charged this fee as separate £328 Professional Fees?
    4. Arrange Tenders
    The tenders for Painting and Window replacement was charged to the Service Charge costing us nearly £3,000 even though the costs were included in the Management Fee?
    5. Development Management Training
    Development Managers Training is covered in the Management Fees, yet we are charged again under Remuneration. The costs charged to our Service Charge over the past 7 years amount to over £2,500 for the 4 RHM and £500 for the Part Time House Manager.
    6. Staff Visits & Travel Costs
    We have in the past and in the future pay for Relief/Deputy visits which cost us £15.00 P/H, times the number of hours worked 3 hours a day this works out to £45.00 a day three visits a week costs us £54.00 in Travel Costs which are shown to be included in the Management Fees.
    7. Major Works Consultation
    Major Works Consultation is included in the Management Fees, we were charged 10% of the contract sums for both Painting and Replacement Window contacts costing us £3,000 in Service Charges, this reflects the redundancies arranged by Peverel in 2009/10 by Keith Edgar when the Peverel Group made almost all Technical Staff redundant and transferred the costs to the residents?
    8 & 9 Health & Safety/Risk Assessment/Fire Testing Assessments
    Health & Safety is an ongoing requirement which is included in the Management Fees yet we have paid from Service Charges for Risk Assessments to trees which were only saplings at the time and charged again to the Service Charge for Tree Surveys? Risk Assessments are included in the Management Fees yet we were charged by Cardinus for a Risk Assessment which was a farce and was not properly carried out this again we paid for from the Service Charge. Fire Testing is only required in the House Managers Flat at ABC and is included in the Management Fees, yet other developments are charged separately for this and charged to the Service Charge?
    10. ARMA Code of Practice/Ombudsman
    These are not provided by Peverel so are not a Service Charge, but are a Management Operational Cost which is part of the Service they are required to provide under the LTD?
    11. Welcome Pack
    Welcome Packs (WP) are charged to the resident selling, (£308) which is then given to the incoming resident and is included in the Management Fees, the new resident then pays the Service Charges, Management Fees which also include the payment for the WP, so every resident pays twice for the WP?
    12. Publication of the Life & Style Magazine
    Publication of the Life & Style Magazine is paid from the Management Fees, when I asked RC if we contributed to the magazine he wrote yes in a letter to me then denied this fact?
    I will expect a call form Peverel to set up a meeting with Carol Crowe, Samantha Gibson and Roger Cooper at Ashbrook Court to arrange refunds for these items we have paid for twice?
    Watch this space

    Posted by chas on 28 August 2015 on About Peverel

  3. Well done Alan, I made a similar submission to the Event Fees enquiry using an example where various surcharges raised by solicitor £245, manager £138 and agent £120 added over £500 to the cost of re-mortgaging my flat last year – not even a transfer of title event, just the recording of a charge. All because it was a leasehold property and everyone wants a piece of the action.

    The manager also used it as an excuse to swipe £198 from funds in my account with the solicitor – what it considered to be arrears on my service charge account, but in fact was pending receipt of two years reports of overdue statutory accounts and therefore had not been legally demanded – no-one thought to consult whether that was the right thing to do, grabbing first and not even asking afterwards, like it wasn’t even my property or something. The statutory reports when received went on to confirm that sum had not been due.

    It will be no surprise to readers that the agent was Estates & Management on behalf of Proxima GRrrrrrrr and the failures in accounting and reporting were originated by the modern incarnation of the legacy company written in to my lease as OM Management Services.

  4. When we first moved into our retirement apartment there were two files available in the lounge on procedures, terms & conditions of House Manager, a copy of the lease, insurance letting of lounge and many other useful information when Peverel moved out they took the files with them and I was told by McCarthy & Stone Management that they had no intention of replacing them Rules are now made up as they go along and it depends on who you to what answer you will get Peverel had their faults but at least we knew where we were with them

  5. G Farley,

    Each site should have a “Development Guide” which is kept in Communal Lounges or in the House Managers Flat. There is a list and a A4 sheet that gives a list of all that is required which will be available for the information of all residents. It states as I have said:-

    “The Guide will be held in the communal areas of your development” your House Manager can tell you where it is.

    Each Development Guide had a list of 16 items that are kept in separate folders for ease of access.

    Within this Development Guide should be the following:

    1.Copy of the Lease
    2.Purchase Information Guide (PIG)
    3.ARHM Code of Practice
    4.Residents Charter
    5.Peverels Complaints Procedure
    6.Residents Association Information /Draft Constitution
    7.Building Insurance Policy 9Extract from HM Sickness Policy Schedule
    8.Certificate of Insurance
    9.House Managers Job Description
    10.Budget Headings – General Information
    11.Fire Procedures (Advisory Notes for Residents)
    12.Management Service Book
    13.Asbestos Notes
    14.Information on Permission Requests
    15.Guidance to Residents notes
    16.Administration of Major Works and Redecoration.

    I hope this helps and inform me if you have one at your Development.

  6. I wrote to McCarthy and Stone Management in January 2015 concerning the lack of files in the lounge since Peverel removed them I was told they had no plans to put any files in the lounge If we wanted to know anything we should ask the manager At least Peverel kept us fully informed and the information they compiled for us was most useful