March 26, 2017

Roger Southam ‘conflict of interest’ as LEASE chair, leaseholder tells housing minister

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RogerSouthamLKPA leaseholder in north London today has written to Housing Minister Brandon Lewis saying that the appointment of Roger Southam as chairman of LEASE creates a “serious conflict of interest”.

Agnes Kory, who copied her email in to MPs Glenda Jackson MP and Sir Peter Bottomley, as well as the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, lives at the Frognal Estate, in Hampstead, where Mr Southam is described as “in charge of the management”.

Today Mr Southam says he has notified the First Tier Tribunal of his resignation of the management of the estate and made a statement to LKP (below) in response . It clarifies his position and rejects the criticism of Ms Kory.

Ms Kory claims that leaseholders have “deep concerns about his treatment of the Estate”. It is not known whether the estate is managed by Mr Southam’s property management company, Chainbow.

She continues:

“In cases of litigation against leaseholders (by Roger Southam), LEASE would have been the body to assist with legal advice.

“However, with Roger Southam’s appointment to the top of LEASE, such legal advice is unlikely.

“Roger Southam’s powerful personality and single-minded pursuit of his goals is likely to result in LEASE employee’s inability to provide unbiased legal advice when Roger Southam is litigating against leaseholders.”

Sir Peter Bottomley has asked the minister to see the “substantive response” to Ms Kory. Mr Southam was appointed as chairman of LEASE for a five year term on January 1.

Reply from Roger Southam

Dear Sirs

It is unfortunate Ms Kory has thought it appropriate to write in this vain. I was appointed manager of an estate in Finchley Road at which she resides. The Estate has been decaying for 40 years and the structure of the building is in very poor condition.

My company has worked tirelessly since 2011 to move the estate forward and we have just come to the end of major works which sees the start of the estate to move forward.

Ms Kory is incorrect in her assessment and we have a majority of the leaseholders who are happy. We have already arranged retendering and today the management of the building has passed to new agents and I have sent in my resignation to the FTT as appointed manager. We have been retendering over the last 2 months as the leaseholders knew.

Chainbow is not a traditional block manager anymore and hasn’t been for the last 3 years We do more consultancy and advisory work as is demonstrated by our website.

I publicly state that I would never and will never do anything to cause conflict of interest or impact on the much needed work of LEASE.

It is regrettable that Ms Kory also saw fit to send me an abusive email today that I am deeply offended by and is extremely offensive.

Roger Southam

Comment

LKP has no belief that the solicitors and other advisors at the Leasehold Advisory Service would give biased advice because its chairman is a property manager.

Leaving aside Mr Southam’s feelings, that is offensive to the LEASE staff.

On the other hand, it cannot be said that Ms Kory’s complaint comes as a surprise.

There were bound to be concerns raised about the appointment to the chair of LEASE of a large-scale, practising property manager, accountable and employed by a number of different freeholders.

To his credit, Mr Southam is one of the few leasehold professionals who has publicly spoken out against abuses in the sector, albeit some years ago. Our interview with him gives insight into his general views here

But Ms Kory does raise an important question: should someone closely involved in commercial activity in this controversial corner of residential property be the chair of the government quango that sits awkwardly within it?

And should he be joined on the board of LEASE by a raft of other commercial practitioners without one single, identifiable individual representing the leaseholder interest?

This month’s appointment to the board of Margaret Longden, an executive in Countrywide, was particularly unfortunate: Countrywide being accused of “ripping off” Swindon leaseholders in the Commons, and dumped nationwide by Bovis Homes. 

LKP has criticised the corrosive effect of commercial activities by the Leasehold Advisory Service: the annual conference trade show, advertising / endorsements in the professional directory and so on.

In fact, this is not the fault of LEASE. Its paymasters in the DCLG have insisted on this in order to balance the books.

Our criticisms have mellowed slightly as we have accepted – grudgingly – the very narrow role that the Leasehold Advisory Service has repeatedly defined for itself: that it is there to provide free legal advice on leasehold law to all comers.

It is not there solely or even primarily to help leaseholders (although that was almost certainly what MPs intended), to ensure fairness, to raise standards or promote reform.

LEASE is there to advise on the law. Including, say, forfeiture, which can render leaseholders homeless and destitute, and bring freeholders a huge windfall. As at Plantation Wharf

Fine. For that limited role it does not need much of a budget, nor to engage in commercial enterprises.

Above all, it can stay out of the way of those of us who do care about fairness, standards and reform. And who believe that forfeiture of assets and equity above and beyond the debt incurred is incomprehensible and indefensible.

Comments

  1. Whatever next – journalists with political ambitions, MPs with business interests, political parties funded by those anxious to avoid government sanction over corrupt business practices, websites sponsored by the organisations they give accreditation to, industry bodies funded by members who should be slung out, annual awards given to companies who underpin the financing of the gala evening … you see, as soon as you start throwing mud around some of it sticks in unintended places.

    Mr Southam is a genuine fellow but rather naive in thinking he would not be challenged – and for LEASE to be seen to be impartial he should not have been appointed. Rather him than Justin Bates though.

  2. I understand Roger Southams appointment only started on 1st Jan 2015.

    Has Ms Kory been refused any legal advice by Lease Staff since 1st Jan 2015?

  3. Following a request by leaseholders, Roger Southam was appointed by the Tribunal on the 22nd November 2011 as the Appointed Manager for the Frognal Estate, London NW3 5HN.

    On the same day as the article published by Carlex, Roger Southam suffered an outrageous personal attack via email from Ms Kory and, as a result of this attack and the compound effect of other unsubstantiated professional attacks, Roger Southam immediately tended his resignation as Appointed Manager to the FtT.

    In addition to the above, the article reports that Ms Kory has also attempted to publicly discredit both LEASE and Roger Southam professionally. Ms Kory’s position is without substance and represents a minority view of leaseholders at the Frognal Estate.

    We feel it is a grave injustice that an outrageous act from one leaseholder (out of 55 units at the site) should result in the Frognal Estate losing Roger Southam as Appointed Manager. We do, however, understand Roger Southam’s decision to resign as Appointed Manager given the personal and professional slander targeted at him and his staff.