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:
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.
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: