A pensioner who blames Peverel for reducing the value of her leasehold flat is having the case heard by mediators on December 11. And head of Peverel Retirement Keith Edgar – who leaves Peverel in December – is attending the hearing himself.
For five years, Muriel McNally, 75, has been fighting the action, involving local and national politicians, Carlex and Age UK and appearing twice in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
It is perhaps this media exposure that has made Peverel suggest this issue be taken up with a mediation service (which it will pay for, McNally says).
McNally bought her McCarthy and Stone one-bedroom retirement flat at Denehurst Court, in Church Stretton, Shropshire, in August 2005
It was for sale at £124,950, but she paid £119,950 using the exchange of her normal freehold family home.
The flat is now on the market for £95,000 “and I would be lucky to get even that,” says McNally. “One flat has sold for £70,000 and another for half what the owners paid for it.”
McNally is arguing that Peverel’s mismanagement of the site, particularly in relation to controversial changes to the car park, mean that Denehurst Court is a turn-off to buyers.
“Flats there have plummeted in value not just in relation to the general market in Church Stretton, but also in relation to other retirement developments in the town.”
She cites the example of Ashbrook Court, also in Church Stretton, where prices have held up better than Denehurst Court, she claims.
McNally has been fighting Peverel for five years over issues at Denehurst Court, where the atmosphere is so bad, she claims, that she has moved out to flat in Hope, near Sheffiled. This means she is paying £1,800 in fees and £1,200 in council tax for a flat that she does not use or rent out.
She believes Peverel broke the ARHM code (Association of Retirement Housing Managers) in not consulting residents over the changes to the car park at the 55-unit site.
The case has been referred by Peverel to London-based mediators ListeningWise, run by Michele Lee and Rif Sharif. It describes itself on its website: “ListeningWise is the only organisation in the UK (that we know of!) that specialises in preventing and addressing conflicts that affect older people.”
McNally is sceptical of using a mediation service suggested – and paid for – by Peverel, and she reserves her legal rights to take the case to the courts.
Peverel chief executive Janet Entwistle has been urging residents to take their disputes to mediation, which avoids the unwelcome publicity and costs surrounding Leasehold Valuation Tribunals.
But Carlex argues that mediation solves very few leasehold disputes – it was attempted and dropped by LEASE, the Leasehold Advisory Service. It also continues to keep leasehold disputes out of the public eye and helps no one else other than one particular complainant. LVT rulings are the only language abusive freeholders and their managing agents will listen to.
Carlex has also long draw attention to the fact that retirement leasehold has proved a wretched investment that has fallen in value far further than all other forms of residential property. Falls of 40-50 per cent off peak are not unusual.
The reason for this is obvious enough: developers, freehold owning companies and their managing agents have all been too greedy. They have drawn up unbalanced leases (including clauses such as sub-letting and exit fees, which the Office of Fair Trading believes are wrong) and then used every opportunity to monetize the assets by heaping costs onto the leaseholders.