April 20, 2014

After Carlex, the Daily Mail takes an interest in Grant Shapps’ colourful business career

Full article can be read here or

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2204292/How-Labour-want-probe-Grant-Shapps-family-business-potential-fraud-claims.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Mechanised plagiarism and psycho-babble are Grant Shapps’ little earners outside politics

The headquarters of Grant Shapps’ publishing empire looks like it needs to be re-housed

Michael Heseltine it isn’t … but ex-Housing Minister and Tory chairman Grant Shapps has a flourishing little publishing business to fall back upon in the event that his political career comes to a grinding halt.

Run out of squalid little offices in Enfield, north London, the Shapps family offer codswollop Freudian analysis of dreams and computerized plagiarism of out-of-copyright material to boost Internet search engine rankings.

Unfortunately, Google has blacklisted a string of 19 websites for breaching its rules on copyright infringement.

The sites are run by his wife Belinda, sister or 75-year-old mother, while Grant himself appears as either Michael Green or Sebastian Fox. Shapps made his fortune as a jobbing printer (see the company history below). [Read more...]

Grant Shapps cuts Wikipedia references to property tycoons’ donations to his private office

This is not going to be a good week for Housing Minister Grant Shapps

The Observer revealed yesterday that the former Housing Minister and new Tory party chairman Grant Shapps deleted Wikipedia references to donations from property interests to his private office.

He did so secretly, breaking the online encyclopedia’s code of practice which urges that those changing information in personal entries first identify themselves.

The original entry, the Wikipedia biography said: “It was revealed in May 2008 that Grant Shapps, along with other shadow ministers, had taken large donations from companies related to his frontbench portfolio … The revelations were potentially damaging for Shapps given the extent of the donations he had received – tens of thousands of pounds from two online mortgage brokers, an estate agent, a commercial property developer and a firm of solicitors specialising in conveyancing and remortgaging – and the suggestion that these might be influencing Conservative policies.”

Shapps scrapped sections 152 and 156 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 when he came into office, and consistently blocked any attempt at leasehold reform in spite of unanimity in the sector that this was necessary. Even the powerful British Property Federation issued a statement to the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership saying that it was in favour.

[Read more...]

Why does Shapps want to regulate park homes, but not leasehold?

Question for Shapps: why is regulation of park homes good, and regulation of leasehold bad?

Housing Minister Grant Shapps is alone in resisting leasehold regulation saying it will add to costs and landlords don’t want it … even though the British Property Federation, which represents the country’s largest landlords, has assured LKP that it favours the move.

But why – for the sake of consistency – does this minister feel so strongly on the subject of park homes, which he plans to license?

Park homes suffer similar issues to leasehold properties, including inflated service charges and poor maintenance. Yet Shapps wants regulation as part of “sensible, practical proposals, targeted at the worst practices and minimising the burden on those who do a good job for their residents”.

Admittedly there have been cases of park home landlords burning down the mobile homes of those who have complained, which to date is not a feature of leasehold living.

In other respects, the issues are very similar. Was it too much to expect some coherence and consistency from this minister?

Shapps grilled on TV, leasehold report and OFT statement on exit fees

Today both Housing Minister Grant Shapps and Siobhan McGrath, the senior barrister who presides over the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal system, face the cameras as part of the Channel Four Dispatches documentary into leasehold.

The programme will be shown on August  20. A second Dispatches programme on retirement leasehold is also nearing completition, although it has not been scheduled a date for broadcast. The following week, August 27, has been suggested, however.

Both Leasehold Knowledge Partnership and Carlex have assisted the programmes, as has the Charter Quay Residents’ Association.

[Read more...]

No regulation, but I may make changes to leasehold, says Shapps

The exchange of letters between Grant Shapps and Justice Secretary Ken Clarke give the clearest indication yet of his thinking on leasehold reform

Housing minister Grant Shapps has ruled out statutory regulation of the leasehold sector, but may well introduce measures to improve Leasehold Valuation Tribunals.

Furthermore, an announcement on the fraught issue of “exit fees” in the leasehold retirement sector, which are payable when a flat is sold, can be expected soon. These have been the subject of a prolonged inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading, which is due to make an announcement on the issue in mid-August.

Shapps says of leasehold: “I am therefore thinking about the issue and have not ruled out making other changes where I am able.”

His views are expressed in a letter to Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, who raised the issue on behalf of a pensioner in his Nottingham constituency. The exchange of letters took place last month.

They are the clearest indication of the current thinking of the Housing Minister on leasehold issues.

[Read more...]

Baroness Hanham and Rupert Murdoch: spot the difference

One is parroting the non-policy of Grant Shapps, and the other has never met him or, if he has, asked no favours. Baroness Hanham and Rupert Murdoch

By ‘Barrack-room Lawyer’

(As ARHM president Baroness Greengross defined OAP complainers in retirement flats with too much time on their hands)

In last Monday’s House of Lords debate, initiated by Baroness Gardner of Parkes following meetings with LKP, a number of important issues faced by the leasehold sector were raised.

They were rebutted by the Government Minister Baroness Hanham, of the Department of Communities and Local Government, who insisted that everything is balanced and that the vast majority of leaseholders are “satisfied”.

She went on to claim that the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal service is now nothing to do with her department, and tells us that it is the leaseholders’ responsibility to ensure that there is nothing onerous in the lease. (And you thought that’s what you employed a solicitor for and why we had laws to protect us!)

For many years, Hanham – and her predecessors -– have been able to rely on leaseholders not fully understanding  the complexities of this form of tenure, which she admits is a complex issue.

As a result, many a Murdoch like statement on leasehold is thrown in the leaseholders direction. The Baroness is able to claim evidence where none exists and, conversely, to claim no knowledge on issues well known to her department.

[Read more...]

Such a lonely and obstinate Shapps: minister alone against regulation

The body representing the most powerful interests in British property fully supports greater regulation of the leasehold sector – leaving Housing Minister Grant Shapps isolated in blocking regulation.

That was the main finding of LKP’s meeting with the British Property Federation’s chief executive Liz Peace and Ian Fletcher, who heads the BPF’s residential division.

The BPF had in fact lobbied in 2010 to stall the introduction of sections 152 and 156 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act, which was actually passed in 2002.

These protections to safeguard leaseholders’ money were in fact jettisoned by  Shapps as soon as he took office in May 2010.

The BPF’s objections were that the sections were poorly drafted and the time-scale was unreasonable, but the basic principle – that leaseholders’ money should be better protected than it is now – was not disputed.

There is near unanimity on this – in theory – in the leasehold world, including among the trade bodies such as RICS, ARMA and the ARHM, and the BPF’s clarification will be hugely influential.

[Read more...]

London Assembly prepares evidence for leasehold report

The London Assembly report into the woes of leaseholders is shaping up to create a rift with central government, and particularly Housing Minister Grant Schapps.
The Assembly is still gathering evidence, but what it has accumulated so far is pretty damning.
With more than 90 written detailed written submissions there has never been such a response to such a London Assembly inquiry.
So far the Assembly has found:
- complaints about leasehold issues have increased 35 per cent between 2005 and 2010.
- Leaseholders pay at least half a billion pounds a year to freeholders in ground rents and service charges.
- Right to Manage does not work in many London developments because it cannot be exercised where more then 25 per cent of the floor space is non-residential.
The Assembly notes that although the Association of Residential Managers (ARMA) supports tighter regulation, its maximum censure is a £2,500, which took six months to oppose.
No member of ARMA has ever been barred from membership for misconduct.
The inquiry is questioning whether LEASE, the leasehold advisory service, should adopt a role of actively supporting the interests of leaseholders, rather than attempting to remain solely an impartial advisory service.
The Assembly’s inquiry shows signs of being an unusually hard-hitting report.
It opens up the possibility of Boris Johnson championing the cause of ripped-off leaseholders, in the face of Grant Schapps’ vote-losing complacency.
Read our account of the LA meeting on Monday afternoon on this website.
The inquiry is still taking evidence and those London leaseholders who have been ripped off should share their experiences. Contact: Paul.Watling@london.gov.uk
Read the relevant paper here – it is a printable pdf: