A disastrous Friday for FirstPort last week as it agrees to repay ALL 436 leaseholders at least £479,000 in overpaid service charges, rather than just the 120-odd who participated in the action mounted by Liam Spender.
Residents at the site have yet to see the final number, but the credits in relation to the tribunal decision could total around £600,000 when the landlord’s concessions on building insurance commission and other items are taken into account.
And in another action led by Mr Spender, a City solicitor, leaseholder and trustee of LKP, another £55,000 in government energy subsidies are being passed over which, unaccountably, were overlooked when setting the 2023 budget for the prime Docklands site.
All in all a hugely expensive week for FirstPort, which also agreed to refund £300 in Tribunal fees and to pay Mr Spender £2,500 for his time over the energy challenge – a most unusual occurrence in service charge disputes.
FirstPort managing director Kully Sahdra wrote to all leaseholders on 12 May to wave the white flag. The letter can be read here:
It is an open question what French property management giant Emeria, which bought FirstPort in March 2022, makes of this debacle.
Initially, there was a possibility that the non-participating leaseholders at St David’s Square could be made to pay the legal fees of the landlord, FIT Nominee Limited and FIT Nominee 2 Limited both subsidiaries of the NatWest Group plc, even though it lost the case. The letter does not say whether this will happen.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to assure you that all leaseholders at St David’s Square will benefit from the reductions, not just those who participated in the Tribunal application,” wrote Ms Sahdra, adding: “We look forward to continuing to work with all residents to make sure that St David’s remains a safe and comfortable place to live.”
Of course, the non-participating leaseholders contributed nothing to the action, so any payback is a windfall. Doubtless they will show their appreciation to Mr Spender in some fashion.
The dispute over the energy subsidies concerned the 2023 estimated electricity budget of around £350,000, which paid for corridor lighting, lifts, swimming pool and street lighting.
The original budget was set ignoring extensive government subsidies provided under the Energy Bill Relief Scheme. The budget was also set on the basis that the current high prices would apply for all of 2023, when it was known they were falling and are likely to fall significantly from 1 October 2023.
A settlement, subject to approval by a judge so the application is still live, means all 476 flats and houses at St David’s Square will share a refund of at least £55,000, with potentially a further £30,000-£40,000 once reduced electricity prices are taken into account.
The final figure will be known in the next few weeks.
The overall reduction should be a minimum of £90 per flat and house, and up to around £250 per flat. The actual reduction will vary by the size of the flat. The houses only pay toward charges made on a flat-rate basis so should each receive the same level of refund.
The consent order can be read here: