The Grand Inferno

Forgive the classical allusion but Dante might be the name that will be taking up a lot of Michael Stainer’s time over the coming months. But he won’t be studying the immortal verse of Dante Alighieri, author of the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language, especially not the first part, the Inferno, which tells of the narrators Journey through Hell.

the-grand-folkestone

No, our Dante is a highly experienced insolvency practioner, Adrian Dante of MacIntyre Hudson, appointed by the official receiver to investigate the affairs of The Grand Folkestone Ltd. For new readers, this was one of several companies trading out of the Grand of which Michael Stainer was/is a director. In July 2015 Mr & Mrs Stainer were arrested by HMRC along with the General Manager of the Grand Robert Richardson. (all pictured below) The Grand Folkestone Ltd was wound up on petition by HMRC following two unsuccessful appeals against tax penalties in 2016. We understand the debt to HMRC was in the order of £814,000. According to the last accounts of the company files on March 31st 2015, the Grand Folkestone Ltd had debts of £991,584. It is not clear whether this included any debt to HMRC as these accounts pre-date the failed tax appeals.

photo 150727_F6,103,4FE,354,258,1B8,0_3910485 Screenshot from 2017-11-16 08-30-09

Accounts

So what, do we hear you say. It’s just one bean counter pursuing another bean counter for missing beans. You’d be very wrong! Insolvency practitioners would only accept a commission from the Official Receiver when they are reasonably certain of recovering assets at least sufficient to cover their costs and when the creditors, in this case HMRC, believe that there are enough assets for them to get paid as well. In this case there do not appear to be any assets, but nonetheless, the chase is on.

Without prejudice to any proceedings that might be taken place by Mr. Dante, it’s worth looking at the powers of an Insolvency Practitioner.

  • Negotiating with the creditors, and other parties, of a company or individual.

  • Identifying and realising the assets of a company for the best possible return to creditors.

  • Carrying out all statutory duties as required by law

  • Providing regular reports to creditors on the progress of insolvency procedures.

  • Investigating company affairs and director conduct, where necessary, and file a report to the Insolvency Service. The liquidator has a duty to investigate the conduct of the director(s) for the three years leading to Insolvency

The last one is particularly interesting as the conduct of a director can result in disqualification from being a director for up to 15 years, criminal sanctions and personal liability for the debts incurred by the company in question. It could also result in expulsion from one’s professional body, if one was an accountant or solicitor, for example.

This isn’t the end of Mr Stainer’s possible woes. Let’s get really up close and personal and talk paying your bills – both local taxes and those that flat owners of The Grand pay to maintain their buildings. The former clean streets, light street lights and send local Cllrs on jollies to the South of France. The latter stops your building falling down! If you own a property or a business, you pay rates and anyone can obtain a list of private and business properties and see both the council tax band and the amount that has to be paid.

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So let’s see what we found out about the Grand, thanks to Shepway District Council’s generosity with the information – after a member of the public used a Freedom of Information request to obtain the said information.

There are 47 residential apartments who will pay £74,032. The Grand itself, the whole mighty edifice and all its businesses will pay just £22,215.60. But what about the 19 Holiday – let flats owned jointly or individually by Mr & Mrs Michael Stainer, an employee of the freeholder, Hallam Estates Ltd, as he admitted in his recent evidence to the First Tier Property Tribunal. The flats disappeared from Shepway District Council’s domestic rate list around the year 2000, but they have not appeared on any list since. The Business Rates Team at SDC are uncertain as to the current position and at one point suggested that their liability was subsumed with the Grand. However, a recent high court ruling case made it very clear that where businesses are physically separated they must be assessed separately. Now thanks to that latest FoI request, we can update you with Shepway’s latest response. This is what was asked:

In terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, could you please provide me with a complete and up-to-date list of all business (non-residential) property rates data for the following post codes within your local authority – CT20 2LR & CT20 2XL — and in particular the following properties:

  • Dorchester Suite

  • Exeter Suite  

  • Edinburgh Suite  

  • Hythe Suite  

  • Frogholt  

  • Froxfield  

  • Arundel  

  • Gordon  

  • Grasmere  

  • Goodwood  

  • Glyndebourne  

  • Hastings  

  • Hever  

  • Petworth  

  • Penshurst  

  • Pembroke 

The reply from SDC was unequivocal:

“We do not have any business premises register under CT20 2XL and only the business premises we have under CT20 2RL is the following: Folkestone Capital Ltd, The Grand Hotel, The Leas, Folkestone CT20 2LR, the premises is occupied, this company have been registered since the 1st October 2016. The annual rates payable for the financial year is £22,215.60”.

Folkestone Capital Ltd, succeeded, the HMRC bankrupted Grand Folkestone Ltd last year as the company responsible for payment. This council tax liability does not appear to include the holiday flats (set out above) which clearly function as separate businesses as they are available for let at least 140 days a year. So, what is the true answer as to whether Council Tax is currently being paid on any of these holiday flats? Just asking!

Keith_Vaudrey_Chartered_Accountants_Property

Now let’s look at the state of the service charges at the Grand and its well documented black hole, not that we wish to add to the problems that Michael Stainer is facing following the liquidation of the Grand Folkestone Ltd. Both Mr Stainer and  Doris, his wife, are now facing another session in the First Tier Tribunal Property Chamber (Residential Property) on Jan 24th & 25th, 2018 at Folkestone Magistrates Court. This relates to the long standing dispute over the liability for unpaid service charges on the above mentioned holiday flats and follows an application for a determination under s27A of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 as to whether service charges are payable for the period 2012/13 – 2018/19. This application was filed by the Tribunal appointed manager & receiver, Mr David Hammond of CR Childs, Hythe and the case reference is CHI/29UL/LIS/2017/0049.

Two previous cases in the same Tribunal in which Mr Stainer has been involved have been highly critical of the Stainers in regard to historic non-payment of service charges. The June 2014 case saw a group of Grand Residents successfully secure the removal of the Freeholder, Hallam Estates Ltd and its managing agents, Fell Reynolds from responsibility for managing the Grand, and the August 2017 case saw the residents’ association gain statutory recognition. To quote from both cases:

June 2014, case reference CHI/29UL/LAM/2013/0019: Judge Norman stated:

“The continuing theme in this case is the failure by the respondent and Mr. and/or Mrs Stainer to make contributions they are obliged to make to the maintenance fund.”

In 2017, case reference CHI/29UL/LRA/2017/0001, Judge Tildesley OBE stated

Since his appointment, Mr Hammond has had no success in collecting service charges from Mr & Mrs Stainer.”

He went onto note that:

The previous tribunal found Hallam Estates had not met its reparing & maintenance obligations under the lease. The principal cause of this was the recurrent failures by Hallam Estates, Mr & Ms Stainer to pay their service charges, which continue despite the manager’s appointment.”

It’s going to be a busy few months for Mr Stainer and his lawyers.

The Shepwayvox Team

 

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1 Comment on The Grand Inferno

  1. Love it thank you for making my day
    Ex Leaseholder of a flat in
    the grand

    Like

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