June 22, 2017

Metcalfe Court overcomes 11th-hour frustrations to break free of Tchenguiz and Peverel

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The residents at Metcalfe Court, in Romiley in Cheshire, have taken over the management of the site after 11th hour frustrations

The residents at Metcalfe Court, in Romiley in Cheshire, have taken over the management of the site after 11th hour frustrations

The long-running saga for right to manage at Metcalfe Court, in Romiley in Cheshire, has at last come to an end and the pensioner residents are now rid of the Tchenguiz-appointed Peverel / FirstPort management.

On February 20, the management of the site passed to family-run Macclesfield firm Jones Associates, which is accredited to the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership.

Yet again, Carlex felt it necessary to involve local LibDem MP Andrew Stunell and Sir Peter Bottomley in Metcalfe Court’s dealings with its freeholder.

Louise Smith, of the Tchenguiz freehold company Fairhold, took up the cause of one or perhaps several Metcalfe Court residents who had concerns about the RTM company.

Maureen Young, one of the RTM directors, says that she was bombarded by eight to ten attempts to telephone her after she had twice put the phone down on Miss Smith, believing her calls to be intimidatory.

Ms Smith strongly denies that she was “intimidatory, unpleasant or aggressive”. She was attempting to discuss a questionnaire put out by the RTM directors to the residents concerning the hours worked by the visiting house manager.

“I was contacted by a very concerned resident, who is extremely unhappy, not just with the potential reduction in the House Manager’s hours and presence on site, but also the level of communication from the RTM Directors to other residents, and the transparency of their decision making,” Ms Smith explained to Carlex.

“This resident has tried to contact the RTM Company Directors directly but has not had a satisfactory response to the issues raised, and therefore turned to me.”

Separately, three working days before the RTM company took over management of the site, Peverel / FirstPort’s area manager Sam Else announced that it was going to remove and destroy files relating to the residents – including emergency contact numbers and medical details required on site – rather than hand them over to the new management company.

This meant that the RTM company had to place a notice on the Metcalfe Court board asking residents whether they wanted their records kept and handed over to Jones Associates. By the hand-over date of February 20 all but one resident had agreed to this.

That evening, after Carlex had also taken this issue up, Peverel / FirstPort’s head of legal Russell Tillison overruled Ms Else, accepting what at that point had already been accomplished by the residents. Or, as he preferred to put it to Pauline Jones, of Jones Associates:

“ … we have further reflected upon how best to ensure that our handover to you of Metcalfe Court was undertaken in a way which did not compromise the safety of the residents”.

He added that “our stance in relation to the residents’ emergency contact information and personal details was purely motivated by a desire to protect the confidentiality of the residents”.

In response to Ms Smith, Sebastian O’Kelly of Carlex wrote:

“I am surprised that you feel qualified to lecture the resident RTM directors of a retirement site on transparent dealings, employed as you are by a highly complex property group ultimately owned offshore.

“I also note the contrast between the enthusiasm with which you adopt the cause of dissenting residents to a democratically and lawfully constituted RTM company, and the manner in which your myriad freehold-owing companies deal with complaints from residents.

“The majority of residents at Metcalfe Court have had a number of issues with the interests that you represent, and have exercised their right to terminate your authority to appoint the management.

“Mischief-making is well documented during these management handovers, particularly in raising concerns among employees at the site, and was publicly deprecated by the chairman of ARMA only last week [at the LEASE annual conference on February 4].

“I do not suggest that that is the case here.

“If you have been contacted by residents with concerns you should direct inquiries in office hours to the property manager, Pauline Jones, of Jones Associates …”

Ms Smith replied to Carlex: “I made a representation to Ms Young in her capacity as an RTM director on behalf of a number of her fellow residents, who complained to me about the RTM company’s choice of agent.

“As you will know, it is not the agent, but the RTM company and its director who have the responsibility for the management of the property after the handover date. This responsibility also includes choosing and supervising the agent.

“On this basis, it is important for other residents and the landlord to be able to speak to the RTM directors if they require.”

Sir Peter Bottomley informed Ms Smith that he wished to see the “substantive response” in this matter “for a possible Commons debate”. As a result, Carlex publishes her full email below.

Peverel Retirement has applied to join ARMA (Association of Residential Managing Agents), but its application has been referred to the consideration of ARMA regulator, former Labour housing minister Keith Hill.

In December 2013, Peverel’s subsidiary Cirrus was found to have systematically cheated elderly residents at 65 retirement sites by the Office of Fair Trading.

Mo Beech, a director of the RTM, wrote to Carlex yesterday:

“Metcalfe Court is up and running and what a happy lovely feeling it is.

“Every poster, notice, leaflets to do with house sales and all the [Peverel] leaflets they had on the notice board have gone and it is as if they had never been here.

“The house manager has a new computer, printer and shredder so he can keep in touch with Jones Associates all the time.

“Maureen and I wish to thank you so very much for all the help and time you have spent on us. It is most appreciated.

“Without your help we would have had many more sleepless nights.”

Both Mrs Beech and Mrs Young are happy to be contacted by any retirement site considering RTM, or related issues. Please address inquiries via admin@carlex.org.uk

Louise Smith email to Carlex expressing her concerns at Metcalfe Court

February 10 2015, 18.36

Dear Mr O’Kelly

Thank you for your e-mail.

For clarity I act for Fairhold Homes (No. 7) Limited, the freehold owner and Landlord of Metcalfe Court. I work in a liaison role as a Landlord point of contact for residents of the retirement properties owned or managed by companies forming part of the Consensus Business Group. I also work with the managing agents appointed to manage these retirement properties and other Management Companies (Residents as well as RTM) which are responsible for various properties. As part of my role I had met with a large number of Metcalfe Court residents on site even before the RTM process began.

As you say, the residents of the property have exercised their right to acquire RTM, as from 20 February. I understand that one of the things the RTM Company, of which not all the residents are members, has wanted to do is reduce the hours of the House Manager and presence on site in order to save costs.

There is a provision in the leases of the flats which states that, in summary, services should not be reduced or amended without the support of the residents, and in particular, if more than 25% of the residents object to the proposed change.For the avoidance of doubt, the outgoing managing agent, Peverel Retirement, is only the agent of the Landlord.

The obligation to provide a House Manager to be available to residents during “reasonable daytime hours” is the Landlord’s, and prior to the RTM taking over, Peverel as agent have been performing this obligation on the Landlord’s behalf. When the RTM Company take over, it will become responsible for this obligation.

Following the questionnaire circulated by the RTM Company, I was contacted by a very concerned resident, who is extremely unhappy, not just with the potential reduction in the House Manager’s hours and presence on site, but also the level of communication from the RTM Directors to other residents, and the transparency of their decision making.

This resident has tried to contact the RTM Company Directors directly but has not had a satisfactory response to the issues raised, and therefore turned to me. In particular, the concerns expressed to me (which I am told are shared by other residents/family members – a further 6 have telephoned me personally with very similar issues) are as follows:

a. The new managing agents selected by the RTM Company are inexperienced in managing retirement properties;
b. Reducing the House Manager’s hours, availability on site, and thus his service to residents would be detrimental to the property and a number of the residents feel strongly that the current hours and service should be maintained;
c. The results of the questionnaire were only communicated to residents who attended a meeting in the lounge on site, and although the residents present were told around 35% had objected to the change, the RTM Directors appear to be determined to proceed despite the restriction in the leases;
d. It is felt that the RTM Directors are unfairly pressuring the House Manager to accept a reduction in working hours;
e. The RTM Directors seem determined to push this change through, not just ignoring the restriction in the leases but also without regard for the views of other residents, particularly the more elderly, who feel reassured by having the House Manager available;
f. The ballot process was not conducted in a way so as to given confidence to all residents in its fairness or transparency.

I hope you will appreciate, in light of this information, that these are issues which the Landlord is right to be concerned about, and contact the RTM Directors to discuss, particularly because it has been asked to become involved by residents themselves. You should also be aware that the Landlord was not sent a copy of the questionnaire even though it is also a leaseholder of a flat at Metcalfe Court.

What I therefore tried to do was to speak to Ms. Young to discuss the matter. I telephoned her on her landline and tried to put some of the concerns above to her, but as you say she then cut me off rather than engage with me. I did try to ring her back on her mobile later in the morning after attending a meeting, and my recollection is that she told me she had “been told not to speak to me”. After that conversation I did not call her again. I take exception to the suggestion that I was either intimidatory, unpleasant or aggressive to Ms. Young, which is completely untrue. Secondly, please note that Ms. Young has previously provided her mobile number to us for contact purposes and this is held on our property database.

As you rightly say, the RTM Company taking over obligations of the Landlord is a serious responsibility regulated by law. Not all residents are always happy with what RTM Companies do, just as with Landlords and their appointed agents, and in this case, residents have contacted me, as a representative of the Landlord, to help them. I hope you will now understand why it is right for the RTM Directors to be asked to give some explanation to both the Landlord and the residents who are worried about what they wish to do and the potential impact on their wellbeing and their homes.

If you are able to assist with getting reassurances and some explanation from the RTM Directors, I am sure the concerned residents would be grateful.

Yours sincerely

Louise Smith

Comments

  1. Michael Epstein says:

    That Louise Smith has shown such concern for the plight of the Metcalfe Court residents is awe inspiring.
    Especially at a time when her energies must be more concerned with the mounting debt crisis facing the Fairhold Group of Companies? Perhaps Miss Smith would explain to Carlex what an auditor means by the phrase “material uncertainties to continue to trade?”
    Perhaps she would like to explain how the financial institutions have given breathing space in order to sell off Fairhold assets to recover debt that is in default?
    Perhaps she would like to explain the £27m debt with interest rates of 12%? or the £443m loan guarantee?
    Or the “self” re-valuation of assets that added another £7m after an outside valuation?

  2. Sorry to seem over simplistic and possibly naive about this RTM lark, but as I understand it, to change your managing agent to one of your choice [Which appears to produce mega aggro to all concerned – landlord – current managing agent – residents – even the prospective managing agent of your choice] and Hey! all is wonderful !! is not convincing.

    Trouble is surely your still have the same landlord [with all his/her predilections for screwing you left right and centre].

    Your brand new managing agent charges you for your ongoing expenses as did the old one and passes on the increases from the landlord as instructed without challenge, ex. Managers flat rent for starters.

    Where on this site do we have glowing reports of development’s experiences of their new managing agents to encourage us to go down this rocky path ?
    Perhaps a new tab Carlex ?

    What about the double/tripple WHAMMY ??
    1. Leaseholders pay the Managing Agent – FACT
    2. Does the Landlord pay the Managing Agent ??
    3. Or does the Managing Agent pay the Landlord for the privilege which of course is passed onto the leaseholder. ??

    Simple answers please.

  3. Michael Epstein says:

    Kevin,
    You make some very good points. Appointing a new managing agent is not the “be all and end all” for problems faced by leaseholders. It cannot stop the rip off practices of the freeholder. What it does though(especially in this case) is to put a stop to the combined rip off practices of freeholder and managing agent. It also empowers the leaseholders in that if they are unhappy with the service of the new managing agent, they simply without fuss, appoint a new company.
    If the RTM is thought of as a stepping stone, to taking full control (as with Charter Quay) the freehold can be purchased. By setting up the RTM Company and having the Right To Manage in place, the ground work has been done.
    Ultimately, this is the only sure way for leaseholders to be protected from unscrupulous freeholders

  4. Michael Epstein says:

    Dear Louise Smith,
    I note from Fairhold Group accounts, that several loans are listed as “In Default”
    I also note that a specialist debt manager has been appointed and some of the outstanding loans have been syndicated out.. I note that certain inter-company loans have been waived, whilst other loans have been transferred.
    I note that during the year it appears that in the case of insolvency the first rank creditor has been changed from those connected with Fairhold Group companies to the financial institutions.
    I note that Fairhold Group Companies expect support to continue for up to two years in order to facilitate an orderly sell off of assets.
    Please feel free to correct anything that you believe to be wrong.

  5. Trevor Bradley says:

    Kevin, you do note some valid points, but it is hopefully the beginning of a far better lifestyle. MEs comments are 100% correct

  6. Dear Louise Smith,

    I would like to take this opportunity to ask why you have taken so much interest in Metcalfe Court it’s RTM and the concerns and workings and hours of its house manager and the building itself.

    Ms Smith denies strongly that she was “intimidatory, unpleasant and aggressive” this I would certainly question … [REDACTED]

    In 2011 myself and another resident contested a successful LVT case against Fairhold Homes Ltd for a reduction for overcharging of the house managers flat rental and I still hold my interesting letters of her feelings thoughts and expressions on the outcome, The decision that followed to immediately withdraw the guest room concession and gift of income to the residents promised and given annually previously since built in 2000.

    I would also like to stress that in May 2013 we where notified by Peverel that the hours of work at Arkle Court worked by the house manager would be reduced from 35 hours to 31 hours per week and I certainly was not asked to vote or give my opinion and I certainly was not invited to attend any meeting with any Ms Smith to discuss these changes they just took place and commenced as stated by Peverel.

    I find Fairhold Homes Ltd very secretive, unpredictable and obstructive depending on which complex or building they might be discussing dealing with and about.

    Charges alone for the Employment of the Peverel Arkle Court house manager for 2014 on a sparse 31 hours are as follows.
    WAGES £13,580
    House Managers flat rental £10,450 Total = £26,760.
    Her Service Charges £ 2,730

    For this I receive very little unless I request something during these few limited hours

    I have once again appealed to Louise Smith and Fairhold Homes for another house managers flat rental reduction backdated to at least before 2014 and also her opinion and thoughts about the ongoing faults defects and problems to the roof where reimbursement of charges caused by structural problems and design have been refused bluntly and wrongly by the original builders McCarthy & Stone.

    I have requested and asked Louise Smith several and many times who pays the service charges and repair charges to the roof for the house managers flat and the guest room at Arkle court?

    Good Luck Metcalfe Court.

  7. Alex Ellison says:

    In many older developments rent has never been paid for the house manager flat. Peverel refuses to answer the question of what would happen at such sites where it (Peverel) has also ‘acquired’ a lease on the house manager’s flat. If the residents voted for Right to Manage to rid themselves of Peverel/First Port but at the same time wished to retain a resident manager, what would be the status of the flat?

    This is one of the questions that I have put to Peverel several times, all without answer.