We can’t keep Folkestone’s most iconic iconic buildings out of the news. Why should we? Speaking truth unto power is good, speaking up for the powerless is even better! Just how powerless was revealed on Sunday November 6th, when Michael Stainer (left), who is a very tall and robust 69 year-old was seen bellowing repeatedly at a resident of the Grand, standing inches from her and inches above her, that she was “dishonest” reducing her to tears. Luckily this event was witnessed and a complaint lodged with the Police. This is not the first time Stainer has been reported to the Police for unacceptable behaviour. In September 2010 he received a “Letter of Notification” from Kent Police following an allegation of harassment, Mr Stainer was arrested and placed on bail according to a HMRC spokesman in July 2015 for alleged tax offences. Don’t forget he was also fined for other tax-related offences although he continues to appeal against this judgement.
So speaking of the powerless, back in The Grand, residents, some in their nineties, continue to shoulder the financial burden of maintaining the fabric of this once magnificent building. How can this be possible? We know Mr & Mrs Stainer own 17 flates used as holiday lets are possibly in breach of their leases and owe in the region of £170,000 in unpaid maintenance charges. We know thanks to the recent case of Nemcova v Fairfield Rents Ltd  UKUT 303 (LC) that it is now deemed unlawful and we’re sure various lenders who have financed these flats would be most concerned at both the unpaid charges and their unlawful usage
But it gets worse. Now we also know that the freeholder and his commercial enterprises e.g. Keppels Cuisine and the Grand-UK which occupy some 25% of the Grand fail to contribute. In any normal mixed use blocks with both residential and commercial entities everyone pays/ This is standard practice but the words standard practice and Stainer don’t sit easily together.
So who’s going to pay the half a million plus bill to restore the long neglected western side of the Grand? We’re sure the construction companies currently tendering would like to know. We’re even more sure those residents would like to know. One-off bills of up to £12,500 will arrive on their door-mats in due, and this is on top of the annual service charges. The correct answer is the freeholder and that’s where the fun starts. On the one hand, the active sole director of Hallam Estates Ltd, Mr Stainer has a building project that has gone through planning, that he said will cost £800,000. On the other hand, he is confronted with an escalating debt crisis, as the full implications of the 2014 Tribunal Judgement bear down on him.
This has gone on for years. There were court cases in the 1980s, 1990s and onwards that tried to get Stainer to meet his obligations. How is this possible? Put together a freeholder who’s already faced repossession by Barclays Bank in 1994, rapidly buying the Grand back again under a different name – who went bust in 1996 having to enter an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) to avoid personal bankruptcy, a compliant managing agent (summarily removed by the Courts in 2015) and some vulnerable leaseholders and this is what you get. — a business that struggles to pay its way, freeloading off the backs of the few.
So dear visitor, when you are “dining lavishly” in the Palm Court (left), or staying in the “individually styled” suites, your hosts aren’t paying towards the fabric of the very building you are enjoying. Just think of the 94-year-old lady worrying herself sick over the size of that next service charge bill as you nibble on a scone. Oh, and while nibbling, don’t look to hard at the structure of the once luxurious public areas, now resting on acrow props, and scaffolding.
Since 1982, Mr. Stainer has been involved in more litigation than is believable – truly a vexatious litigant! He’s submitted over sixty planning applications. He’s now getting most upset that the amount of his debts is freely available to anybody with the ability to read. All that energy, all that commitment and in the meantime, as our recent author wrote, the Grand crumbles away.