When James Farrar and his partner Joe Mallon formed JFM Management and became accredited to LKP last summer with a loud and forthright message of leaseholder empowerment, it struck a chord with LKP readers.
When the start-up joined LKP it had just 120 flats under its management. That figure has now grown to 850 in nine months of trading.
Enterprises like this are just what the world of leasehold management needs.
Not one of the large property management companies is large through consumer choice.
They have ingratiated themselves to housebuilders by absorbing the cost of managing unsold flats – leaving aside less delicate sweeteners – or by doing the bidding of the commercial freehold owning enterprises.
FirstPort / Peverel, which manages 171,000 flats, sits wobbling at the top of this pyramid, even though it has been dumped by virtually every prime London site where residents are in control.
When coupled with the offshore Tchenguiz Family Trust’s freehold portfolio, which at its prime amounted to one per cent of all residential freeholds, it held vast swathes of leasehold flats – and almost all retirement leasehold – in its grasp.
This powerbase also turned Vincent Tchenguiz into one of the most powerful corporate players in the country, poised to buy Sainsbury’s before the crash.
The empire unravelled following Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz’s arrest by the Serious Fraud Office in March 2011, albeit on wrong evidence for which they were compensated with millions of pounds by UK taxpayers.
As the UK builds ever more flats, it is essential homebuyers demand the same control of their property purchase that is absolutely routine everywhere else in the world.
Commonhold in England and Wales may be some time off – although it will come up again – meanwhile all blocks of flats should have 999 year leases, no ground rents (see Phillip Rainey QC’s argument for this at point 12 here) and resident management companies.
With ever more information now easily available, leaseholders can take control. And when they do so they should appoint management companies such as JFM, which have not danced to the tune of the leasehold game-players.
Since JFM achieved LKP accreditation in 2016 we have come a long way. After just nine months of active trading we have secured contracts with 21 resident management companies (those controlled by the leaseholders themselves).That amounts to 850 residential flats and houses under our management.It’s been a tough road. It had to be that way. We have built our portfolio of clients from scratch. Our vision has depended on us winning each of our contracts one-by-one.
We cannot call on friends in high places with vast freehold empires or profiteering house builders suddenly to hand over a stack of apartment blocks in one fell swoop.From Milton Keynes to Berkshire, from Surrey to Kent and all across London, we’ve listened to the wishes of elected home-owner groups.
We have had to pitch our services to our prospective clients and convince them of our abilities face-to-face. In some cases, we have had to drastically alter our standard contract to suit the customer.
We are pleased to say that the graft has paid off.
Because this is how it is supposed to be.
Each of the property owners in our portfolio can be safe in the knowledge that JFM were appointed through a democratic process whereby the elected directors have scrutinised our company and our terms of engagement before appointing us.
This cannot be said for the hundreds of thousands of leaseholders living in blocks of flats and estates where the decision on who is appointed as agent is out of their hands.
We are not saying that managing agents are ever going to be very popular. Let’s face it – who likes the guys who send you a service charge bill?
What we can ensure is that JFM are tuned in to the needs of residents’ management companies and the boards of directors, who are volunteering their time to oversee them.
We do this by exclusively working for such organisations and focusing all our efforts on ensuring we have the necessary tools for home-owners to run their own affairs through a company.
From our online portal to our no-nonsense approach to difficult legal issues, we are here to guide our volunteer clients through the difficult world of residential leasehold management.
Looking forward to 2016, we hope the message will spread to residents’ management companies and home-owners across the South-East.
We now know that there are more self-managed blocks out there who are in need of help to get their properties in order.
We would like to hear from more of them. We also want to build on progress made in 2015 with helping owners take control through Right-to-Manage.
Overall, we want to continue to improve the lives of home-owners who pay service charges, by showing them that they, are in fact, in control of their homes.