Ten months after being found guilty by the OFT of systematically cheating residents in retirement sites, Peverel Retirement is now lining up to join ARMA-Q.
This is the new ethically enhanced membership scheme that ARMA hopes will demonstrate greater professional rigour in leasehold management. The announcement will be a shock for the ARHM (Association of Retirement Housing Managers), although Peverel will continue to bankroll this compliant trade body and remain a member.
The open question is whether ARMA will take the shilling and admit Peverel Retirement, which along with the rest of the group is being renamed FirstPort.
Or, insist on some weasely probationary arrangement. Or, the most reasonable response of all, tell it to clear off – as the ill-fated Campaign for Housing in Later Life did in April.
ARMA members who passionately believe in professional standards in their sector – and have faith in ARMA-Q as a significant step-upwards – will be aghast at the admission of the country’s most controversial – and largest – managing agent.
Such is its pariah status that Peverel has been dropped by all major house builders, including Berkeley, Barratt and even McCarthy and Stone, which turned a small Hampshire estate agency into the management giant of today.
After a string of controversies, Peverel was the subject of an OFT inquiry that established collusive tendering involving a bunch of stooge companies had won its subsidiary Cirrus contracts at 65 retirement sites.
Displaying an invertebrate streak, ARMA chief executive Michelle Banks declined to make any public comment on the subject.
In January she wrote to a Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation supporter: “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.”
She added that under ARMA-Q “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”.
That’s even more transparency, presumably, than the pellucid, crystalline versions promised so often in leasehold customer charters and similar.
It was all rather feeble, compared with Sir Peter Bottomley publicly asking whether the authorities were aware of “possible unlawful or criminal behaviour involving Peverel”.
The ARHM , which Peverel Retirement largely finances, said nothing at all until July, when it announced on careful reflection that it would do nothing either.
It did not, however, have any qualms about accepting Cirrus as a sponsor for its summer annual conference.
The restructuring with FirstPort means that the services division – Cirrus, Careline, Kingsborough – have been hived off from the property management.
So it’s an open question whether ARMA-Q has “locus” or not over that lot.
Raising the standards with ARMA-Q
We are delighted to announce that all of our private residential property management businesses have submitted applications for ARMA-Q accreditation.
ARMA-Q is the new self-regulatory accreditation for ARMA* members and aims to raise standards across the residential management sector – placing consumers at the heart of everything. ARMA-Q will ensure that ARMA members are complying with their Consumer Charter and bespoke Standards. All ARMA Q accredited members will be subject to a auditing regime and will overseen by an independent Regulatory Panel.
Our retirement business has also applied to join ARMA and, in the near future, will submit an application for the ARMA-Q accreditation.
Talking about ARMA-Q, Janet Entwistle, CEO commented:
“We fully support the work of ARMA and ARMA-Q accreditation in helping to raise the standards across our industry.
“I’m looking forward to our retirement business becoming part of ARMA, in addition to their existing membership of ARHM – this will mean all of our property management businesses will be ARMA members as we change to FirstPort over the coming months.
“The residential property management sector is a complex one. Any opportunity to provide our customers with greater confidence and reassurance in us as their managing agent can only be a positive step forward.”
ARMA-Q will take effect from January 2015
*Association of Residential Managing Agents is a leading trade association for managing agents in the residential leasehold sector