The Westminster meeting on Tuesday March 11 on right to manage organized by Leasehold Knowledge Partnership / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation saw an all-party group on leasehold becoming more likely.
The move would certainly be backed by Sir Peter Bottomley, Conservative Swindon MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland, as well as Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, and perennial campaigner in the Lords, Baroness Gardner of Parkes.
With an increasing number of MPs no longer falling for the self-interested obfuscations of the trade bodies, the voice of leaseholders is at last getting heard.
Indeed, Lord (Richard) Best, a veteran social housing expert, is attempting something similar to an all-party group in the upper house.
The Westminster meeting was a clear and unambiguous engagement with leasehold opinion, hosted at last by a leaseholder group.
Opinions were sought from all sides, although Sir Peter Bottomley expressed his regret that the Leasehold Advisory Service did not accept an invitation to attend the meeting.
This was a surprising absence as Sir Peter attended its annual conference last year, and has even visited LEASE’s offices to meet the staff, whose work he praises.
As well as Sebastian O’Kelly and Martin Boyd of LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation – the latter chaired the meeting with Sir Peter – the attendees included:
Conservatives MPs Justin Tomlinson (Conservative North Swindon) and Robert Buckland (Swindon South), who have been championing leaseholders;
Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar and Lime house in east London, which includes Canary Wharf. Jim has some of the richest and poorest leaseholders in the country;
Mark Field, Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster, was in China but represented by his aide Stuart Gardner. Field has more leaseholders than any other MP.
Also present was perennial campaigner in the Lords, Baroness Gardner of Parkes.
There was also a civil servant from the DCLG present as an observer.
The leasehold interest was upheld by veteran campaigner on leasehold issues Nigel Wilkins, of the Campaign Against Residential Leasehold;
Karen Peel, who single handedly tracked down 133 residents to achieve an RTM in Wakefield;
Cherry Jones, an independent managing agent, in Swindon;
Rob Plumb, the CEO of HML Holdings plc, which is the only large managing agent to acknowledge that there are serious and unacceptable shortcomings to the sector;
Shula Rich, representing the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations.
Dudley Joiner, of the Right To Manage Federation, which has achieved right to manage for numerous sites, particularly in retirement leasehold.
Mark McLaren, from Which?, had a broad interest in consumer interests in leasehold.
The Institute of Residential Property Managers was represented by chartered surveyor Neil Maloney.
Keith Edgar, the former head of Peverel Retirement, represented The Association of Retirement Housing Managers.
The meeting lasted only an hour and gave quick-fire impression of issues in leasehold – not solely right to manage – by people actually involved in them.
Euphemisms and the obfuscations beloved of the trade bodies in this sector were not adopted.
Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, expressed his frustration that leaseholders’ right to manage can be thwarted on trivial grounds by practiced monetisers.
He and Robert Buckland (Swindon South) have been backing independent managing agent Cherry Jones in her battles with Countrywide property management.
She gave a forthright account of these, and expressed her disdain for practices in the sector. Like many other independent managing agents disgusted with the sector, she refuses to join any professional association where the views of those who play the system predominate.
More can be read here
What makes her account so persuasive is that she, like Rob Plumb, is a managing agent.
Rob Plumb addressed the 25 per cent commercial property limit, above which right to manage cannot be achieved.
Karen Peel spoke eloquently of how she had tracked down 133 leasehold owners, mainly investors scattered around the world, to achieve right to manage of her site in Wakefield. Karen has helped several other sites to achieve right to manage.
There was discussion on how freeholders, or managing agents could be compelled to hand over contact details of leaseholders.
Sebastian O’Kelly noted that the Institute of Residential Property Management had informed the Office of Fair Trading of “the dangers of coercion within the Retirement Housing Sector” to obtain right to manage. This is a claim in its submission to the inquiry into leasehold management.
As chairman of Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, O’Kelly said he had only encountered self-interested allegations of coercion from freeholders Vincent Tchenguiz and Israel Moskovitz, both of whose companies figure in numerous tribunal cases. “These allegations should be filed in the bin,” he said.
Dudley Joiner, of the RTMF, emphasized the importance of professional management that face residents who opt for right to manage.
O’Kelly cautioned Baroness Gardner against highlighting relatively minor problems among neighbours in the right to manage process: they are exaggerated by the vested interests in leasehold, the trade bodies and the IRPM.
Of more relevance was that freeholders are prepared to take cases to the Court of Appeal to frustrate and or simply to delay right to manage applications. Often these objections are on trifling grounds, and freeholders now routinely deploy barristers to thwart right to manage.
It was regretted that FTT chairmen are allowing appeals against RTMs on minor grounds.
Shula Rich, representing the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations, addressed other means by which right to manage can be opposed concerning common parts and responsibilities. She is to write further on these issues on the LKP website.
Mark McLaren, of Which?, suggested that the housing minister set up a working group to keep an overview of leasehold in the same way one does for the private rented sector.