… but you must take it on trust that if those bits of Peverel that ARE members sign up to ARMA-Q these practices will be ‘outlawed’ and ‘speedily detected’
Michelle Banks (right), chief executive of the Association of Residential Managing Agents, has stated that her organisation will do nothing about the Peverel / Cirrus price-fixing racket.
This is because Cirrus is not an ARMA member, she informs a Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation reader by email.
Even though the Office of Fair Trading reported on December 6 that pensioners had been cheated in tenders worth £1.4 million at 65 retirement sites, the largest professional organisation involved in leasehold management has not a public word to say on the subject.
Banks writes: “We certainly do not condone the practices which led to an adverse ruling … [but] Cirrus is not and never has been an ARMA member.
“While it has been part of the Peverel Group, the practices that gave rise to the OFT ruling involved Cirrus and Peverel retirement properties. None of the blocks involved were managed by ARMA members and none of the ARMA member companies within the group were involved …
“In these circumstances, our Independent Regulator has no locus to investigate or take any action against Cirrus.”
For months Banks has been attempting to rouse public interest in ARMA’s attempts to bring higher ethical standards to property management via its ARMA-Q scheme.
She even addressed the annual conference of the Federation of Private Residents Associations last November to win confidence in the scheme. You can hear her speech here
The same Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation reader has made repeated unsuccessful attempts to obtain a response from the ARHM (the Association of Retirement Housing Managers), which obtains the bulk of its funding from Peverel Retirement.
The ARHM has made no statement about the Cirrus scandal at all.
In spite of the professional bodies’ silence, Banks states:
“What we are doing is continuing to work with those companies in the Peverel Group that are our members; OML Property Management, Consort, Stonedale, Marlborough House and Pembertons, to encourage them to seek accreditation under our new regulatory regime called ARMA-Q.
“Under that regime the practices on which the OFT has ruled will be outlawed, and much greater transparency will help to ensure that if they did occur they would be speedily detected.”
It is by no means clear why membership of ARMA-Q by these elements of the Peverel group would mean sham tendering by Cirrus or any other part of Peverel Retirement, which are not ARMA members, would be within the scope of the ARMA regulator.
The ARMA regulator is former Labour housing minister Keith Hill, whose appointment LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation applauded.
Is it credible that the two professional bodies involved in leasehold management remain silent over the Peverel / Cirrus scandal?
This is unsurprising in the case of the Association of Retirement Housing Managers, which has never for an instant indicated that there are any adverse issues in retirement leasehold.
It has long been viewed as a stooge organisation for the vested interests in the retirement sector.
ARMA is more promising, and has staff of a different calibre: its ARMA-Q initiative – protracted and complex though it may be – is recognition that higher ethical standards are required.
Although Peverel Retirement and Cirrus are not members of ARMA, a good chunk of the group is.
Is it really acceptable for ARMA to make no public statement – not even an indication of regret – following the Office of Fair Trading’s report into the scandalous conduct of a Peverel subsidiary?
Michelle Banks’ email to the Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation reader is all too redolent of ARMA’s former buck-passing.
Nor is it at all clear why if some parts of Peverel sign up to ARMA’s new scheme, conduct in Peverel Retirement, Cirrus or any other offshoot of the group “will be outlawed, and much greater transparency will help to ensure that if they did occur they would be speedily detected”.
If a large managing agent’s in-house or perhaps just preferred insurance broker, for example, helps itself to unjustifiable commissions, will ARMA’s response be:
“Ah, but XXX insurance brokers aren’t members of ARMA. Only the parent company is. Therefore this is not a task for the regulator.”
In a sector where the likes of Vincent Tchenguiz, who owns one per cent of all the residential freeholds in the country, have hidden behind “a quasi biblical” weave of companies ultimately controlled offshore – to quote one LVT chairman – this attitude of ARMA’s does not indicate a very enthusiastic reforming agenda.
Somehow, we must take it on trust that were Peverel part of ARMA-Q – and it is very interesting to understand that it still needs persuading – the Peverel / Cirrus cartel practices would be “outlawed” and speedily detected. Why is that, exactly?
We know that there is an appetite among the better managing agents for reform – read Rob Plumb, CEO of HML Group, on the LKP site.
What sort of message is it sending to those managing agents who simply want to be paid for an honest job, when their trade bodies have nothing to say about a shameful example of skulduggery like the Peverel / Cirrus scam?
Both ARMA and ARHM are invited to respond to this article, which will be published in full.