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Banana Bread and Dogs Chasing Cars

Tuesday September 1, 2020

HPBM Managing Pandongate House
HPBM Managing Pandongate House

The law of unforeseen consequences has been hard at work during the
Covid-19 crisis with locked-down people discovering talents they never imagined
they possessed. Plaster and some building materials are in short supply due to
a rush of DIY activity, some unlikely social media stars have emerged and
enough banana bread has been made to feed a sizable army.

Interesting times too in the property sector. On the commercial side,
some tough rent negotiations are ongoing and there is an anticipation of voids
in the leisure, entertainment and hospitality sectors as small businesses are
forced to close their doors. Office accommodation is one to watch as businesses
discover some workers are happier and more productive working from home.

Empty offices can now be converted to residential premises without the
need for planning permission by applying for Permitted Development Rights
(PDR). This is a great idea on paper, providing an easy route to convert empty
offices into much needed inner-city accommodation. Unfortunately, unscrupulous
landlords have used PDR to create tiny living spaces, often with no windows or
natural ventilation. These properties have been referred to as ‘the slums of
the future’ and it remains to be seen if there is will on the part of
Government to regulate PDRs.

Our block management division has had an interesting time of it with a
flood of instructions from owners of blocks of flats. There seem to be two
factors in play here. First, a number of large block management companies have
simply run up the shutters since the beginning of lockdown. Phones and emails
go unanswered, maintenance is neglected yet leaseholders are still expected to
pay a management fee. 

Second, people with time on their hands can research precisely what it
is they are getting for that fee, then how easy it is to take back control of
their block management. This latter is relatively easy by enacting Right to
Manage legislation. But for leaseholders, it can be a bit like a dog chasing a
car. When he caches it, what is he going to do with it?

Block management is a complicated business for leaseholders. Each
leaseholder needs to have a share in the limited company setup to manage the
block. The lease is governed by Landlord and Tenant law, the limited company by
Company Law. While these two systems run roughly in parallel, there are grey
areas and here be dragons.

In a recent example, a leaseholder demanded from us personal details on
all other leaseholders in the block. We thought this an unreasonable request so
the matter ended up in the High Court. We won. The same leaseholder brought the
same action in another block in Greater Manchester. He won.

In both cases barristers put the case for either side and the learned
judges reached a decision. Or rather, they reached two different decisions on
the same set of facts. If the legal experts cannot agree on an interpretation,
what chance has the layman? Hence our rush of instructions and a halt to banana
bread production.

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Introducing our clients...

I wish to thank you for all the hard work you have been putting in with regards to the management of our block. Living here myself, I have found everything running vastly better. I have received warm and appreciative comments from my neighbours also, congratulating the promptness and professionalism with which you have addressed their issues.

Dr J Jones – Resident Leaseholder

Quite possibly the best decision we made was to involve HPBM in the early stages of our development. The knowledge they have has been invaluable in getting our new block up and running smoothly whilst ensuring the leaseholders are happy with how things are run.

Mr P Smithson – Developer & Freeholder

I think I speak for the large majority of property owners when I say HPBM’s solutions made perfect sense. They put the needs of our tenants and us, as property owners at the forefront of their proposals.

Mr D Humphrey – (Lease Appointed) Management Company Director

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