News

27th February 2020
The Case of the Missing Freeholder - Annual ALEP Lecture to Consider Absentee Landlords
The Case of the Missing Freeholder - Annual ALEP Lecture to Consider Absentee Landlords

Freeholders going AWOL will be the subject of the next annual Lecture delivered by the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners (ALEP).

 The Lecture is aimed at both surveyors and solicitors looking to get an insight into the issue of absentee landlords, and will take place on Thursday 5 March, at 30 Euston Square

 Cases with missing landlords can be disruptive for all parties involved in leasehold enfranchisement, and ALEP’s Lecture tackles this issue and aims to arm professionals with the practical advice they need should they encounter such a situation.

 John Midgley, ALEP Director and head of enfranchisement at Seddons, said: 

“Absent landlords raise numerous questions in practice and deciding on the correct course of action requires skill and insight. The Lecture will draw together relevant themes and points to consider assisting both solicitors and surveyors in developing a toolkit to deal with them.

Furthermore, the Lecture will include a review of current legislation, the role a valuer plays in these instances and advice on what to do when a missing landlord is a company, not an individual. 

We’re also delighted to have barrister, Nicola Muir, presenting an update on the latest from the Law Commission on their recommendations for reform.

In true ALEP style, the Lecture promises to be advice-led, insightful and practical for delegates.”

Indeed, a major part of ALEP’s work is education and discussion and this will be front and centre at the upcoming Lecture. Piers Harrison of Tanfield Chambers will chair what promises to be a lively open debate, presenting a fantastic opportunity for delegates to tackle the sector’s major talking points, such as valuation, and how any possible reform might be implemented, as well as its impact on the future of enfranchisement.

Following a networking lunch, the afternoon lecture starts at 1.30pm. Hosted by Damian Greenish, confirmed speakers include:

  • Sir Peter Bottomley, MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on Leasehold Reform
  • Anna Favre, Cripps Pemberton Greenish
  • Mark Loveday, Nicola Muir and Piers Harrison, Tanfield Chambers
  • Henrietta Hammonds, Beckett and Kay
  • Mark Chick, Bishop & Sewell and ALEP

Please click here for more information.

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10th February 2020
ARMA ACE Awards - Bigger and even better than before!
ARMA ACE Awards - Bigger and even better than before!

ARMA (the Association of Residential Managing Agents) has today (10th February 2020) launched the fourth annual ARMA ACE Awards - WITH FOUR NEW CATEGORIES.

The Awards celebrate excellence and exceptional achievement by the UK's leading residential managing agents, their suppliers and the work of their people in improving the lives of over a million leaseholders across the country.

They are free to enter and are open to ARMA Members, Associates and Partners. There is also a category for external suppliers - firms who supply excellent products and services to ARMA Members.

ARMA recognises that the sector is all about people and has introduced several categories not covered elsewhere – there really is something for everyone! The new categories are People Manager of the Year, Best Leaseholder Engagement Project, Excellent Health & Safety Management and Insurance Broker of the Year.

The Awards Dinner will be held on Friday 26th June at a new venue - the fabulous riverside surroundings of Old Billingsgate, on the River Thames with unrivalled views of Tower Bridge, City Hall, The Shard and London Bridge.

Entries are now open at www.awards.arma.org.uk and close on 17th April. ARMA’s charity partner for the year is CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably): www.thecalmzone.net

New for 2020, the Awards have been accredited to the Gold Awards Trust Mark, the highest standard of awards accreditation. The Awards Trust Mark scheme is a not-for-profit accreditation programme run by The Independent Awards Standards Council with the goal of enhancing trust between those entering awards schemes, and the organisations running them https://awardstrustmark.org

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20th November 2019
Principle wins contract to manage old silk warehouse in central London
Principle wins contract to manage old silk warehouse in central London

A former warehouse for exotic silks and textiles that’s now used as a restaurant and wine bar with 14 apartments above is to be looked after by Principle Estate Management.

The Tapestry Building at 16 New Street, opposite Liverpool Street Station in London, was formerly known as the Old Bengal Warehouse, and dates back to the 18 th century.

The property is part of the landmark Devonshire Square development, a collection of historic buildings that now forms a popular social, trading and residential development.

The high-profile new contract has come from Simarc Property Management Ltd, the expanding management arm of the Wallace Group, which now owns 106,000 leasehold properties.

Simarc has already appointed Principle Estate Management to manage multiple developments, including hundreds of flats in London, the West Midlands and south England.

The new contract comes after unhappy residents requested new management for the building.

Natalie Chambers, director at Simarc, said: “We wanted an independent agent with flexibility and wide a ranging skillset to look after buildings like this for us and our leaseholders.

“Due to the circumstances, this one is moving at very short notice and we know that Principle will be able to get mobilised quickly, making contact with all relevant parties.

“We know from our existing relationship with Principle that they take their role seriously and will get quality resolution to issues quickly and efficiently.”

Brett Williams, managing director of Principle, said: “This is a special building which has a complicated management structure and we were appointed because of our experience in high value, mixed tenure and mixed use buildings.

“I met with a residents’ working group prior to appointment and we are already dealing with a number of inherited issues which require resolution via detailed liaison between residents, the freeholder and their agent.

“Taking over historical buildings is becoming a bit of a theme for us, as they need special attention and an individual approach.

“I became a surveyor because I loved buildings from an early age, and while most of my work is actually dealing with people rather than buildings, there are some that make you feel proud to be associated with and The Tapestry Building is certainly one of them.”

Principle Estate Management was launched in 2018 by Mr Williams, the former head of residential property management at CPBigwood in Birmingham, and a past-chairman of ARMA.

It is now the UK’s fastest growing residential estate management business 18 months after its launch, with well over 150 developments across the country.

Principle is based at Cornwall House in Lionel Street, Birmingham, and offers a national property management service.

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31st October 2019
Colchester Property Management Company gains government certification to protect client data
Colchester Property Management Company gains government certification to protect client data
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30th October 2019
EV charge points: commonhold is not the answer, says leading provider
EV charge points: commonhold is not the answer, says leading provider

If flat owners want to install EV charge points in their blocks, they face an array of problems. These include restrictions on development or modifications within building leases, who pays for charge point installation, and how costs should be allocated among residents. But George Freeman MP, Minister of State for the Future of Transport has stated in a letter to leading EV charge point provider Future Fuel, that commonhold is the answer to leaseholders’  problems. 

Director Jamie Willsdon disagrees. He approached the Department of Transport last month in the wake of the government’s consultation on proposed changes to the building regulations that aim to give every new residential building with a parking space, an EV charge point. Existing blocks have been excluded from the proposals and Jamie wants to know why. 

Responding to Jamie’s questions, Mr Freeman says “With regard to ensuring leaseholders are not denied the right to install charging infrastructure, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are working to make commonhold more widely used in which, unlike the leasehold system, the individual has absolute ownership over the property. We are also working with industry to ensure guidance is available to allow landlords to understand and have confidence in the installation of charge points at their properties”.

However, Jamie believes the government has “fundamentally misunderstood” the nature of commonhold and its likely impact on the many questions around EV charging raised by leasehold property. The communal areas of commonhold property are still owned by a separate entity to the unit owners – known as a ‘commonhold association’ - and as such an individual still needs permission to install EV charging infrastructure, he says. 

Jamie is determined to continue his campaign on behalf of flat owners and will be following up on the Minister’s pledge to ensure that effective guidance around EV installation is made available to landlords.

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29th October 2019
Alex Jones appointed as Regional Manager by FirstPort Property Services
Alex Jones appointed as Regional Manager by FirstPort Property Services

FirstPort the residential property management company has appointed Alex Jones as Regional Manager of London and the Home Counties. She joins the business having spent 21 years at Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants in a variety of related roles.

Managing a portfolio of approximately 150 developments, with a team of ten Property Managers, the role encompasses the delivery of excellent services to the customer, financial and strategic planning. Regional Managers ensure the success and retention of the company portfolio, communication with FirstPort’s internal and external stakeholders and customers, in particular.

Commenting on her appointment Phil Johns, Director FirstPort Property Services said:

“Supporting the customer is at the heart of everything we do, delivering future strategies and commercial projects whilst managing people and delivering team engagement. Whilst at Whitbread Alex had a mission to make the company the UK’s most loved hospitality company, FirstPort is looking to deliver its own journey to become the UK’s favourite property manager.”

Alex Jones, Regional Manager, FirstPort, said: “FirstPort has a genuine desire to look after its customers and each other. From day one I have experienced passionate people looking to deliver to the highest standards, whilst supporting each other, too. My initial conversations about a possible career at FirstPort were held with a team that has such passion and excitement for the business it was infectious. They understand people and want the best results for the customer, the business and the team. They made me feel so valued from the initial conversations and continue to do so.”

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21st October 2019
Best practice advice for fire safety in flats
Best practice advice for fire safety in flats

ARMA (the Association of Residential Managing Agents) has today (21st October 2019) issued a ‘Fire Safety Management in Flats’ Guidance Note to share best practice with professional Fire Safety personnel involved in the residential leasehold sector, including managing agents, developers and landlords.

The Guidance Note has been produced in line with statutory guidance and industry best practice and independently reviewed by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, ARMA’s Primary Authority Partner.

Dr Nigel Glen, CEO of ARMA, said:

“ARMA members have access to over 100 Guidance Notes on a wide range of topics affecting leasehold properties. This is the only one that has been made available to non-ARMA members, as we wish to promote Fire Safety industry-wide.

Our commitment to Fire Safety includes running dedicated training, technical support and advice, and a 24/7 ARMA Crisis Line to support members in the event of an emergency”.

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17th October 2019
Block Management Companies Challenged By Unprofitable Growth
Block Management Companies Challenged By Unprofitable Growth

The Fixflo Leasehold and Block Management Market Report has found that although most block management companies have achieved portfolio growth, they are struggling to translate that increase in revenue and workload into increased profits.

The Report which was supported by ARMA, MRI Software, News On The Block and Flat Living received responses from more than 170 block management companies which according to ARMA figures equates to more than 19% of the block management market.

Within the headline figure of 95% of respondents having experienced portfolio growth over the past 5 years, two distinct cohorts emerge with just under half of respondent businesses growing at more than 35% over that time period with a quarter having significantly slower growth at less than 10%.

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between the use of specialist technology to assist property managers and a company’s ability to scale its business with over three-quarters of those companies in the top tier of growth (35%+) having invested in specialist block management software. Interestingly, those companies that made further investment in add-on solutions for repairs and maintenance have the highest number of leasehold units managed per property manager. Block Management Companies surveyed, as a whole, are taking a proactive approach with repairs and maintenance technologies. When asked about how likely they would invest in software to help manage different block management processes, Repairs & Maintenance came up top.

While 60% of respondents expressed that the upcoming regulation of managing agents poses a challenge to their professional career, over 75% of all individuals surveyed agreed that a higher barrier to entry will prevent rogue agents from (re)entering the market.

The wide ranging “state of the sector” report also looks at the expansion of businesses into Build To Rent, disruption brought about by commonhold and biggest concerns identified by block management companies in the short term. It also provides block management companies with an opportunity to benchmark their business performance.

The Fixflo Leasehold and Block Management Market Report was presented at the ARMA Conference on 17 October 2019
A full copy of the report can be accessed on the Fixflo website.

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30th September 2019
JB Leitch Receives Leading Recommendations for 2020
JB Leitch Receives Leading Recommendations for 2020

The Legal 500, widely acknowledged as the world’s largest independent legal referral guide, has published it's rankings for 2020. Based on a broad series of criteria, including strong technical ability available for the most complex and innovative work, client recommendation and results, the rankings provide a comprehensive view of the merits of best law firms across the world.

Liverpool based property solicitors JB Leitch have received tier 4 Leading Firm status, with specific recommendations for property litigation and real estate areas of practice.

The firm is also celebrating specific recommendations for leading team members including principal solicitor Jonathan Leitch and head of real estate services, Rob Denman. The published rankings also see legal director Phil Parkinson awarded Rising Star status, granted to standout performers who are driving both the business and industry forward.

Jonathan Leitch commented “We are again delighted to be recognised by the Legal 500, without question the most thorough guide to law firms and solicitors in the UK and beyond. The personal recommendations provided this year are also a great compliment, including recognition of Phil’s growing stature and successes within the industry”.

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30th September 2019
Birmingham leaseholders' roadshow offers hope to cash-strapped homeowners
Birmingham leaseholders' roadshow offers hope to cash-strapped homeowners

Property owners stuck in troublesome leasehold agreements are being supported in an innovative series of roadshows coming to Birmingham next month.

It comes as some 4.3 million homeowners across England are being compensated for excessive charges on their leasehold property.

An increasing number of people are facing bills of thousands of pounds if they want to move or even re-mortgage their house or flat as their properties came with 99-year leases when they were built in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Many are being asked to pay large sums to extend their leases or buy the freehold of their house. Serious concerns have been raised about whether the terms applied under such leasehold agreements are fair. Some apply a string of administration and service charges on top of the ground rent itself.

According to most recent Land Registry statistics, in the West Midlands, some 98% of flats, 5% of houses and 16% of all property transactions are completed on leasehold terms.

In the most serious cases, leaseholders are forced to pay hundreds of pounds per year in ground rent, with payments doubling every 10 years. These charges often make it difficult to sell a property, as few people wish to buy a home subject to such an onerous contract. The so called toxic lease scandal.

Now, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a formal investigation into leasehold agreements amid fears that homeowners are being treated unfairly. The Law Commission has also recently issued two consultation papers on how the cost of extending a lease or buying a freehold might be reduced and how Commonhold might be made to work better. And yet another on how the weaknesses in the legislation giving tenants the Right to Manage their leasehold flats might be remedied.

The CMA said it would also examine whether leaseholders may have been missold when they bought their property in the first place.

Leasehold specialist Mark Adcock said there was an urgent demand for clear, sound guidance on leasehold issues and that the CMA probe could lead to some very welcome good news for home owners.

He added: “More than ever, home owners need to know their rights. For example, they may not know that they can extend the lease of their flat and never pay ground rent again.”

“With expert help they can often reduce their service charge, take control of the management of their building and even seize ownership of it.”

“It’s also perfectly achievable to get the freehold of their house at a price that's affordable.”

Mark, of Lichfield-based Adcocks Solicitors has 20 years’ experience in leasehold law and is a former part time lawyer with the Law Commission advising on leasehold.

He will also explain how the law may be changing.

The event, which Mark describes as a ‘must attend’ for leaseholders, is free and is being held at the Edgbaston Park Hotel and Conference Centre on Saturday, 19th October from 9.30am.

Anyone interested in knowing more should call 01543 442100 or visit the firm’s website at https://www.adcocks-solicitors.co.uk/roadshow/ to register. 

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