… And, naturally enough, he is completely impartial
Does it work as it should?
A property tribunal judge and chartered surveyor, Dallas Banfield, is chairing a trade body initiative to set new codes of conduct.
Set up by RICS and the Property Ombudsman, the process is being ignored by Federation of Private Residents Associations (FPRA), which has described it as “spurious”; the National Leasehold Campaign (“Trust from leaseholders has been lost”) and LKP.
Mr Banfield is chairing the block management sub-committee of the sector initiative, which is chaired by Labour peer Baroness Dianne Hayter and has no consumer representation.
Insiders carve up code of practice for property managers – having been silent on systemic abuses for years!
LKP questioned Siobhan McGrath, the president of the First Tier Tribunal, whether Mr Banfield’s participation in this private, non-statutory initiative was authorised by herself or some other judicial office. Mr Banfield has been a full-time employee of the tribunal service since 2014.
The property tribunal was criticised yesterday in the Commons by Sir Peter Bottomley, a patron of LKP, who said: “How about getting the property tribunal to work properly?”
Former Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse Jim Fitzpatrick told the Commons the property tribunal “stinks” in 2018:
“The first-tier tribunal is supposed to offer a simple, informal and inexpensive way forward—they wish! I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say to explain or defend the procedure as it stands because, in the experience of my constituents, it stinks.”
LKP has been critical of the leasehold trade bodies – the bulk of whose income comes from appointment by monetising freehold owners – of being capable of regulating themselves.
The RICS disciplinary process bungled the investigation into property manager Benjamin Mire, of Trust Property Management, also a chartered surveyor who sat as a part-time “judge” on the property tribunal.
The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office stated:
“Mr Mire had failed to observe the standards that could reasonably be expected of a judicial office holder and that this failing was sufficiently serious to justify his removal from office.”
In addition, the RICS disciplinary process saw the reinstatement of 317 struck off chartered surveyors in 2016 after its disciplinary regime was demolished by barrister Marc Beaumont (who also represented Mr Mire).
Meanwhile, the regulation of ARMA members was sundered after the resignation of former Labour minister Sally Keeble in 2017, following legal pressure from an ARMA member.
In an article for LKP, Ms Keeble explained her reasoning:
Siobhan McGrath told LKP:
“I should make it very clear at the outset that Dallas Banfield’s membership of the steering group is firmly on the basis that he will take no part in policy decisions. His remit is limited to issues that might ultimately impact on Tribunal process. He acts as an observer and chair of the block management sub-committee.
“It is important that the Tribunal has an understanding of developments in property and landlord and tenant matters. Dallas is an impartial participant …
“Just for clarification, Dallas is one of the Tribunal’s salaried Regional Surveyors rather than a judge but the same terms and conditions apply to his appointment. Judicial Office holders must be astute not to take part in activities that might be seen to cast doubt on their judicial impartiality or conflict with their judicial office.
“In this case, the group is seeking to produce a draft Code of Practice dealing with wide ranging aspects of residential property which will go out for consultation and ultimately the intention is to raise standards amongst property professionals. When the work is complete it will not have any force unless and until endorsed by the Government or a Government appointed Regulator …
“I cannot therefore see that application of a Code of Practice in these circumstances could give rise to a future conflict of interest. … This is certainly not a remunerated appointment.”