Managing agents Rendall and Rittner has “initiated a series of internal and external reviews of our systems and procedures” following the jailing last month of its employee Simon Van Houten, 31, for stealing £122,000 of leaseholder’s funds.
Richard Daver, the managing director of the company, is quoted in today’s Property Week, as saying the company is “confident we have strong procedures in place to prevent a reoccurrence”.
In the same article, which covers the mounting pressure for leasehold reform with the Channel Four Dispatches programme and the CentreForum report, Sebastian O’Kelly of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership is reported as saying that the Van Houten case was “to a large extent bad luck for Rendall & Rittner”.
In making the case to stop building more leasehold, O’Kelly said that the law had to go through somersaults to make leasehold fair.
“There’s no other part of civil law where private individuals can compulsorily buy the property of someone else,” he is quoted as saying. “That had to happen [with enfranchisement] to make leasehold work. So that must be telling you something.”
O’Kelly has frequently urged housebuilders to build commonhold tenure, which applies throughout the rest of the world, apart from England and Wales.
The article, by Property Week’s residential correspondent Emma Haslett, also quotes Peter Bolton-King, global residential director at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, criticising Housing Minister Grant Shapps urging a “more proactive approach from the sector” rather than regulation.
“That’s our dear old housing minister’s mantra, isn’t it? The fact is that the government might think the industry can do it, and the industry tries hard. But we can’t turn round to someone who is not a member and is nothing to do with us and start saying, you should be doing this, that and the other.”
The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership would dispute that discredited organisations such as ARMA and ARHM made any effort to curb the activities of their own members, several of whom have repeatedly lost cases and received stinging criticism from the Leasehold Valuation Tribunals.
Bad luck? This company has been utterly complacent and was so up itself that it believed such things couldn’t happen. They didn’t check out van Houten EVEN WHEN THEY GOT COMPLAINTS so convinced were they of their superiority. He was not properly vetted when hired and then not supervised.
I couldn’t agree more. We were one of the “victims” of Simon Van Houten and our numerous complaints to Duncan Rendall were never properly investigated. It was not until we decided to leave Rendall and Rittner that Van Houtens fiddling became apparent and what probably started Rendall and Rittner looking more closely at what he was up to. To give Rendall and Rittner credit they did compensate us and dealt with the issues (too late), although I still have a nagging doubt on just how much we were frauded in total. This cost me a huge amount of time and anxiety as a director of our block of flats. The irony of this is that we were paying Rendall and Rittner to deal with all our management issues and yet the directors of our development were doing all the managing.
Bad luck? What? Bad luck for Rendall & Rittner that their sloppy accounting procedures no less their refusal to comply with the lease and the law when it suits them – including failure to account properly to lessees for service charge they collect from – means they have been caught with their pants down? I have to agree with Sebastian – jolly bad luck for RR – and even greater bad luck for those of us unfortunate enough to be lumbered with them as managing agent.
When RR is challenged they do offer refunds – with one hand and then, in our case, overcharge three months’ fees with the other. To be fair, they did refund this money, too, but not before it had been through the books and external audit procedure, approved by our flat management company directors to boot – and only brought to their attention by me. What with this and other matters including Van Houten’s non-membership of IRPM which, we heard in court, led to his eventual arrest, I am unpopular in certain quarters.
Modest refunds work for RR. But if they think you are asking for too much – as with our estate management company – then RR resigns. They did the same on the adjacent estate. Interestingly, the high level of service charge arrears’ that RR will leave behind needs to be seen to be believed. If you follow the trail, you will probably find a ‘minute’ somewhere which puts the blame for this ‘black hole’ in the accounts firmly on the RMC directors.