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The landlords' right hand

Mr John Prescott

 

Until early 2006, Mr John Prescott headed the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, with responsibility for housing. "The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was abolished following a string of revelations about his private life", The Mail on Sunday, 30 Aug 09.

Hence, my experience dates from the time that he headed the department.

Departments then comprised under this Office - with which I have had dealings - included the then Leasehold Valuation Tribunals, LEASE, Local Government and the Local Government Ombudsman.

These departments have been key contributors to my horrendous nightmare experience since 2002.

The reason for my summary "The Landlords' right hand" and the visual is principally the outcome of the perceptions I have formed as a result of my first-hand experience with these departments.

To these are added this Office's handling of landlord-tenant legislation (discussed at the end of this section)

Sections

  C O M M E N T S

 

(1) The then Leasehold Valuation Tribunal: an extremely expensive poisoned chalice

I first approached Mr Prescott asking for help by sending him a pack, dated 1 July 2002 . It led to a 19 July 2002 reply with which was enclosed a leaflet on the LVTs.

I replied on 29 July 2002 , stating, among others:

"There have been many times over the last few months when I have been in tears at work, at home, even in the street, due to the total despair of finding myself in this horrendous situation with my flat.

I really had hopes that you would actively help us.   But, as I have heard so many times before, your main feedback is 'Get a lawyer!'

It deeply shocks me that the authorities are just not prepared to act.  

Basically, in this country, landlords can do anything they want short of committing manslaughter:   they know it is too difficult for individuals like me to challenge them, and they know that the authorities will not provide support to individuals.

I thought this was the land of 'fair play', a land where there would be justice.  

Clearly, I also misunderstood the saying: "an English man's home is his castle"  

The leaflet on the then Leasehold Valuation Tribunals turned out to be the most misleading information I was supplied with in the course of my war against the extortionate £14,400 (US$25,400) service charge demand of 17 July 2002 (supporting letter of 15 July 2002 from Joan Hathaway, MRICS, Martin Russell Jones, 'managing' agents for the block).

It led me to believe that:

•  there was an evenue open to me for justice

•  I could challenge 'Steel Services' 7 August 2002 application to the then London Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.

"without the need for professional representation"

These were LIES that have TOTALLY ruined my life since 2002.

LIES that have cost me a VERY LARGE part of my very heard earned life savings.

LIES that brought me on the brink of committing suicide.

The claim of not needing professional representation is one that Siobhan McGrath, then President of then LVTs, happily makes to the media at every opportunity (e.g. The Times , 4 October 2003, "Property - Landlord squabbles resolved"; on a BBC Radio 4 programme in January 2006)

NB: What the LVT literature also fails to state is that the tribunals have no jurisdiction to get a landlord to implement their determination. Hence, if, as in my case, the landlord and his aides decide to not implement the determination, the action must be pursued in court - which, of course, means considerably more costs. Not surprisingly, this additional hurdle deters many leaseholders from pursuing their case. Outcome: victory for the landlord and his aides! (See Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor # 6.3 , # 6.4 , # 6.6 , and West London County Court )

'Thank you'

John Prescott and Siobhan McGrath

for the - extremely expensive - poisoned chalice

 

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(1.2) The then Leasehold Valuation Tribunals: forums at the service of landlords and their aides

As I wrote in My Diary on 17 January 2003 "I am going to need professional representation - and fast!"

Factors that led me to employ a barrister, solicitor and surveyor were:

•  The fact that the London tribunal continued, in breach of its own rule, to turn 'a blind eye and a deaf ear' to my highlighting on 18 December 2002 that Martin Russell Jones was in breach of the 29 October 2002 directions set by the tribunal, as the 17 December 2002 deadline had passed and it had not provided me with the required information. Consequently, I would be unable to meet the 7 January 2003 deadline set by the tribunal (LVT # 2).

•  I did not receive a reply. Yet, consider that the LVT had been provided, well ahead of the deadline, with one of the main documents I was due to be supplied with, a copy of Steel Services' "Expert Witness" report' before 1st December as indicated by the 1 December 2002 fax sent by Ms Hathaway, Martin Russell Jones, to the LVT in which she states: "I understand you have already received our experts report direct"

•  I wrote to the LVT on 12 January 2003 requesting a postponement of the 5 February 2003 hearing because I still had not been supplied with the necessary information. I copied the letter to Ms Hathaway. On the same day , I also wrote a letter to Ms Hathaway, repeating the same thing (and copied the LVT).

The then London LVT denied my request. In her letter 20 January letter to the LVT, Ms Hathaway opposed a postponement of the hearing - FALSELY - claiming that I had been provided with the information.

At the 5 February 2003 hearing, my Counsel pointed out that, in sending me a copy of Steel Services 7 August 2002 application, the LVT had not included any of the supporting enclosures. The Chair asked the Clerk to confirm this. He replied,

"Not all the residents were copied on the enclosures"

In addition, during the hearing, Ms Hathaway contradicted herself in replying to a question from my Counsel.

It led the Chair to adjourn the first day of the substantive hearing to March 2003 "In the interest of justice" ( point 16, of the 17 June 2003 LVT determination)

Why had there not been justice before?

Given what I had (and fellow leaseholders) communicated to the LVT..

...why was it necessary for me to employ (at a very high cost) a barrister (plus a solicitor) to say what I had already said to the LVT on several occasions? (LVT # 2 , # 3)

Fair minded, reasonable visitor site, are you beginning to see why I wrote this summary for the section and used this visual?

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(1.3) The then London Leasehold Valuation Tribunal failed to perform its legal remit

While the 17 June 2003 LVT determination, reference LVT/SC/007/120/02 (ref #992 on the LVT database) determination is a fair representation of what happened and the Panel did not spare Steel Services, Martin Russell Jones and Mr Brian Gale, Steel Services' surveyor in its criticisms, it is as though, at the 11th hour, it made a U-turn and opted to protect Steel Services as it did not include a summary of the impact of its findings "on the reasonableness of the global sum demanded" making it impossible for anybody who did not have access to the documents subsequently issued during the three-day hearing to figure this out.

Hence, the LVT failed to perform its legal remit, as defined under s.19 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 - to "determine the reasonableness of the global sum demanded"

That it is its remit is evidenced by:

(1) the directions it issued on 29 October 2002 "The application is for the Tribunal to determine the reasonableness of the refurbishment and repairs work proposed by the applicants at a cost of 736,206.09”

(2) under point 1 of its 17 June 2003 report: "The Tribunal was dealing with an application to determine the reasonableness of a service charge to be incurred under Section 19 (2B) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985”

(3) its 21 July 2003 reply to Mr Lanny Silverstone, CKFT "It is not the duty of the Tribunal to assess the particular contribution payable by any specific tenant but only to determine the reasonableness, or otherwise of the service charges as a whole to go on the service charge account from which no doubt you can assess the proportion for that particular tenant"

(4) the voicemail from the Clerk of the LVT, captured by Piper Smith Basham in its 9 April 2003 letter to my then solicitors

Understandably, when I opted to challenge Steel Services' action in the LVT I thought I would end-up with a decision.  

Instead, I had an open-ended £28,000 (US$49,440) report (cost of my surveyor, solicitor and barrister) for which I paid an extra £1,800 (US$3,200) to my surveyor to determine the impact of the determination on the sum demanded (LVT # 4.3).

And of course, predictably, I ended-up battling with Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor and Martin Russell Jones who claimed that the impact of the tribunal findings was a lot less than it actually was, as can be seen, for example in:

(1) the documents and 'so-called' "revised apportionment" handed to me by Mr Lanny Silverstone, CKFT, barely 10 minutes before seeing the judge in West London County Court on 24 June 2003;

(2) his 17 July 2003 letter to the judge, following my 15 July 2003 letter to the court, in which he states that I am "wrong" (see West London County Court # 9 ; Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor # 6.3 )

(3) the 6 August 2003 application, by Ms Ayesha Salim, CKFT, to West London County Court for "summary judgement" against me (and another leaseholder).

(See this pack (1.1MB) which contains her application, the Particulars of Claim against me and 10 other leaseholders filed in West London County Court on 29 November 2002, my analysis of the contributions obtained, as well as other supporting documents)

In relation to the claim filed against me and the 10 other leaseholders, please note that we (i.e. the leaseholders) had very specifically been told by the Chair of the tribunal, at the 29 October 2002 pre-trial 'hearing' (LVT # 1.5), that if we paid the service charge demanded, the tribunal would not be able to help us.

To reinforce the point, we were handed a leaflet which, on page 5, states:

"...a recent Court of Appeal case ruling ( Daejan Properties Limited v London Leasehold Valuation Tribunal ) determined that LVTs only have the jurisdiction to decide the reasonableness of disputed service charges that are still unpaid except under certain circumstances". (NB: bold type face as per the leaflet).  

In other words, we were specifically told to NOT pay until the tribunal had issued its determination and it had been implemented. The tribunal issued its determination in June of the following year - as can be seen from its report which is dated 17 June 2003.

Yet, exactly one month after we had, in effect, been told by the tribunal to NOT pay, Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor filed the 29 November 2002 claim in West London County Court. Please note that Mr Andrew Ladsky, Ms Joan Hathaway, MRICS and Mr Barrie Martin, FRICS of Martin Russell Jones attended the 29 October 2002 pre-trial LVT hearing.

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(1.4) And Siobhan McGrath - with the endorsement of her 'head office', the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - twice refused to include a summary of the tribunal' s determination

As I was battling with Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor over the LVT findings (CKFT # 6.3 , # 6.4 , # 6.5 , # 6.6 , West London County Court and Lord Falconer of Thoroton ) I wrote to Siobhan McGrath, then President of then LVTs, on 6 September 2003 (copying Prescott on the letter) (LVT # 7) asking her to include a summary to the report stating exactly what it had determined and the resulting impact on the global sum demanded . In other words: requesting that the then London LVT fulfils its legal remit.

In her 12 September 2003 reply she refused , stating that

"neither I nor the tribunal have the power to re-open a decision"

In my 6 October 2003 reply, I argued that providing a summary of the decision

"does not amount to "re-opening a decision" - "rather it is about your tribunal completing an unfinished report"

This led to the second 'no' from McGrath who stated in her 26 November 2003 letter (LVT # 7):

"It would not be appropriate for the Tribunal to produce a summary of their decision as this may well be regarded as providing additional reasons"

= UNBELIEABLE - in the light of the tribunal's statutory remit (LVT # 4.2)

(YEAH! £500,000 worth of "additional reasons" to the other leaseholders to challenge the fraudulent demand from Andrew Ladsky)

(See LVT # 4 , # 7 )

In between, I also received a very familiar "get lost" letter from Prescott's Office, dated 6 October 2002.

The so-called 'summary of the case' (version with my comments) on the tribunal's public, online database FALSELY accuses me of being the cause of the action

Indeed, it accuses me of being responsible for a fictitious "[6%] increase in the cost of the works"

In my 9 November 2003 correspondence to McGrath, I also asked her to ensure that the so-called 'summary of the case' be amended to reflect a

"factually accurate summary of the case" as "the current version is particularly misleading" .

She 'replied' on 26 November 2003 letter that this database had nothing to do with the LVT and that I needed to address my request to LEASE as it had responsibility for the database. On my request to her I had copied LEASE. My request was ignored. (LVT # 7).

How very convenient for Andrew Ladsky et. al. and their aides to have...

...this very misleading summary combined with...

...the lack of determination on the "reasonableness of the global sum demanded"

And very convenient it was, wasn't it?... as can be seen from the 29 Aug 06 letter from the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW) / this pack which, among others, comprisemy analysis of what the other leaseholders ended up paying. (At least nine out of the 14 flats listed on the West London County Court claim paid the FULL amount demanded - and a futher 16 flats ALSO paid the full amount - see also Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor # 6.3 , # 6.5 , # 6.6 )

It follows that the tribunal has committed - and continues to commit since 2003 - under the Defamation Act defamation of my name and of my character by having the 'summary of the case' on its database - accessible by the public - falsely accusing me of being the cause of the hearing - while capturing under point point 64 of its report that I had the "...legal right to challenge the Applicant's proposal..." and knowing full well that its report was very damning of the specification and pricing drawn-up by Brian Gale

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(1.5) Unbelievably, in spite of its very damning report of 17 June 2003, reference LVT/SC/007/120/02 (ref #992 on the LVT database) , the then London LVT agreed to Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor and Martin Russell Jones' request for a hearing in relation to my 20C Application

As detailed under point # 4 of the then Leasehold Valuation Tribunal page, (based on my surveyor's assessment as the tribunal failed to perform its legal remit) the outcome of the findings was to reduce the original global sum demanded of £736,207 (US$1.3 million) by £ £500,000 (US$882,000) (including the contingency fund) - leaving an amount that can be charged of £235,947 (US$416,000) - or 32% of the original sum demanded.

Considering this very damning outcome (see extracts under Brian Gale), I opted to file an application to the tribunal to prevent 'Steel Services' aka Andrew Ladsky from putting its LVT related costs on the service charges for the block (an intention that had first been communicated by my then solicitor to the tribunal and MRJ, in letters dated 7 April 2003 - and was again communicated on the last day of the hearings) (LVT # 5)

To this effect I wrote to the tribunal on 30 July 2003 , stating : "In view of your judgement of 17 June 2003, I assume that there will be no obstacle in your making a 20C Order preventing the landlord, Steel Services from imposing their legal costs on the service charges for Jefferson House" .

The LVT replied 1 August 2003 by sending me a form to complete. I did this on 10 August 2003 , and stated in my covering letter dated 12 August 2003 : "Given the Tribunal's decision of 17 June 2003, I assume that this is just for your administrative purposes" .   

I concluded my letter by stating:

"The evidence is there. The facts speak for themselves. The Applicant cannot be allowed to put on the service charge for Jefferson House the costs it incurred as a result of the action it pursued through the LVT. The Tribunal has the power to get this decision implemented now and I trust that it will do so.

In their 22 August 2003 and 28 August 2003 letters to the LVT, Ms Ayesha Salim, Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor , and Ms Joan Hathaway, Martin Russell Jones, demanded to have a hearing

Unbelievably, the LVT Clerk obliged, as can be seen in his 29 August 2003 reply "The hearing of the application has been scheduled for 9:45 am on 8 October 2003" (See LVT # 5).

If this does not qualify as 'siding with crooked landlords' : what does?

The sine qua none of the Business model : the costs! Scare the lessees by stating that a hearing will be necessary / agreeing to a landlord's request for a hearing.

And if the lessee takes-up the challenge? Well, who cares: the taxpayer picks-up the cost of the LVTs!  Right Mr Prescott and Mrs Siobhan McGrath?

(Same approach with the courts e.g. West London County Court which so obligingly agreed to Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor's requests for hearings e.g. 24 June 2003 hearing (West London County Court # 8 and Lord Falconer of Thoroton # 5.4 ) . The taxpayer picks-up the tab.

I went through absolute sheer, utter hell at the time of filing my 20C application - see Piper Smith Basham # 7.18 and Martin Russell Jones # 43 , which includes evidence against Ms Ayesha Salim, Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor (referred to under CKFT # 6.9 ) - as well as in My Diary , September 2003

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(1.6) Further supporting evidence that then LVTs were particularly 'landlord friendly' (and will continue to be):

•  From the time it received the 7 August 2002 application from Steel Services, it waited two months to inform leaseholders of the application: it communicated this to us in a letter dated 8 October 2002 .  

•  It waited another two days to inform us of the pre-trial hearing set for 29 October, as it did this in its 10 October 2002 letter. As many leaseholders live overseas (a fact known to the LVT as it had the leaseholders' address), this barely gave them a 10-day notice of the pre-trial hearing giving them very little chance of being able to attend (LVT # 1.1). WHY DID THE LVT DO THIS?

•  As suggested by the 9 April 2003 letter from Piper Smith Basham to my then solicitors, not all leaseholders were informed of this action (LVT # 1.2). WHY NOT?

•  In its 8 October 2002 letter it sent me (and other leaseholders), the LVT stated that it included a copy of the application and supporting appendices sent to the LVT by Steel Services. 

In fact, it did NOT include a copy of the Appendix: "statement showing how the service charge is made up - individual items, or estimated items, breakdown of costs of each item to show how the service charge is calculated" it had been provided with. WHY NOT?

•  At the 29 October 2002 pre-trial hearing, all the leaseholders were clamouring for a copy of the priced specification. In fact, the LVT had a copy on file since 7 August 2002 . Yet, neither the Chair, nor the Clerk, said or did anything about it.   WHY NOT?

Fair minded, reasonable visitor site, do you see why I wrote this summary for the section and used this visual?

Do you also see why I stated in the introduction to the site that there is 'no avenue open to me for justice and redress on this island' ?

(See then London Leasehold Valuation Tribunal for further detail, as well as the Document Library for the unbelievable amount of correspondence I have had to engage in, not only in relation to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal, but also in the course of the other c. 40 battles I have had to engage in. And all of that because I 'stupidly' believed what I had been told by the State: that I had rights, I had the right to demand, and there was a system in place - for which I am asked to pay through taxes - that would protect me as well as help me get the implementation of my rights - leading me to get justice - and redress. Do I feel conned? BIG TIME!)

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(2) And another nightmare with two other departments then comprised under John Prescott: Kensington & Chelsea Housing and the Local Government Ombudsman

Kensington & Chelsea Housing and the Local Government Ombudsman have also been major contributors to my horrendous nightmare, costing me, among others, nearly 300 hours of my life; c.£600 in costs, as well torment, anguish and distress. (see Doc library # 5.3 and # 5.4)

After a three and a half months battle with the Housing department which, among others, entailed fighting off its excuses and misinformation ( see # 2.1 , # 2.2 , # 2.4 ) - including from my Ward Councillor (my 5 October 2004 reply to her 30 September 2004 response to my 30 August 2004 letter asking for assistance) - I opted to file a complaint, dated 17 September 2004 , with the Local Government Ombudsman .

In his reply dated 5 October 2004 , the Local Government Ombudsman Investigator informs me that he will send a copy of my complaint to the Council; that

"For the moment you need take no further action on your complaint. Once the Council has considered your complaint, if you are still unhappy, please send me the papers and say why you are dissatisfied".  

He terminates the letter by saying:  

"If I do not hear from you within the next 8 weeks, I will write to you again to see if you are satisfied with the outcome" .

I find the eight week grace period exceptionally generous given that by the time the Local Government Ombudsman wrote the letter, exactly four months had elapsed since I had first approached the Housing department.

It led me to explore where exactly the Local Government Ombudsman fitted within the government organisational structure and to discover that (at the time) it came underNick Raynsford who also had responsibility for Local Government . ( Mr Raynsford came under John Prescott i.e. part of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister).

While I admit to not knowing the detail of the activities, this looked to me like a conflict of interest (similar to e.g. the Law Society ( # 2 , # 3 ) , Bar Council ( # 4 ) , Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, etc. being both, trade associations and so- called 'regulatory' bodies).

By the time I replied to the 15 October 2004 letter from the Chief Housing Officer on 11 November 2004 , as well as to the Tenancy Relations Officer, also on 11 November 2004 , I had, by then, become extremely tired of the pushback letters I kept receiving from government departments I turned to for assistance. I had also caught on the 'tricks' used by these departments to get rid of 'persistent' people like me.

Hence, to short-circuit my being made to go through any more 'loops' all with the aim of wearing me down so that I give up, I made it bluntly clear in my letter to the Chief Housing Officer that I understood the underlying strategy. (What also prompted me to make the various comments was my experience with another of Prescott Office's department, the then London Leasehold Valuation Tribunal).

I copied the Local Government Ombudsman on both letters, and, in my covering letter of 11 November 2004 , stated that I knew where the Local Government Ombudsman fitted within the organisational structure. Not surprisingly, these letters did not go down well.

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(2.1) 'Big Brother' decided to 'punish me'

Subsequent note in September 2008: I am not alone in my dissatisfaction with the LGO - see 'Campaign against bias and maladministration in the Local Government Ombudsman Service' http://www.ombudsmanwatch.org

The outcome was that 'Big Brother' decided it was going to punish me for, I assume, being a daring, insignificant 'nobody' - or other perceptions in a similar vein.

The Local Government Ombudsman Investigator copied me on his email of 16 November 2004 to individuals at the council, stating :

"We will treat this as a new complaint which will be registered in due course. There is presently a six week delay in allocating complaints."

It was clear to me that I was the 'true' addressee for this email.

I replied in my email of 17 November 2004 that, given the contents of his letter of 5 October 2004 , I assumed that an error had been made.

 

To this he replied on the same day i.e. 17 November 2004 :

"No the statement you quoted is not an error.It seemed to me your letter [i.e. of 11 November] was an expression of dissatisfaction with the Council's response.

For that reason I decided that your letter be registered as a new complaint (which it must be as your old complaint is closed)"

Compare this with his 5 October 2004 letter:

"For the moment you need take no further action on your complaint. Once the Council has considered your complaint, if you are still unhappy, please send me the papers and say why you are dissatisfied"

The Investigator, whom, by then, I perceived as a little dictator with a grossely inflated sense of power, terminates his email by saying:

"I cannot confirm at this stage that your complaint will be pursued or what further action will be taken"

Translation: Damn you woman! If you think you are going to outsmart us, you won't. We'll do exactly as we planned to do all along: ignore your request for assistance. If this is not an example of bias, what is?

At least, the benefit of my approach was that I had saved myself endless hours of pointless letter writing and photocopying, as well as a substantial amount in postage.

My battle carried on with the Council 's Housing department.

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(2.2) It seems that the 'little dictator' had his 'cage rattled'

In my 24 November 2004 letter to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, I referred to my experience with the Local Government Ombudsman.

Rightly or wrongly, I believe that this Ombudsman intervened 'behind the scene' as, on 13 January 2005, I received an email from the Local Government Ombudsman Investigator. My not replying, led to another email on 26 January 2005 (this includes copy of both emails) and to a phone call a few days later. I considered his tone at the beginning of the conversation as dictatorial and commented on it.

In his emails, the Investigator stated that "I understand you have received the accounts" . In fact, I had not. In my 27 February 2005 letter to him, I related what I had told him during the course of our conversation on 1st /2nd February, namely that in her 16 December 2004 letter,

"the Executive Director, Housing & Social Services triumphantly announced that MRJ had told [the TRO]   that the accounts had been sent which therefore vindicated the Council's stance" .

2. I had not received the accounts i.e. for 2002 and 2003.

3. In spite of the detailed, comprehensive evidence I provided to the Council, [the Executive Director] opted to (based on her letter) believe that MRJ had sent me the accounts instead of ascertaining that I had indeed received them."

4. I then told you: "what would it have cost the Council to enclose a copy of the accounts?   Based on previous years, at most it will be c. 4-5 pages for each year"

5. At this point you replied to me: "There is no hidden agenda".  

I put it to you that any reasonable people when considering the evidence would conclude otherwise"

Following our 1st / 2nd February conversation, the Investigator contacted the Housing department. In a correspondence dated 9 February 2005 , he enclosed the 2002 and 2003 accounts.

In my 27 February 2005 letter, I drew attention to the fact that:

•  The fax sent by Barrie Martin, FRICS, Martin Russell Jones, to the Housing department was dated 5 November 2004 i.e. three months earlier

•  In this fax, he only referred to the 2003 accounts - not the 2002 accounts

•  Leading me to ask: " when were the 2002 accounts received by the [TRO] and, why were they not sent to me at the time?"

Yet again, I concluded that this was another example from one of John Prescott's departments that leaseholders who 'dare' to challenge a 'sacrosanct' landlord and, to top it all...

...also dare to challenge one of his departments, would not 'get away with it'.

In the rest of my 27 February 2005 letter, I challenged many of the points in the 16 December 2004 letter from the Executive Director of housing highlighting the misinformation, as well as contradictions in the excuses provided - among others, in the series of "justification" provided for not prosecuting.

I concluded on the section by stating:

"And you expect me to believe that "there is no hidden agenda"?"  

(The comment made by the Investigator in reply to my saying to him on 1st / 2nd February that "it was now very clear to me that the RBK&C Housing Department was protecting Steel Services" )

I followed by this relating my experience with him and, in the latter part of my letter wrote:

"Yes Mr Moriarty, there is a hidden agenda which is now very clear to me:   a dictate that landlords are sacrosanct and, quite clearly, some more so than others.

While, as a result of my horrendous nightmare experience now going into its 4th year, I firmly believe that the leasehold system must be abolished, I would suggest that, at a minimum, some discretion is used in implementing the dictate from the top.

The benefit of doing this ought to be obvious to those with the most at stake"

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(2.3) The then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister held the view that it was "not in the public interest to prosecute the case". How come? Did it know at the time that a fraud had taken place?

The Investigator replied to my 27 February 2005 letter by email on 14 April 2005 , challenging my claim that the accounts were not compliant with legislation.

In this letter, under '1. Enclosures' , I drew attention to the following:

"Page 1 i.e. the commentary for both, the 2002 and 2003 accounts states: "...show how they are reflected in the service charge demands and specifies the amount payable by each lessee".

"This schedule was not enclosed for the 2002 accounts, nor for the 2003 accounts"

I attributed this to the fact that Martin Russell Jones , Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor and their client, Andrew Ladsky, had something to hide. I WAS RIGHT!

After an unebelievable battle with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, at the end of August 2006, it sent me a copy of the above enclosures, with its letter dated 29 August 2006.

The 2002 and 2003 "summary of contributions to the major works fund" sent to me by the ICAEW show that 9 out the 14 flats listed on the West London County Court claim (WL 203537) were charged the FULL amount originally demanded by Ms Hathaway in her 15 July 2002 letter.

These amounts are listed in the Particulars of the claim (contains my analysis of the contributions paid by the leaseholders, as well as supporting documents) accompanying the 29 November 2002 West London County Court claim - drawn-up by CKFT - and filed by Ms Hathaway - under a Statement of Truth.

With the assistance of West London County Court, at least seven leaseholders were made to pay the full amount BEFORE the tribunal had issued its determination, LVT/SC/007/120/02 (ref #992 on the LVT database) (See West London County Court # 2 , # 6 ; LVT # 1 , # 4 , # 7 ; Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor # 6.1 , # 6.2 , # 6.3 )

These sums were obtained fraudulently, amounting to committing offences under, among others, the Court and Legal Services Act 1990 - Chapter 41 - Section 17 ; the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 ; the Theft Act 1968 / Theft (Amendment) Act 1996 - See Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor, including # 6.6

The Investigator replied to my 27 February 2005 letter by email on 14 April 2005 , challenging my claim that the accounts were not compliant with legislation.

WHY?

Did he know about the content of these enclosures? I think it is a fair question for me to ask...

...(subsequent note: considering as well that the threat of forfeiture and bankruptcy proceedings, as well as court claims = FRAUD TOOLS)

Well, I can always ask - even though I will not get the answer - as suggested by this 4 Dec 06 article in The Guardian, in relation to the Freedom of Information Act "Afraid of the daylight"

"...ministers have set-up a fantastical bureaucratic structure with the aim of obstructing inquirers at every turn" (back-up extracts)

This was also picked-up by The Independent in its 15 Dec 06 article, headed "Blair questioned by police on day of 'burying bad news' "

"The Department for Constitutional Affairs under Lord Falconer of Thoroton announced it was pressing ahead with plans to limit the Freedom of Information Act ­ curtailing rights to access and increasing fees to apply" (back-up extracts )

I replied on 17 April 2005 maintaining my position (see Pridie Brewster).

 

The 12 May 2005 reply from the Investigator falls back on the 'old favourite'

"...even if the freeholder had not complied with the terms of s21(5) as you allege, it is the council's view that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the case" (1)

In light of the above, it certainly would not be "in the landlord's interest to prosecute the case" - would it?

At least there was consistency in this message, as it was now the third time that it was being made to me. The previous two instances were by my Ward Councillor , and subsequently by the Chief Housing Officer

The Local Government Ombudsman then followed by another of the government's favourite: do it yourself! as the letter states

"It remains open to you to bring a private prosecution against the landlord if you so wish"

To which the following could have been added:

"As you know from your first-hand experience with West London County Court and Wandsworth County Court , this is not going to get you anywhere. Landlords are untouchable "

(Subsequent note: I have since been able to accumulate more evidence in support of my conclusion - see the summary of the outcomes of my complaints, as well as e.g. West London County Court - Post 2004 for another repeat of the 2002-04 'show' ; see also section on Kensington & Chelsea police)

Note:

(1) On the other hand, the government evidently considers it to be "in the public interest" to squander billions of pounds of taxpayers' money e.g.

 

•  The Mail on Sunday article of 8 May 06 - "The Eurofighter project has been plagued by technical problems for years, resulting in extra costs to taxpayers of at least £20 billion" (US$35bn)

•  The Independent, 5 Sep 06 article - "A major computer system used to process payments has been shelved, the Government confirmed today...The BBC Radio 4 Today programme reported that it had cost £141 million (US$250 million) in the three years since it had been first set-up and had been designed to save around £60 million (US$106 million) for the taxpayer"

•  The Independent, on 15 Dec 06, "Anger as Whitehall spends £7bn on private consultants" (backup extracts )

"Government departments have spent £7.2bn on consultants in three years, but appear not to have a clear idea of what value they got for their money, according to the first authoritative survey by the official public spending watchdog"

This seems to me to be the outcome of handing over a £500+ billion (US$900 billion) business (the size of the budget) to people who have never run a business in their life. (Discussed in more detail in My Diary under the latter part of the entry for Wednesday 2 August 2006))

Fair minded, reasonable visitor to the site, do you see why I stated in my introduction to the site that 'there is no avenue open to me for justice and redress on this island'?

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(2.4) Not surprisingly, Martin Russell Jones is repeating its 'formula' in other blocks

As the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister it was of the view that - contrary to its stated remit - "it is not in the public interest to prosecute" landlords and their aides for breaches of statutory requirements, it is no surprise to find that Martin Russell Jones is repeating its 'formula' in other blocks - as exemplified by the tribunal case, LON/00AQ/LSC/2005/0258, 12 August 2006 (printscreen of website) which highlights:

(1) claiming large amounts of expenditure unsupported by invoices, as well as overcharging for services;

(2) failing to produce year-end accounts;

(3) failing to issue a section 20 notice.

(4) the use of solicitors to enforce payment of service charges (point 12)

Yep! All of that sounds very much like 'Déjà vu'!

(Not surprisingly, there are similar stories in other blocks that Martin Russell Jones 'manages' - see e.g. Martin Russell Jones # 18 , # 42 ; compilation of examples under RICS # 12)

Why should Martin Russell Jones stop behaving as it does? In addition to the 'carte blanche' from the ODPM:

•  At the time that the then Martin Russell Jones needed to be registered with the then Financial Services Authority it, likewise, 'could not give a damn!' (In Apr 13, the FSA was reincarnated as the Financial Conduct Authority)

•  Its conduct is evidently endorsed by its trade association, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Subsequent note: confirmed in August 2008 - see RICS # 12 )

•  Pridie Brewster the 'accountant' for Jefferson House has taken no action once it had absolute knowledge that criminal conduct had taken place (In my NON-LAWYER opinion, under Money Laundering Regulations - it should have reported Martin Russell Jones) - and its trade association, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has, likewise, turned a 'blind eye and a deaf ear' - see Pridie Brewster # 17 , # 18 , # 19 , # 20 , # 21 )

•  The courts, West London County Court and Wandsworth County Court have, likewise turned ' a blind eye and a deaf ear ' to the evidence - see # 8 , # 9 , # 11, as well as Lord Falconer of Thoroton (then Head of the Court Service). (Subsequent note - And, in relation to another fraudulent service charge demand in 2007, West London County Court has likewise continued to 'turn a blind eye and a deaf ear', as well as provide a helping hand)

•  (As summarised earlier on under # 1.2 ), the then London Leasehold Valuation Tribunal also turned 'a blind eye and a deaf ear' to what I and other leaseholders were communicating - opting instead to have ears only for Martin Russell Jones... like Kensington & Chelsea housing

And the same attitude prevails in relation to the ' back-up enforcers ' (Martin Russell Jones # 25 , # 26 ) - see Legal Services Ombudsman

With that kind of set-up: what else can be expected?

Indeed, what this amounts to overall, is that what Martin Russell Jones is doing is regarded as 'good practice' - rather than 'malpractice' (Subsequent note - Confirmed by its 'trade association', the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, in 2008 - see RICS # 12)

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(2.5) So much for housing departments being the "prosecuting authority for contraventions of Landlord - Tenant legislation"...

... as detailed, under point 5 of the 16 December 2004 letter from the Executive Director Housing & Social Services for Kensington & Chelsea - who quoted from s.34 of the L&T Act 1985.

The reality is that councils not only lack the will to enforce the law, they also have a serious conflict of interest since they are among the largest landlords in the country - owning and mismanaging a lot of freehold properties themselves.

Fairly recent issues of the local newspaper for Kensington and Chelsea, the Informer, indicate (not surprisingly) that I am not the only one complaining about the Council e.g. letter from Nigel Wilkins (Chair of C.A.R.L. ), 6 January 2005:

"the council is the prosecuting authority in respect of criminal offences under landlord and tenant law. Its consistent failure to match up to its obligations under this legislation demonstrates that it is soft on crime".

And this example from another local leaseholder, who, in his letter published on 25 February 2005, highlights that:

"the tenant management organisation (TOM) fails to answer legitimate complaints from leaseholder" and " service charge irregularities".

He also states:

"the TOM was somewhat confrontational by tying up my reasonable request in bureaucratic procedures and circumlocutionist correspondence by making woolly use of legislation"  

I most certainly know exactly what this person means having been at the receiving end of the same treatment myself.

The same downright refusal by housing departments to perform their legal remit in relation to contraventions of landlord-tenant legislation is also found among other councils e.g. the case of the leaseholder covered in the Evening Standard article of 3 December 2003, headed " Left homeless for £25 " (US$44):

"...neither the police nor Hastings borough council will act" .  

(Yes, ditto as well for me in the case of the police, except that in my case Kensington & Chelsea police extended not just a 'helpful hand' to Andrew Ladsky - but 'lock stock and barrel' - See Police )

Since then, I came across an article in The Times of 16 August 2005, headed "What next for councils of despair? Local government reform has spawned a system that makes abuse of authority more likely"   in which the journalist wrote:

".LGO Watch. called for the setting up of an independent local government complaints commission to bring order into a system it described as "morally corrupt".

the 2000 Act was supposed to herald a regime of quality, efficiency and leadership. In fact, it has meant the introduction of the payroll role and pork-barrel politics into English local government, along with the acceleration of an arrogant, managerial style of operation"

In light of my experience with the then London Leasehold Valuation Tribunal and its then President, Siobhan McGrath, Kensington & Chelsea Housing and the Local Government Ombudsman - I view John Prescott, then head of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - as a fertiliser for malpractice in the residential leasehold sector.

Hence, as I view - also in light of my very comprehensive first-hand experience :

•  Lord Falconer, as (the then) head of the (then) Department for Constitutional Affairs, covering among others, the courts , the Legal Services Ombudsman , the Land Registry acting as a 'fertiliser' for crass incompetence and malpractice in the legal sector

•  As well as the English so-called 'regulatory bodies' comprising of the Law Society , Bar Council , Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors , Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales - given their attitude and behaviour

(Subsequent note - Overview of the outcomes of my complaints)

What a mess!

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(3) As demonstrated by the following, John Prescott's Office evidently had long-reaching tentacles throughout government

In August 2003, I sent an identical letter to a dozen various media (e.g. The Guardian ) in which I referred to, among others, my experience with Kensington & Chelsea police .

In each instance, I copied various ministries, including the Home Office as it has responsibility for the police. Its 27 August 2003 reply stated that it had forwarded my letter to Mr Prescott's Office "for a suitable reply" i.e. " get lost! "   

Same thing as well in terms of the courts, as Lord Falconer 's (then) department, the (then) Department for Constitutional Affairs, wrote, in its 1 September 2003 reply, that it had forwarded my letter to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister because it considered

"The issue raised is outside the remit of this department"

Consider that, in this letter, I related my experience with West London County Court and Wandsworth County Court. (My hand written comment on the reply reads: "In addition to the LVT, plus the police (Home Office letter of 27 August 2003), Mr Prescott also deals with the judiciary?" )

Fair minded, reasonable visitor to the site: do you see why I stated in my introduction to the site that there is 'no avenue open to me for justice and redress on this island?'

I DO hold John Prescott's Office as one of the key parties responsible for the existence of this website as, in addition to the above, it has left me exposed to further action by Andrew Ladsky et. al. in particular, exposed to further unjustified demands for the major works as the LVT did not detail the impact of its determination on the global sum demanded... (not to mention ongoing harassment and intimidation - See My Diary ). Subsequent note: I WAS PROVEN RIGHT!

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(4) Events with the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 given as further evidence in support of my claim that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is the 'landlords' right hand'

(4.1) Pre-being elected: the Labour Party - Oops! 'New Labour' Party's claims of "An End to Feudalism"

To put events in context, it is helpful to recall some of the claims made by the Labour Party before the 1997 election in its policy document 'An End to Feudalism ' , when Nick Raynsford, MP, was Shadow Minister for Housing.

"Leasehold as a form of residential tenure is a throwback to feudalism . It gives exceptional privileges and powers to landowners."

The case for reform is overwhelming . Britain is almost unique in the world in retaining the system of leasehold. In other countries different and more modern arrangements have developed

Over recent decades (NB:!!!) the weaknesses and injustices inherent in the British leasehold system have been increasingly highlighted , but reform has been a long time coming .Conservative government's attempts at leasehold reform have proved incompetent and ineffective. 

The 1987 Landlord and Tenant Act . involves such complex procedures and red tape that few - if any - leaseholders have benefited from it.  

The 1993 Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act.the Tories made so many concessions to the interests of the big landlords that it effectively undermined its whole purpose.

As a result, the number of leaseholders who have in fact been able to buy out the freehold of their block of flats under the provisions of the 1993 Act is derisorily small. 

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of leaseholders feel let down by the Tories who promised them the opportunity to own their home, but then sold out their interests to the big landowners.

Against this background Labour recognises that an effective and comprehensive leasehold reform package is essential. This will remedy the outstanding problems, eliminate unnecessary red tape and extend to all those leaseholders who have been betrayed by the Tories (NB:!!!) new opportunities to won and manage their homes. 

To replace the archaic and discredited leasehold framework , we need a new form of tenure ..This is the purpose of commonhold...despite repeated Labour demands for action, the Tories have dragged their feet

We would expect the tenure of commonhold to replace leasehold over a period of years"

(In relation to valuation but, in my view of relevance in all situations)

"The very fear of these costs, particularly when it is known that the large landowners are able to deploy numbers of expensive professional advisers, can act as a powerful deterrent to leaseholders exercising their rights

..Labour believes that it is right that leaseholders should enjoy proper safeguards against arbitrary and oppressive conditions"

WOW! Isn't that impressive? A sure vote winner from the three million leaseholders who live under "oppressive conditions" in this country

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(4.2) 'New Labour'...Once elected, all the promises went out of the window

What happened to the above promises once the Labour Party came to power?   They went out of the window!

In January 2001 , the government announced a new Bill poised to replace leasehold with commonhold. It was heralded as the bill that would "give flat-dwellers more control over their lives" .

At the time, it was pointed out in the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and by the media, that the requirement in the Bill that 100 per cent of the units in a block must participate made it a practical impossibility to convert to commonhold.

For example, in his 8 January 2002 speech to the House of Commons, Mr Barry Gardiner, MP, stated:

"Before the 1997 election, the Labour Party published a policy document entitled 'An End to Feudalism'. Some say that it has become quite scarce these days in Government circles, but I am pleased to quote from it. It says:

"Labour will introduce legislation creating the commonhold tenure. Our proposal is that this should apply where new tenancies are created and where existing leaseholders wish to transfer from their current status. In such cases the support of a majority of the leaseholders will be required to effect the transfer."

"Why that eminently sound position has been changed is a matter for conjecture. I simply say this: the decision in the Bill to allow transfers from leasehold to commonhold only when there is 100 per cent agreement of the leaseholders is the death knell of commonhold. That is an impossible hurdle to overcome.

By their insistence on unanimity, the Government have at once held out commonhold as the panacea for the ills of leasehold tenure and simultaneously made it unattainable for all existing leaseholders. It is a quite staggering achievement to neuter one's own Bill before it ever gets on the statute book, but that is quite simply what clause 3 ensures.

The second point highlighted by Mr Barry Gardiner was

".the failure to insist that commonhold becomes the default tenure for all new-build blocks of flats or conversions of houses. "

Nearly two years later...

...in its October 2002 "Consultation Paper, Residential Leasehold Reform in England and Wales " John Prescott's Office wrote, among others:

"For someone who wants to buy a flat, leasehold is the only option anyway "

...the Government remains committed to the introduction of a new 'commonhold' tenure.

The Government considers that leasehold is a fundamentally unsatisfactory tenure - particularly for flats, since the leases for flats tend to provide greater scope for abuse by the landlord...

...throughout the life of the lease, the landlord has far more power than the leaseholders. Some landlords use that power responsibly and moderately, but others do not. The worst of them abuse their position to exploit their leaseholders in a wide variety of ways.

The reform legislation of the last thirty years has had only limited impact"

It then discusses 'so called' measures and 'rights' "put in place" for leaseholders, after which it admits:

"despite all the safeguards, bad landlords have found ways to continue with their old abuses, and have invented some new ones.

Leaseholders have found the remedies cumbersome, difficult and expensive to use."

The commonhold legislation came into force, four years after being announced, in September 2004.

Over a year later, on 22 November 2005, in the House of Lords , Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked

"How may commonholds have been registered under the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002?"

Reply from Lord Evans of Temple Guiting:

"My Lords, as of 18 November, six commonholds were registered at the Land Registry.The rate of take-up is extremely disappointing.We are considering whether it is necessary to hold a formal review. ( NB : The government's typical delaying tactic!) . We will announce the result of our investigations early in the new year"

Baroness Gardner:

"It is disappointing because it was anticipated that there would be many thousands of registrations by now. It is almost derisory if it is only five or six.

Can the Minister confirm that commonhold was a Labour Party manifesto commitment and that the intention was to empower people to own and control their own homes on a permanent basis, rather than to have a lease which is a depreciating asset?"

Lord Evans:

"My Lords, it was a Labour Party manifesto commitment.In fact, it is a piece of legislation that has moved through several Parliaments. The Government are absolutely committed to commonhold. (NB:!!!) We shall investigate why progress is so slow and report back to the House early in the new year" ( NB:!!! )

Baroness Hanham:

"My Lords, does the Minister recall that when we were discussing the commonhold Bill there was a great deal of inquiry around the fact that the Government were insisting that there should be 100 per cent sign-up within a block before it could become a commonhold?

Does he also recall that the strong recommendation from this side of the House was that it should not be more than 80 per cent? If the Government are going to consider a review-indeed, even if they are not-will they consider reviewing the 100 per cent requirement?"

Lord Evans:

"My Lords, I think we will reconsider every aspect of it. (NB:!!!) The noble Baroness is absolutely correct to say-and I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, who suggested-that 80 per cent would be more sensible than 100 per cent.

When the investigation takes place, we will look into all the reasons why this rather enlightened (NB!!!) and central piece of legislation has not progressed as quickly as we hoped it would during the first year of its implementation"

Baroness Scott of Needham Market:

"My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that it was inevitable under this system that developers of new properties would not bring properties forward under commonhold given that, by retaining the lease system, they keep for themselves ground rent, service charges and the option to sell the freehold later?

Should that not have been foreseen from the outset?"

Lord Evans:

"My Lords, I am not sure I can agree that it should have been foreseen from the outset"

Lord Evans "does not agree that it should have been foreseen from the outset" ???

Are we expected to believe that? On the one hand the government would like us to believe that it decries the abuses committed under the leasehold system, yet, on the other hand, there are no requirements for developers to build flats on a commonhold basis.

Are we - leaseholders - all walking around with ' stupid ' written on our forehead?

As evidenced by the above, the Housing department, under Mr Prescott's Office, was made fully aware that the requirement for 100 per cent sign-up made it a near impossibility for leaseholders to turn their flat into commonhold.

It was also made fully aware of the Bill's "...failure to insist that commonhold becomes the default tenure for all new-build blocks of flats or conversions of houses. "   (Mr Barry Gardiner, MP, in the House of Commons on 8 January 2002)

The Act went through an extensive consultation process, in which Mr Prescott's housing department persistently ignored, not only the arguments put forward in The House of Lords and in Parliament (e.g. Mr Barry Gardiner, MP), but also the proposals put forward by organisations such as C.A.R.L. (Campaign for the Abolition of Residential Leasehold) on behalf of leaseholders.

As Mr Nigel Wilkins, Chair of C.A.R.L. pointed out in 2006:

"It is now just over ten years since the Labour Party published "An End to Feudalism", which proposed "to replace the archaic and discredited leasehold framework" with a new form of tenure called "commonhold".  

Since then, with 40 per cent of new developments consisting of leasehold flats, only a handful of commonhold developments, and absolutely no transfers from leasehold to commonhold, the leasehold system has grown more rapidly than at any time since the Doomsday Book.  

Why does the government wish to continue promoting an eleventh century system of home tenure, now a millennium out-of-date?"   

As The Guardian reported, on 6 August 2005,

"When a new form of property ownership, called commonhold, came into force last September, the government trumpeted it as a replacement for Britain 's feudal leasehold system. It would spell the end of disputes with elusive landlords and prevent them from taking the property back when the lease expired.

But commonhold has flopped ....to date, only one known commonhold association has been set up."

Furthermore, as pointed out by Mr Barry Gardiner, MP, as far back as January 2002,

"On commonhold...we lag behind the rest of the world in introducing it. I can now add that we have gone about it in a peculiarly British way.

Commonhold is not the completely new and separate form of title that it is in other countries.

Good examples of simpler systems are available off the peg from Australia and the United States . I regret that we in this country did not have the humility to learn from them "

New Labour's position at March 2008? It's keeping the residential leasehold system in place. What a surprise! Hhha! The power of money!

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(4.3) And, likewise, the barbaric forfeiture legislation has been retained

NB: Threat of forfeiture = FRAUD TOOL

Keith Hill, then Housing Minister, stated, in 2003, on a BBC Radio 4 programme, ' Face the Facts' that the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act does not adequately address the serious problems posed to leaseholders by the continued presence of forfeiture on the statute books:

"We didn't probably appreciate quite how significant this was for some of our citizens."

Oh, really? (Might it be because there are no 'citizens' in this country, only 'subjects'?)

In spite of saying this and having admitted in its:

•  'An End to Feudalism' policy document, pre the "1997 election" that

"Leasehold gives exceptional privileges and powers to landowners. The case for reform is overhelming.Over recent decades the weaknesses and injustices inherent in the British leasehold system have been increasingly highlighted, but reform has been a long time coming."

•  October 2002 consultation paper that

"The worst of [the landlords] abuse their position to exploit their leaseholders in a wide variety of ways",

it nonetheless retained forfeiture in the new Act.

More than one year before Keith Hill made this pathetic and laughable comment on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Mr Barry Gardiner, MP, had stated in the House of Commons (on 8 January 2002):

"Forfeiture...is the power that a freeholder has to repossess a person's home in relation to what may be an insignificant debt. It is unjust and this Bill should abolish it..."

In response to Mr Prescott's housing department that the Bill made it more difficult for a landlord to implement forfeiture, Mr Barry Gardiner replied that the

"...arguments are fundamentally flawed in two respects.

First, they fail to understand that many unscrupulous landlords use the threat of forfeiture as a means of polite extortion (*) It is simply no use for the Minister to insist that the Bill will require notification of ground rent or that forfeiture will be made more difficult, because as long as forfeiture exists unscrupulous landlords will use it to extort money from elderly and vulnerable people"

(*) No: 'Terrorist' extortion. Threat of forfeiture = FRAUD TOOL

The second reason why such arguments are flawed is perhaps even simpler to understand. It is against natural justice that a creditor should be allowed to recoup vastly more than the amount that they are owed by selling another person's home from under them. It is particularly intolerable when there are perfectly effective alternative means for enforcing the debt without such disproportionate suffering and loss"

In its 3 December 2003 article, " Left homeless for £25 " (US$44), the Evening Standard described forfeiture as:

"a uniquely savage penalty inflicted only on leaseholders...forfeiture leaves a leaseholder with nothing"

The Lady referred to in the article was left homeless because her landlord used a landlord's right to forfeit a lease for non-payment of her £25 (US$44) annual ground rent for her £60,000 (US$106,000) flat. Apparently, the leaseholder had sent at least two cheques to the landlord but he was not cashing them, opting instead to run along to the 'landlord-friendly' court to obtain a forfeiture order.

Hence, her landlord was given the right to get possession of an asset that was worth 2,400 times the amount of the alleged debt .

In its Summer 2004, issue 12, C.A.R.L. (www.carl.org.uk) describes forfeiture as

"the weapon of mass destruction that bullying landlords use to intimidate leaseholders into paying excessive (and often fraudulent service charge demands)"

(Indeed, this is precisely what happened in my case - as can be seen in the 7 October 2002 letter from Lanny Silverstone, Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor # 1 , # 6.2 )

As reported by C.A.R.L. , by having forfeiture on the statute book, the government appears to be in breach of Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, "Obligation to respect Human Rights"- but, (as with Article 13 - Right to an effective remedy) Article 1 has been OMITTED from the UK Human Rights Act 1998.

This is illustrated by the decision in 'Commissioners of Customs and Excise v. Newbury' ( Times Law Report, 18 April 2003) . In this case, judges ruled that the attempt by Customs and Excise to forfeit property in excess of the import duties owed to it actually breached Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

C.A.R.L. also reported in its newsletter that it views forfeiture as being also in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, "Prohibition of torture", since it constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment.

In 2004, a judge, in Liverpool County Court, was reported in the press as having thrown out a lender's demand of £384,000 (US$677,200) it claimed had accrued from an original loan of £5,750 (US$10,000) - on the grounds that it "grossly contravenes principles of fair dealing". 

Surely, current forfeiture law which allows recovery of several thousand times the alleged debt ought to more than qualify as "grossly contravening principles of fair dealing"

Oh, but of course: not if you are a 'sacrosanct' landlord!

As I understand it, the threshold allowing the landlord to regain possession of the flat from a leaseholder is now £350 (US$620).

Unbelievably, this is regarded as an 'improvement' (and has taken endless hours of debate in the House of Lords and various other quarters - by people who then went back to... needless to say, their 'secure' home).

The amount of taxpayer money spent on drafting, debating, re-drafting, re-debating, consulting, re-drafting, re-debating, issuing, amending and re-issuing landlord-tenant legislation must be astronomical.

Add to this the cost of tribunals and the courts dealing with landlord-tenant disputes.

(The cost to 'Steel Services' for filing a (false) claim against me and 10 other leaseholders was £500 (US$880). The true cost of the courts must be in the thousands of pounds).

And all of that for the purpose of lining the pockets of a fraction of the British population. (My Diary 1 November 2003)

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(5) Meanwhile, changes that are implemented are of further assistance to rogue landlords and their aides

I refer to Section 20ZA of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002

The following is copied from the LEASE website (at July 2006)

"Section 151 of the Act replaces the original provision, Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and introduces a new Section 20ZA, all with effect from 31st October 2003 (not Wales)"

It is followed by this suggested letter (of which I have only captured the main points) targeted at landlords-their aides:

"Notice of intention to carry out work"   "To all leaseholders."

"It is the intention of (insert name of landlord or manager) to enter into an agreement to carry out works in respect of which we are required to consult leaseholders."

"The works to be carried out under the agreement are as follows: (insert a description of the subject-matter of the agreement), or "A description of the works..."

"Works to be carried out under the agreement may be inspected at (insert place and hours for inspection)"

"We consider it necessary to carry out the works because (insert statement of reasons)"

"We invite you to make written observations in relation to the proposed works by sending them to (address of landlord or manager)"

"Observations must be made within the consultation period of 30 days from the date of this notice"

"We also invite you to propose, within 30 days from the date of this notice, the name of a person from whom we should try to obtain an estimate for the carrying out of the proposed works"

Considering my experience with Martin Russell Jones, (as captured on its section under points # 14 and # 26 - 35), I think you will understand my reasons for saying that it "provides further assistance to rogue landlords and their aides".

Unlike previously (Section 20(3)(b) of the L&T Act 1985), there is evidently no longer an obligation to have the specification "displayed in one or more places where it is likely to come to the notice of all those tenants"

Martin Russell Jones states that I can request a copy. Based on past experience, it would not send the copy and, when asked, would say that it got lost in the post (A 'trick' it also uses in other blocks e.g. as evidenced in this LVT case, LON/00AQ/LSC/2005/0258, 12 August 2006 (printscreen of website) (see also Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors )

By the time it 'might' actually send a copy, it would not leave me any time to get another quote. (Made even worse when the frequent trick of sending the 'notice' just before Christmas is used) (see e.g. Notices by landlord - 13 December 2000 )

Hence, to get a copy, I need to go to Martin Russell Jones' office. As the viewing time is weekdays, during office hours, and Martin Russell Jones is located outside of London, I would need to take time off work to 'perhaps' get a chance of getting the specification (which, in all likelihood, given the specification drawn-up by Brian Gale for the major works would be unusable for the purpose of getting a quote)

Meanwhile the '30-day clock' for reply would have been ticking - with the ultimate effect that I am unable to exert my statutory rights

Needless to say that since this new section was introduced, Martin Russell Jones and its client, Andrew Ladsky, have had a field day, firing 'notices' left, right and centre:

... in the knowledge that they are on a guaranteed winning streak with this new legislation.

Look at the number of days I would have had to take off work (and therefore lose in earnings) 'just' to go and get a copy of the above mentioned.

I can only describe this amendment to the legislation as:

"Just what the landlord ordered!"

As this was passed at the time that John Prescott was heading the department, I give this as additional supporting evidence to my claim that "Mr John Prescott is the landlord's right hand" or, more accurately: "the crooked landlord's right hand"

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(6) And implementation of amendments to Acts that are of benefit to leaseholders - as opposed to landlords - keep on being delayed by several years

Recall that in its pre-"1997 election" policy document, 'An End to Feudalism', 'New' Labour had stated:

"The case for reform is overwhelming ...reform has been a long time coming. "

"..Labour believes that it is right that leaseholders should enjoy proper safeguards against arbitrary and oppressive conditions"

In relation to the amendment to Section 21(1) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, placing

"the landlord under an obligation to provide the yearly summary of service charge to each tenant, in a form to be prescribed, whether requested or not. Where he fails to provide the statement the tenant will have a statutory right to withhold payment of service charges up to certain limits"

Three years after the announcement of the Bill, in July 2005 (when people are on holiday), Mr Prescott's Office announced that there would be a delay in putting this amendment on the statute because of "concerns raised by social landlords in a recent consultation"

In particular, that "the new measures would impose considerable extra costs on social landlords and their leaseholders" . It goes on to state:

"We have carried out extensive consultation, both formally and informally on the implementation of the Act.

It is clear from our consultations and discussions that the new requirements will cause significant problems for Local Authorities and Registered Social Landlords.

We have concluded that it would be impossible for these landlords to comply with the new requirements without significant changes to their set up and procedures. It would create unnecessary and additional burdens and costs which would be passed on to the leaseholders.

The legislation applies to both public and private sector landlords. However, we are unable to commence the provisions in relation to private sector landlords only" (NB: Of course!)

(NB: By contrast, there is no concern about the cost to e.g. charitable organisations having to produce accounts)

In relation to "public sector landlords" , indications are that some social sector leaseholders can also be faced by extortionate service charges from their local council. See, for example, the site of the London Leaseholders' Network . See also My Diary - 26 Apr 06 ; 22 Nov 08.

Note at 10 August 2006 - The LEASE website states that "ODPM has announced that section 152 (requirement for annual statements of account) will not be commenced, pending further consultation which might include new primary legislation. The Government remains committed to the principle of the annual statement. Commencement is not anticipated before 2007"

NB: Note, yet again, what is no doubt one of the spin doctors' sound bite': "The Government remains committed" (previous instance Lord Evans, 5 November 2005 - which in this case was "absolutely committed" Amasing that this was not preceded by: "Let me make this absolutely clear")

 

How about some honesty and instead write for the above statement on the LEASE website:

"The government remains 'absolutely' committed to the protection of landlords.

So, leaseholders: shut up and pay whatever landlords and their agents demand of you"

(We, leaseholders, get used and abused not because we are imbeciles, but because we are totally abandoned)

The upshot is that it amounts to another - drawn out - delaying tactic in giving leaseholders control over where and how their money is spent.

The second example is the amendment to Section 42 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987

"The Act inserts a new section requiring the landlord to place service charge monies in a designated account.The description of account is to be specified by regulations made by the Secretary of State.

Tenants will be entitled on written request to reasonable facilities for inspecting documents relating to that account. Failure by the landlord to comply with the accounting requirements can lead to a right for tenants to withhold payment of the service charge and the landlord can be guilty of a criminal offence"

Sometime in 2005, I captured the following from the LEASE website "It is not yet clear when these provisions will be commenced"

This is what it read at 10 August 2006:   "Regulations relating to the summary of leaseholders' rights (section 153) and designated trust accounts (section 156) may be laid by the end of 2005" (NB: Eight months have gone by since)

This is yet again another drawn-out delay. This time, in giving leaseholders the right to know where their money is - and how it is spent.

Meanwhile, as I know from my own experience, the current legislation in relation to trust funds is, as with the rest of landlord-tenant legislation, just a meaningless piece of paper as there is no mechanism to implement it.

Indeed, when my several requests to Martin Russell Jones and Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor for a copy of the trust fund accounts were ignored, on 2 July 2004 , I asked Kensington & Chelsea Housing for its assistance in obtaining a copy of the accounts - given that councils are the "prosecuting authority for contraventions of Landlord - Tenant legislation"

This led to the reply "We don't deal with this"

As once captured by C.A.R.L. in one of its newsletters, on becoming a landlord, an individual - regardless of his track record - is automatically granted the right to control anything from several hundred thousand pounds to several million pounds of lessees' money.   (Some landlords control several thousand properties).

Whereas a one person business offering financial advice came automatically under the control of the then Financial Services Authority (in Apr 13, it was reincarnated under the Financial Conduct Authority), a landlord is not bound by any regulation whatsoever on the management of the funds.

The delays in bringing these changes in legislation on the statute book cannot be due to lack of resources.

In fact, as reported by The Independent , on 16 August 2006, in an article headed " Blair's 'frenzied law making' : a new offence for every day spent in office " ,

"Tony Blair's government has created more than 3,000 new criminal offences during its nine-year tenure, one for almost every day it has been in power" .

(The 16 August 2006 article by The Independent also states: "The figures emerged as police chiefs disclosed they were considering asking ministers for a set of new measures to allow them to impose "instant justice" for antisocial behaviour" .

Curiously, the harassment, bullying, blackmail and intimidation tactics used by crooked landlords and their aides against leaseholders are of no interest when reported to the police as, quite clearly, the police only listens to landlords (See Police ) (See also Evening Standard article of 3 December 2003 )

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(7) For many years the media has consistently highlighted the feudal nature of the leasehold system, the appalling abuses, including daylight robbery, as well as the terrible misery it causes to leaseholders e.g.

•  The Sunday Times , 19 November 2000 :   "The government admits abuse is widespread and unscrupulous landlords regularly hit leaseholders with exorbitant charges."

•  Evening Standard , 24 January 2001: "Abusive landlords, legal tangles and a depreciating asset mean the leasehold system needs throwing out."

•  The Sunday Times , 4 November 2001: "There are 3 million leaseholds in Britain . they might find themselves in the hand of a modern-day 'Rachman landlord who uses the lease to extract money. threatening tenants with repossession if they fail to pay. presenting them with absurd service and maintenance bills. They make leaseholders' lives a misery."

•  Independent on Sunday , 10 March 2002: "Thousands of leaseholders are currently embroiled in legal action with their landlords over exorbitant charges for services and unnecessary maintenance work. While the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill should help prevent this problem arising it won't eradicate it, as it contains no proposals to abolish the antiquated and much-derided leasehold system "

•  The Guardian , 6 August 2005 : "..commonhold...government trumpeted it as a replacement for Britain 's feudal leasehold system.But commonhold has flopped"

•  The Daily Telegraph, 21 January 2006 , "It's a feudal form of property ownership and new laws do little to protect us. Everywhere leasehold has us tied in chains"

And as pointed out by Mr Barry Gardiner, MP during his 8 January 2002 speech to the House of Commons:

"Since 1884 (NB:!!!) , when the first Leaseholders (Facilities of Fee Simple) Bill was introduced and defeated, hon. Members have sought justice for leaseholders in this country.

In the 118 years that have elapsed since then, they have introduced 31 different Bills dealing with leasehold reform. All but two of those 31 Bills have been defeated and, of those two, only one managed to achieve fundamental reform that gave-and then only to a very limited group of leaseholders-the full benefit of home ownership.

Such has been the power of property and the landed classes in this country, and such is the injustice that so many people outside Parliament have hoped for years that a Bill might overcome"

We are now in the 21st century and nothing has been done to address the fundamental issues.

As Mr Nigel Wilkins , Chair of C.A.R.L. accurately pointed out, with leasehold property growing at a rapid pace under Labour, the 'New' Labour Party will be remembered as the party that promoted the expansion of a policy that is a millennium out of date.

Considering the overwhelming body of evidence, fair minded, reasonable visitor to the site, I think you will agree with my conclusion that the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister WAS THE LANDLORDS' RIGHT HAND - as is its successor - and that you will understand my choice of visual.

FOR BEING, AT THE TIME, RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LVTs AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, MR JOHN PRESCOTT HAS CAUSED ME TO DEVELOP THIS WEBSITE.

THIS OUTCOME IS OF HIS OWN DOING .

  C O M M E N T S

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