Peverel was given a clean bill of health by an “independent audit” and was boasting of its improved services to ARMA – the Association of Residential Managing Agents – just days after admitting a price-fixing scam to the OFT.
On January 4 2010, then Peverel managing director Lee Middleburgh wrote in a “proactive step” an open letter to the chairman and members of ARMA.
He did so after Peverel’s County Estate Management division had just been fined £2,500 in connection with complaints about its activities at Westside One, in Birmingham, and at Charter Quay, in Kingston, where a court had removed Peverel as manager.
In the letter to ARMA members, Middleburgh attributed the problems to Peverel’s taking over of Solitaire and County Estates Management, both of which were absorbed into the Tchenguiz empire earlier than Peverel.
“In the Autumn of this year, working with ARMA, we underwent an independent audit of our work to date,” wrote Middleburgh.
“The audit indicated that the steps being taken showed that our new systems and processes meet the demands of customers and the service charge management code fully. In no area were specific additional requirements highlighted.”
Peverel’s fine work in the “personal development, training and education” of employees had just won Peverel an Investors in People accreditation in November 2009 – just as the price-fixing scandal was hitting the pages of national newspapers.
Cirrus, the door entry and warden call service at the centre of the price-fixing scandal, won a National Business Award for “employer of the year” in November 2009 – the month before it admitted cheating pensioners to the OFT.
(Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation has contacted the National Business Awards scheme to see whether being disgraced by an OFT investigation means Cirrus will have to return the award.)
Needless to say, ARMA eagerly swallowed Middleburgh’s explanations, announcing in a tiny aside in its newsletter of January 2010, that while County Estate Management had been “severely admonished and fined £2,500”:
“ARMA has taken this action in the light of historic problems inherited by the current owners and management team. ARMA is satisfied that real progress is being made by the new management team to address these historic problems.
“Members are referred to a recent open letter sent to them by Lee Middleburgh.”
At the same time Middleburgh shared his thoughts in an uncritical interview to readers of Flat Living magazine (which shares directors with Residents Line insurance).
“We don’t set out to be big. We set out to deliver good service, to forge relationships and seek to find common ground when dealing with disputes and difficult issues.”
A great shame he did not add:
“And we have just confessed to running a sham tendering process with Cirrus to the OFT which has cheated retired residents of tens of thousands of pounds.”
Lee Middleburgh’s letter of January 4 2010 to the ARMA membership can be read here: