By Martin Boyd
Last Friday Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation formally met with Peverel CEO Janet Entwistle at the Houses of Parliament. This time in addition to Sir Peter Bottomley the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, Jim Fitzpatrick, was able to join the meeting with LKP/Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation representatives Sebastian O’Kelly and Martin Boyd.
Of course, Janet Entwistle pointed to the positives, as she did last time. Peverel restated its support for the new regulation system being introduced by the Association of Residential Managing Agents known as ARMA-Q, which Peverel sees as setting a higher professional standard. She also confirmed Peverel’s support the Competition and Markets Authority review of property management services which expects to report in November.
She explained renaming of Peverel to FirstPort will give customers a clearer product brand and, perhaps, moves the company on from the tarnished Peverel name.
Janet assures us this time round it is an “objective” that the new branding system will also mean companies trade under their company name, rather than the previous merry-go-round of brand and company names which came and went with regularity.
All of these positives are welcomed by LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, but underneath the gloss and PR spin it is difficult to know whether at least part of the old Peverel autopilot isn’t still engaged, and still heading in the wrong direction.
While Admiral Entwistle may have replaced Captains Lee Middleborough and Keith Edgar, what has really changed? There is a new customer charter, but that just replaces the old customer charter / pledge / commitment or whatever it was called in the past.
Admiral Entwistle may not be aware that Captain Middleborough had also claimed his was the new broom which had swobbed the decks and they too claimed they intended to run a tight ship. So tight was Captain Middleborough’s ship that he even had ARMA impose an audit to show how things were Bristol fashion.
So where does Admiral Entwistle stand on four legacy issues, or is Captain Barbossa still on board?
Janet was asked a number of times whether she would allow just one of the 65 sites impacted by the collusive tendering scandal to take the matter to independent mediation. So far, not one site has had the resources to go to the tribunal.
NO, says Janet. If you were part of the collusive tender scam, or one of the other sites which may have been impacted by the scam, you have to accept the admiral requires you to use the Peverel internal complaints systems which will look at any questions you have.
Yes, you may well think that this sounds similar to convicted shoplifters being asked to determine their own guilt but your choices are now clear.
Accept Peverel’s view, or walk the plank and take the company to court. Janet Entwistle’s view is that you have been talked to and as far as she understands none of you are unhappy with her “goodwill” offer of 10 per cent.
Was that the echo of Captain Barbossa saying that these things were a long time ago, and its difficult for us to check records?
We also mentioned the fact the Competition and Markets Authority has found it a bit embarrassing that not one single site has been able to obtain a court settlement despite one of the points of a Chapter 1 investigation is to make such a process easy.
Admiral Entwistle said she was not aware this was the case, but would talk to the CMA. Does she think the state is happy to spend three years and half a million pounds for no result for the consumer and just a small fine for one Welsh electrician? (That is poor Jeremy Owen, the smallest of the stooges who was fined £1,777 – and seems, furthermore, genuinely sorry to have been involved in the scam.)
For those sites that have been waiting to see if there would be a softening in Peverel’s approach the news it that ship has long gone.
Sailing away from Peverel
Peverel has been one of the companies more than happy to support the CMA proposal that if 50 per cent of the residents want a new managing agent they can go. According to Peverel’s latest accounts last year, 15% or their residential customers made just that decision – or rather some of the large developers may have been persuaded to impose that decision. In the retirement sector, 99% of customers “chose” to stay with Peverel.
So, there you are. Good news Peverel supports the idea that if 50 per cent of customers want to go, that’s fine you can employ another managing agent if the CMA proposals are accepted.
Not so quickly though. It turns out this boat is not being sailed by kind Admiral Entwistle, but the old Barbossa. Legal demons of the “lease terms” and their “clients’ wishes” stand behind her back. “Clients” are those invisible paper company landlords who only seem to speak through Peverel but who’s views must be obeyed.
So those of you who thought that leaving Peverel might be easy because of its support for the CMA proposal, need to think again.
The legal demons may be demanding their pound of flesh. Even if your lease seems to suggest if 75 per cent of you want to go, that must be enough. The ever silent “clients” will decide your destiny with a Barbossa covenant?
Of course, if you are in control of your own boat already, you may still be with Peverel but can leave whenever you want or may even find yourself pushed out into the sea if diplomatic relations fall down. If that happens just make sure the there aren’t any weevils in your biscuits.
The sale of house managers’ flats
We know a number of you do not believe this particular ship even belongs to Admiral Entwistle’s fleet, but she assures us things are all above board and ship-shape.
Despite the fact that we have been contacted by various residents and authorities deeply concerned about this, the Port Authorities may have to consider a few other fleets which have also written similar leases for themselves.
Like the collusive tendering scam, Peverel says you can accept their “goodwill gesture” – that’s the £10,000 payola for flogging off a £100,000 asset – or go to court.
The meeting was left with Entwistle being asked to check: were those leases on the sold house managers flats correctly amended at least to ensure they pay a fair proportion of the service charges?
We understand that legal advice given to MPs on who owns these flats may be different to that provided to the Admiral, but this will be an issue for others to decide at some point.
Recognition of tenants’ groups
Like the new ARMA-Q, Peverel is extremely welcoming of residents’ associations.
Good, you may think.
However, the seas get a little choppy in both ARMA-Q and Peverel’s world when the words “Recognised Tenants’ Association” are raised.
An informal residents’ association has no status and no rights, but a “Recognised Tenants’ Association” does (ie it can audit the treasure chests).
In the past, there were many obstacles to obstacles to such recognition Entwistle was asked to think about what her company’s current view is of providing contact details to an ordinary residents’ association so that it might grow into an RTA.
We said her views would no doubt be of interest to DCLG, which is intending to look at what may need changing to make the formation of RTA’s a little easier – or, rather, a little more difficult for some landlords to obstruct. No doubt Captain Barbossa will have a view.
Finally, Captain Andy Davey was invited to the meeting, but was perhaps still checking his Cirrus lockers.
A more formal set of meeting notes will be produced in the near future.