Will Astor asked whether he has beneficial interest in Abacus Land 4 Limited
The anonymous world of offshore ownership in the leasehold sector is placed in sharp relief by families facing £18,000 demands to remove Grenfell cladding and pay for fire marshals at Heysmoor Heights, in Toxteth in Liverpool.
The freeholder is Abacus Land 4 Limited, a Guernsey company administered by Will Astor’s Long Harbour / Home Ground fund. It is unknown who owns it.
The leaseholders believe that they face £18,000 bills each to remove Grenfell Tower aluminium composite material from the building, and pay for fire marshals now on site. The payments will be made over two years every quarter.
There is at present a demand for £2,000 from each leaseholder, issued by RMG property management on behalf of Abacus Land 4 Ltd, we are informed.
As the value of the flats is only £80,000-£100,000, the costs here are proportionally much higher than those faced by the 334 leaseholders at the Reflexion / Blenheim Centre site, in Hounslow, where Legal and General is the freehold owner.
As it happens, L&G last month informed LKP that it had decided to pay for the entire cost of fire marshals (£165,000 a month) and to remove the cladding itself. Its statement can be read here:
Blenheim Centre flat owners to be spared £20,000-30,000 each on Grenfell cladding bill, Legal & General tells LKP
LKP contacted Mr Astor through his PR man, former Tory MP Adrian Flook, who works for Crosby Textor, the PR company that advised the Conservative party during the election earlier this year.
We asked whether there might there be any prospect of Abacus Land 4 Limited offering to pick up the bill at Heysmoor Heights.
Mr Astor’s previous employer, the Tchenguiz Family Trust, based in the British Virgin Islands, faces a similar dilemma at the 97-flat Citiscape site, Frith Road, Croydon, where the manager FirstPort is seeking a tribunal ruling on liability to remove the cladding and has suspended demands for money from the leaseholders until this is resolved.
Croydon leaseholders at Citiscape face £750,000 bill to remove Grenfell Tower cladding
We asked whether Abacus Land 4 Limited was considering a similar course at Heysmoor Heights: ie to obtain a tribunal ruling on liability before billing the leaseholders?
Mr Flook was contacted on November 28 and replied the following day to say: “This is to acknowledge your email which will be fully considered by Long Harbour as the investment manager of Abacus Land 4 Limited.”
Since then there has been no further correspondence, which has been copied to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, local MP Louise Ellman and All Party Parliamentary Group chairs Jim Fitzpatrick, Sir Peter Bottomley and Sir Ed Davey.
Key questions put to Mr Astor were:
Are Abacus Land 4 Ltd’s anonymous and offshore owners, advised by you, going to take this matter to court and, if necessary, forfeit the leasehold homes of those who cannot afford to pay these bills?
One of the leaseholders who contacted us is disabled and unable to work.
Only 38 flats in Heysmoor Heights are privately owned, as 60 belong to Grainger plc.
A second, wider question, of interest to the politicians copied into the correspondence is:
If Abacus Land 4 Ltd is willing to forfeit the homes of ordinary families who happen to have the ill-luck to live in a block that has Grenfell cladding, how can we possibly not know the beneficial ownership of the company, and the identities of the individuals making this decision?
LKP asked Mr Astor whether he had any beneficial interest in the freehold of Heysmoor Heights.
To date, he has declined to reply.
HomeGround did send this letter to Jim Fitzpatrick MP, LKP patron:
On the Andrew Marr show, Philip Hammond said flammable cladding was banned in Europe, the US and the UK.
Surely liability lies with the builders and authorities who approved these buildings as fully compliant.
If the Government wants this cladding removed they should pay for it and sue the guilty parties.
Once again the leasehold tenant is being legally robbed with no say in what happens. Not a penny from the freeholders’ company profits even though they own the property. in particular the external cladding.
Let’s hope the media report the knock on effects of the Grenfell killer cladding and the pathetic response from politicians.
Because of not knowing the full facts and having expert knowledge Philip Hammond makes very misleading statements at times. Instead of misleading the general public he should have made no comment.
Personally I think he made the misleading statement on purpose. A play on words
No, no, the government do not have, and never have had any money They have my money/taxpayers money which should not be used to help these owners (landlords) of these buildings.
It is the landlords that should be forced to pay the cost and themselves to claim costs back from the manufacturers
1. The freeholder or (insurance company as seen with other blocks) are responsible for any costs resulting.
2. If the freeholder is expecting the leaseholder to pay for the improvement of this building then the freeholder is not acting in a responsible manner.
3. If the leaseholder is paying for what are the freeholder responsibilities then instead grant the freehold to the leaseholder.
All leasehold blocks of flats have buildings insurance cover .
So the insurance policy will include cover for public liabiity for this problem.
ollie, it is probable the need to replace any cladding will not be covered by an insurance policy. It would be very simple to sort out if it was.
If covered by insurance why the following from L & G
Legal & General has announced that it will pick up the entire, multi-million pound cost of removing the Grenfell-style cladding at flats above the Blenheim Centre in Hounslow, west London, it has informed LKP. This means that the 334 residential leaseholders at the flats, called Reflexions, will be spared repair bills estimated £20,000 plus each.
I do commend L & G. They are doing what every Landlord should be doing, at their own expense, to the buildings they own that are effected. Following which, if appropriate, these landlords should take action against the builders/suppliers/manufacturers and people that “signed” these places off
A consequence of no fully independent regulator or Ombudsman is recurring property disasters.
The legal feeding frenzy will bring no comfort to the poor leaseholders, who post Grenfell live in unmortgageable, valueless flats. It is truly a Bleak House with no good outcome.
Statute of limitations, final building certificate sign offs and the application of leasehold law are all get out of jail cards we will see played in this version of Monopoly. The most likely outcome is an inconclusive verdict where everyone is to blame but no one is to blame.
Look no further than the way NHBC signs off new builds. They pass the defect back to the developer who passes on to the sub contractor who goes back to the NHBC who signed the final certificate. The NHBC finally says the problem is within tolerance and start the loop again by saying it’s the developer’s problem.
No one will take responsibility least of all landlords like Tchenguiz, Will Astor and the government. First port of call for money from these offshore faceless companies are leasehold tenants who have no escape. Like the blitz theyhave fire wardens for protection. Shame no one thought about who is going to pay.
I hope I’m proved wrong but I hear no wise words and see no guiding light from Javid or Alok Sharma.. Despite the deaths in Lakanal House in 2009 and usual review, nothing was done about regulation or safety. They will wash their hands of responsibility and do nothing. After all the only issue important to the media and politicians is passionate debate about Brexit.
Ha, the NHBC. You are so so right Joe. Another “Club For The Boys”, totally useless and meaningless.
Look at the case this week on the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
Wonderful Bovis Homes, again. (NHBC member)
An Independant surveyor deems a £325,000 home is uninhabitable after less than a year’
Gas leaks, damp, holes in the floor, cracks in the walls – for some, their new homes have become “uninhabitable” less than a year after moving in. Some have even discovered major structural defects.
Campaigners say that when people do experience such issues, they can find themselves powerless to force the builder to get things put right. No help/assistance from NHBC
And the ceo of Bovis gets millions in Bonus’s
Could it be, that having cladding replaced to a type that won’t leave leaseholders subject to burning to death could be construed as an “improvement” and therefore the cost cannot be defrayed to the leaeholders via their service charges?