The toxic disputes between leaseholders at Canary Riverside and their freehold owner John Christodoulou had another airing over three days in the property tribunal this week.
At issue is the decision of Alan Coates, the highly respected veteran property manager, to stand down on health grounds from his section 24 court-appointed role to manage the site on September 30.
The question now is who will succeed him at the prime London Docklands site: a management company proposed by the leaseholders, or one congenial to Mr Christodoulou.
The tribunal is expected to rule in the next two weeks.
Canary Riverside has been the scene of repeated warring between the leaseholders and Mr Christodoulou, who is determined to regain control of the upmarket mixed-use site with 325 flats and a hotel.
But, as ever, it is an ill wind that blows no one any good, and the hearing and its cost was likely very welcome to the 12 lawyers who were present at one stage.
Leaseholders managed to wrest control of the site from Mr Christodoulou, who is based in Monaco, after the property tribunal booted out his property managers, Marathon Estates, in October 2016.
The tribunal appointed Mr Coates, a senior executive of LKP-accredited managing agents HML Holdings plc, as the court-appointed manager. This, in theory, puts the site under the protection of the court.
But since in September 2016 there have been 20 days of tribunal hearings, with another three this week.
“The landlord’s zest for litigation cannot be controlled,” Mr Coates has told the tribunal.
In a decision that may surprise leaseholders elsewhere, the Residents’ Association of Canary Riverside is advancing Felix Keen, of FirstPort, to take over the site as the court-appointed manager.
Mr Keen is a familiar figure at LKP organised events in Westminster, where he is thought to have a public policy role.
This decision is backed by Circus Apartments Limited, which owns 45 flats and has them run as serviced apartments.
Meanwhile, the leaseholder of four flats, Palm Trees Paradise Holdings Ltd (PTPH) believed to be based in the British Virgin Islands, proposed Shrewsbury-based Jon Edwards, of HLM Property Management. This is part of the Countryside group.
Mr Christodoulou’s freehold owning company Canary Riverside Estate Management Limited, represented by solicitor David Marsden and barrister Justin Bates, wants Duncan Rendall, of Rendall and Rittner, to take over.
Rendall and Rittner are also employed by Mr Christodoulou at his nearby West India Quay site, a point raised in the hearings this week as a potential conflict of interest.
Mr Coates has claimed that £3.1 million is owed in unpaid service charges, of which at least £1.6 million is due from companies related to the landlord.
Circus Apartments raised the issue of “whether it is appropriate for Mr Rendall to take over the site, who will be expected to chase the landlord for the arrears when he is their client at a neighbouring site”.
Mr Coates also told the tribunal that Mr Rendall had informed him: “Until the landlord gets his control back, it’s going to be war. The problem is not going to be solved.”
But later in the hearing Mr Rendall said that he did not recognise these words.
Palm Trees Paradise Holdings Limited raised the issue of Mr Rendall being the court appointed manager at Canary Riverside, while his company is employed by Mr Christodoulou at West India Quay.
Circus Apartments lawyer, Jonathan Upton, echoed this, saying: “Mr Rendall may well find himself unable to manage independently and fairly because of his appointment at West India Quay.”
But Mr Rendall told the tribunal: “I am my own man. I am not the landlord’s patsy. I will have difficult conversations with the landlord when they are required.”
The tribunal should rule on who will manage Canary Riverside in two weeks.