Journey to independence
Our journey to independence started in 2008 when very high service charges were levied without warning and the quality of service deteriorated. Our landlord at the time owned the company who managed Charter Quay, and the many sister companies contracted to maintain the site.
What followed was an epic struggle by the Charter Quay Residents' Association (CQRA) against the landlord, his managing agents, and their large legal team. Our fight continued for four years, at times reported in the national press, featured on national TV and radio. It was even mentioned in debates in Parliament.
Know your enemy
Preparation was key and our first step was to unravel the structure of our landlord, the Tchenguiz family trust, who owned the Peverel Group, our managing agents. Once we had a better understanding of what we were up against, it was decided to test the waters with a few smaller cases. The idea was to see how the landlord would fight in order to better understand how to deal with them. We even produced a chaotic website to give the impression that CQRA was in turmoil.
Our first small victory
In 2009 we had our first temporary victory which resulted in the court replacing the landlords’ managing agent with a court appointed agent for a period of three years. This meant however, that after three years the landlord could take back control of the site, putting us back where we started. It did though allow CQRA to work with the temporary managing agents (HML) to get a better understanding of the true costs of running Charter Quay.
Excessive charges reclaimed
In 2010 and 2011 we had three more court cases resulting in the recovery of over half a million pounds in historic service charges.
In 2012, the year we would have been forced to hand the site back, we started to prepare for our final court action to force the landlord to sell the head lease which they valued at over two million pounds. One week before the case was to open, the landlord settled out of court and sold the headlease to the residential leaseholders for £900,000 - less than half the declared value stated in company accounts. The head lease purchase was completed in 2013.
The news of our extraordinary win was reported in the press and celebrated with the unveiling of a plaque in Charter Quay by the then Secretary of State, Ed Davey.
Supported by 98% of the leaseholders, the CQRA committee (2007 - 2012) were the key players in the gruelling task of taking on a multi-billion pound corporation. They donated many thousands of hours over four years to win independence for Charter Quay.
CQRA committee 2007 - 2012
Dr Linda Soutter
The final act
In 2017, and after four years of negotiations with the original developer, CQRA Ltd directors negotiated and successfully completed the purchase of the freehold. CQRA Ltd shareholders are now the largest private land owners in Kingston.
CQRA Ltd Directors 2012 - 2017
Hamish McKechnie Sharma
An astute observation
Following our successful purchase of the Charter Quay site, Sir Peter Bottomley MP made an astute observation and was quoted saying:
“I congratulate the residents and leaseholders at Charter Quay. The successes in five legal cases have led to purchase of the site at a reasonable price.
Parliament, Government departments with the Courts and the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal should learn the lesson.
The law is not working the way it should. When a freeholder or the head leaseholder tries to frustrate the right-to-manage or to prevent purchase of the head lease or the freehold, the legal process should be low-cost, fast and effective.
I ask Martin Boyd and others to make available the chronology so others do not suffer for so long or have to risk the uncertainties of litigation.
Additionally, I understand that the purchase price of less than £1 million is less than half the declared value in company accounts.
I expect every accounting firm to double check directors’ valuations. It would not be surprising to see widespread reductions in claimed asset values.
Might there be too many other exaggerated claims of values? Are these based on unwarranted fees and charges overpaid by too many of the country’s three million leaseholders.”
— Sir Peter Bottomley MP - 11th July 2013