During the Second World War, when Eric Matthews, 94, was an RAF squadron leader, he was used to chalking up downed enemy aircraft. Now he is celebrating another victory over a lesser adversary: Peverel, which has had to pay back £11,475.34p.
The money is being re-paid after a series of inter-company deals by the property management company at Strand Court in Rye, East Sussex.
Peverel was criticised by the tribunal for treating the residents with “arrogance” and for “the intentional hiding of information to which residents would have been entitled” by doling out contracts to their own subsidiaries.
Excessive commission paid to Peverel’s insurance company Kingsborough accounts for £8,029.36p of the ruling, while a new emergency call and door system – fitted by Peverel’s sister company Cirrus, and of questionable value – involved a re-payment of £3,445.98p.
At one point, commissions charged by Kingsborough exceeded 33 per cent.
“This was an excellent win over a company who thought they were dealing with a group of elderly ladies who would not dare make a fuss,” says Matthews, who as a young air traffic controller watched Neville Chamberlain in 1938 land at Heston airport after meeting Hitler, wave a piece of paper and promise “peace in our time”.
He was assisted in the action by solicitor and former university lecturer Archie White, in his mid-eighties, who was the fellow applicant on the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal action. Another resident, Mary Smith, in her sixties and a local councillor, provided the back-up team.
The respondent in the case, as always, was the freeholder, Proxima GR Properties Ltd, part of the Tchenguiz Family Trust, but the issues concerned Peverel. It was given its marching orders from the site, which had exercised “right to manage”, in November 2011, and the bills were run up in 2005-2011.