What was a Grand Day out has now officially become a Grand result for the thirty resident of The Grand who have obtained formal recognition of the Association of Residents in the Grand (AORG). They took Hallam Estates Ltd, the freeholders of The Grand, to the First Tier (Property) Tribunal in Folkestone on August 3rd to secure recognition. Michael Stainer also lost his application for costs against Peter Cobrin, chair of the residents’ association. Stainer (pictured below) has the right of appeal as is made clear in the decision handed down by the tribunal; which can be download and read at the end of this blog post.
The Tribunal decision described the application process, normally a formaility which culminated in the August 3rd hearing as “tortuous” and Stainer’s attitude towards it as “enigmatic“. Even when finally conceding recognition during the hearing, this was “still clothed in caveats” and therefore the Tribunal chose to deal with the application on its merits. The Tribunal was “not convinced with the sincerity of Mr Stainer’s avowed intentions” to grant recognition on resubmission of an application referring to this “as a
poisoned chalice“. By dealing with the application on its full merits, much information that Stainer might have preferred to remain under wraps came out, such as his own position as a “mere director” and NOT the owner of the Grand, as he is so often wrongly described by the local press.
The Tribunal observed that one of the continuing themes in this case was the failures by Hallam Estates and Mr & Mrs Stainer to make the contributions they are obliged to make to the service charge fund and that even the appointment of a manager and receiver in 2014 had made no difference. In regard to the huge deficit in the service charge fund, the Tribunal stated “ Mr & Mrs Stainer have shown no inclination to contribute towards the service charges, and are largely responsible for the shortfall in the service charge funds.”
In the words of the Tribunal, “ the defining feature of the arrangements at The Grand is the commercial/residential dynamic. The Tribunal finds that Mr & Mrs Stainer interests align with the commercial use of The Grand. The flats owned by Mr & Mrs Stainer are advertised as a short stay holiday and visitor accomodation and other business uses and managed by the commercial arm of The Grand.”
The Tribunal also focused on “the ongoing tension between the different needs of the commercial and long term residential interests invested in The Grand. Hallam Estates, which is effectively controlled by Mr Stainer promotes the commercial interests, whilst the leaseholders seek to protect their right of quiet enjoyment.“
Mr Stainer had also claimed costs of £12,500 (including VAT) because of what he saw as Mr Cobrin’s “unreasonableness” in failing to provide access to the names and signatures of those supporting the application for recognition. This claim for costs appeared to include £6,000 for the attendance before the Tribunal of his barrister, Mr Jonathan Upton, who was notable for his absence. The Tribunal rejected this, stating “in the Tribunal’s view, the purpose of the list is to give the landlord the opportunity to verify whether the persons named are qualifying tenants, and not as a procedural sledgehammer to stop the application. The Tribunal also notes that when Mr Stainer was provided with the list, he raised obscure technicalities rather than dealing with the substantive questions posed by the list.”
In granting recognition, the Tribunal stated that it “is satisfied that the commercial/residential dynamic of The Grand (pictured) was highly relevant to its decision on recognition. This dynamic has complicated the management of The Grand and created competing priorities between the commercial and residential arms which were evident from the Tribunal’s decision on the appointment of a manager. In such circumstances, the leaseholders require strong and coherent representation which in the Tribunal’s view can be facilitated by granting recognition to AORG.”
In dismissing his costs application, the Tribunal concluded “that Mr Stainer on behalf of Hallam Estates Ltd had no inclination to engage with the substance of the application but was doing his best to stop the application from being heard on its merits.“.
We leave the final word to AORG’s chairperson, Peter Cobrin who in his submission to the Tribunal stated:
“Recognition would send a clear message to Hallam Estates & Mr Stainer that The Grand was not a petty fiefdom where the interests of the residents were secondary to the commercial interests of the Stainer family, and that ownership of an iconic building was a privilige not a right and that this right carried obligations.“