Since our post on the FTT decision in Maharaj & Lo Porto v Richard Davidoff (Tribunal appointed manager) LON/00AL/LSC/2020/0111, there have been some developments with regard to Richard Davidoff and his company ABC Block Management.
First, ABC Block Management were expelled from ARMA, following the Tribunal decision and complaints from leaseholders. (It seems fair to say that ABC Block Management appear to have taken quite a pugnacious approach in response, being quoted as saying
There has been a concerted effort by competitors and disgruntled former employees to cause damage to ABC. Substantial damages have been paid so far and further actions are in the process. This is all in the hands of our solicitors and actions are being taken, including advice regarding a challenge to the decision by ARMA.
The reference to ‘former employees’ might shed some light on the wording of this Early Day Motion tabled in the House of Commons. The spokesperson did not, however, reference the Tribunal decision or leaseholder complaints.)
And now there is the First Tier Tribunal decision in LON/00BJ/LRM/2021/0019P 46 Falcon Road, Battersea London SW11 2LR (or rather two decisions, one from September and one from October). This is an unusual case in that it involves a right to manage application by leaseholders of a building where there was already a resident management company (RMC) as a party to the leases.
As far as can be discerned from the decisions, this is what happened.
The building – 26 flats and two commercial units – was completed in 2018. The freeholder’s intention was that the RMC should pass to the control of the lessees, but for unclear reasons, this did not initially happen.
At some point, and in a way that is not clear, Richard Davidoff, (whose company ABC Estates, of which ABC Block Management was a part, were or became the managing agents), was made ‘nominee director’ and effectively took control of the RMC, thereby being the client for his own company of managing agents.
The leaseholders were apparently less than happy about this and/or the management of the building. They applied for the right to manage (RTM) in March 2021. A counter notice was served by the freeholder and head lessor, and an application was made to the Tribunal.
In June 2021, the freeholder and head lessor entered into a consent order admitting the leaseholders’ entitlement to the right to manage. However, there was a third respondent – the RMC – and in August 2021, Richard Davidoff as ‘representative’ of the RMC filed submissions as to why RTM should not be granted. These were very brief – that the address given for the freeholder on the initial notice was the wrong address. Mr Davidoff said that he had been instructed by a Mr Smither, who apparently spoke for the freeholder (although in what capacity is not clear). Mr Smither had told him to serve a counter notice and that the address was “not one he recognised”. Mr Smither had, Mr Davidoff said, been too busy to devote any more time to the issue.
So, when the matter came before the Tribunal on the papers in September 2021, the position was that the freeholder and head lessor had admitted the RTM, but the RMC, in the person of Mr Davidoff, was challenging the notice on the basis that (and with no further evidence provided) the address for the freeholder in the original notice was wrong. In short, everybody was content with the leaseholders getting RTM except Mr Davidoff.
The September Tribunal found “without difficulty” that the address was indeed the registered office of the freeholder and the notice had been signed for. Against this, was just Mr Davidoff’s statement of what he said “Mr Smither told him, to the effect that he “did not recognise” the address used”.
The right to manage was granted.
However, Mr Davidoff then asked for the decision to be set aside, on the basis that he had requested an oral hearing, not for the matter to be decided on the papers. This was done on 6 October. It appears that no further evidence or representations on the freeholder’s address was put in.
Then on 20 October, Mr Davidoff told the Tribunal he was withdrawing the RMC’s challenge to the RTM. So, in a further decision, the FTT again confirmed the RTM, to take effect in January 2022.
One imagines that ABC Estates’ prospects of continuing as managing agent are limited.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the leaseholders made an application for costs under rule 13. This has yet to be determined.