16 January 2018

RMG (Residential Management Group) in several places in the country

Do not buy a property that RMG (Residential Management Group) has anything at all to do with. To discover more about the horrors of RMG and how it is ruining new estates and the lives of many people, join the anti-RMG Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/129563907240859/

'Young Andrew Sole jumps for joy!' it says on the imprint page of this 96-page book. It is called Fresh Hope Fresh Air: Starting a New Life in Hattersley, was published in 2008 by Mancunian Reunion Project, and was written by Rachel Gee, Sharron Power, and Dick Richardson. The photo is taken from Werneth Low in the 1960s, with the new builds of Hattersley (an extension of Hyde) in the background.

The new property in Hattersley was a council estate, one of the overspills designed to rehouse those in dwellings in central Manchester classed as 'unfit for human habitation'. The move began in 1963, with most of the tenants coming from the east of Manchester. The book is a largely pictorial guide from the cramped streets of Manchester to Hattersley, with locals providing memories of its schools, its celebrations, its pubs and clubs, etc.

What the book omits is what happened to Hattersley between its creation and its rebirth. It is not too easy to find results by Googling "Hattersley" and "right to buy" because the name of Roy Hattersley (an opponent) inevitably gets in the way, but Margaret Thatcher successfully introduced her 'Right to Buy' bill in 1979, meaning that those living in council houses (today usually called 'social housing') could fulfill their dream: to buy the house they lived in. This was but one of Thatcher's (or rather her advisors') privatisation schemes – such as the right to buy shares in newly privatised gas and electricity – whose 'divide and rule' policies split the working classes down the middle, thus allowing her to remain in power for so many years.

Meanwhile, Hattersley became a 'sink estate', riddled with drugs and crime in general. Its name became synonymous with exclusion from mainstream society. In a few pages at the end of Fresh Hope Fresh Air, trumpeting the re-rebirth of Hattersley, John Armitage, of Hattersley, says:

'On the positive side, crime is down, modernisation of the houses is almost on schedule [...] [e]xcept for a few people with long memories, Hattersley has outlived its previous disreputable stigma, and has a brighter future.'

These seem fine, confident words. However, the reality is very different: the tower blocks have all gone, new houses and flats have gone up and look very pretty perhaps, but Barratt, who as far as I know have built all the houses on the new estate in Hattersley, have handed the management on to Residential Management Group (RMG), who have no interest in property management at all, and are in fact no more than a Mafia-type syndicate created (via a legal loophole) to in effect steal and extort as much money as possible from their unsuspecting leaseholders or 'freeholders' (who aren't in reality free at all).

How about this devastating reaction by 'tenant' Emma Winterbottom, whose full email to Jonathan Reynolds MP (Stalybridge and Hyde (Lab/Co-op)), sent 8 January 2018, I post below with her permission:

'Dear Jonathan Reynolds

I am writing this email to you regarding my concerns and worries regarding RMG who manages the block of apartments where I live on Ashby Gardens in Hyde.

When I first moved into my apartment which will be 5 years in May I was only paying £70 a month. Last year I have been paying £130 a month which is astronomical, that’s almost doubled in the time I have been here. This greatly concerns me financially especially with me living alone. Over the years I have enquired to what exactly I am paying for each month. To which they list jobs that are very rarely carried out if at all. The cleaning is of a very poor standard the doors aren’t even wiped down. They are suppose to look after the car park area which as far as I can see is very irregular. Once the weeds were that bad that they were pushing up the paving in the car park. This did eventually get seen to but after me complaining several times.

It seems to me that I have to phone to complain about something before anything is done which is what I am paying a large amount of money for each month anyway.

The problems I have previously had with regards to the gates for the car park which seems not to have been a problem recently but previously when I hadn’t been here that long they were constantly stuck open. This infuriated me that nothing kept getting done about it despite my numerous calls and calls my neighbours had made regarding this problem, as my car insurance would have been affected if anything had happened to my car as my car is covered as being kept in a private gated car park overnight.

Previously I have also had problems with shoddy workmanship in the apartment. I understand that this isn’t RMG’s fault but this falls with Barratt’s. But what I am about to tell you was daylight robbery on RMG’s part.

I came in from work one evening to find a water leak in the communal hallway downstairs. I went to check my bathroom as this was above and there was a leak coming from the cistern which is the poor workmanship I’m talking about. I had only lived here at that time just over 2 years so Barratts weren’t liable for anything as it had just gone over the 2 years cover with them. I turned off the water and didn’t know what to do. My neighbour upstairs phoned RMG and I tried to contact a plumber which I couldn’t do. An hour or so later a workman from RMG turned up came in and said there was nothing he could do and that it was poor workmanship. He was here no more than ten minutes and was unable to do anything. I then had to get someone in myself the next day to sort out the problem. About 6 months later I received a final demand letter from RMG for £300 which was what they were charging me for the call out. Not only is this an obscene amount of money for absolutely nothing but this letter stated final demand when I had not received any other correspondence previously to this regarding this £300. Living on my own and not earning thousands of pounds a year I was extremely worried and upset as the letter unsettled me as it was quite threatening with regards to taking action if this was not paid as soon as possible. I haven’t got that kind of money lying around. I paid the money with great difficulty but was worried what the further action would be. I had a meeting with the new site manager which I think was early last year I was told there was little he could do about it.

Any correspondence I do receive from RMG is never clear and very confusing. They just pluck large amounts of money out of thin air and demand to be paid.

I recently misplaced my car park fob and phoned up to order another one. I knew there would be a charge for this and with it being my fault for misplacing it there was little I could say but nevertheless was shocked to find out this would be £58. I needed it so I paid for it. A few days later I found the lost fob and contacted them that same day which was a Friday. I was told this could be cancelled and refunded but would have to ring back on Monday. I phoned back on the Monday and was told that this couldn’t be done that the fob had been already been posted and sent out recorded delivery. A week went by and the fob still hadn’t arrived. I didn’t need it as I had found the old one but I had paid £58 for this new one and I wanted it. I then contacted the site manager directly. He said that it had been processed and sent but on this occasion he would refund me the £58. A week later this refund still hadn’t been sent so I had to contact him again. I had to do this numerous times till eventually I did get the refund but the key fob never turned up so they clearly never sent it.

I phoned them early December regarding the monthly charges as I was concerned they were going to go up even further. He informed me they will now be £100 a month instead of £130 due to him agreeing better contracts with other companies. I will believe this when I see it.

I spoke to the neighbours opposite who also own their property and they had received correspondence from RMG with regards to decorating the communal areas and internal repairs. At this point I had not received anything of the sort. I got 2 letters from them between Christmas and new year. These letters are very confusing and misleading. With a final date we all have to speak up about it by the 13th January 2018. Why I got one letter for the properties across the road I have no idea but this seems to state that their repairs will be covered with what they already pay from what I can make out. But speaking to the neighbours facing their correspondence looks like they are wanting over £600 per apartment.

The letter regarding my apartment and the others in the block states they will need approximately £80 each apartment for them to carry out unnecessary work. I pay them enough each month without added extras as well as my yearly ground rent.

I dread getting correspondence from them as I know it is going to cost me. Living alone I have barely any disposable income a month as it is. It is making me ill the constant worries about charges. £80 might not seem a lot of money to most but I won’t get anything for it when already paying £130 a month which I get absolutely nothing for.

My anxiety is through the roof, I’m having many a sleepless night as I can’t afford to pay these ever increasing charges, they just decide what they feel like. What will happen if I simply can’t afford to pay it and keep up with their payment demands? Will I lose my property? I have a very low income as it is hard enough working out the money outgoing without extras like this unnecessarily popping up and I find it very unlikely it will be only £80 there are some very large figures on the paperwork I recently received.

What I find most interesting when I had the meeting with the site manager and I expressed my concerns about the cleaning and marked walls and I asked if decorating was included and was told any decorating is carried out only every ten years. So why is this being carried out now after I have only been here less than 5 years.

I just really hope something can be done about all this as I’m at my wits end.

Please find attached photos of the 2 letters I recently received for my apartment block and the one facing.

I look forward to hearing from you

Emma Winterbottom'

'Avoid RMG at all costs if you can and if you can’t join the Facebook Groups - RMG Residential Management Group rip off people’s pockets and National Leasehold Campaign as excellent sources of advice and support

I became involved with RMG on 24th May 2019, when my son bought a flat in Edinburgh that is managed by RMG.

In Scotland almost all residential property is owned outright, and a factor/manager appointed to ensure the buildings are well maintained and all residents pay an equal share of the costs.

All property factors have to be registered with the Scottish Government and comply with their Code of Practice for Property Factors. There are 7 sections of the code covering: - written statement of services, communication and consultation, financial obligations, debt recovery, insurance, carrying out repairs and maintenance and complaints resolution.

Through my work I have had dealings with other property factors and there are some other pretty bad ones but,in my experience, the arrangement generally works quite well.

I can’t find a single positive thing to say about this company apart from maybe they score high for consistency in how appalling they are. I very quickly started to wonder if they had heard of the Code of Practice or even read their own written statement of services.

The initial issue we had with RMG was that, in spite of corresponding with my son’s solicitors up to the point of sale when they were given his details and they assured the solicitor an account would be set up for my son, we did not hear from them for over 2 months. On my son’s behalf I chased them up about this several times before eventually receiving an invoice on 13th August 2019 for just under £100 for 1 week’s management and maintenance. Naively I thought this was just a mistake as the average monthly charges paid by the previous owner had been £60 and all would be sorted with a quick email. When I contacted RMG about this they told me payment was overdue, as an invoice had been sent out on July 30th 2019, but they would put the account on hold. No invoice was received at the property. They also told me that my son was liable for this payment as the debt was with the property, not the individual.

RMG persisted in trying to extort this money and late payment charges from my son for weeks, even after they had admitted the invoice was issued in error and my son’s solicitor confirmed that the debt lying with the property did not apply in Scottish Law. It seems from the evidence I have that the previous owner had paid what she owed yet they were trying to force my son to pay as well.

This was just the beginning of our problems with RMG and I eventually raised a formal complaint in January 2020, a 4-stage process which took 18 weeks. Their responses at each stage were mostly out with their stated response times, riddled with sometimes hilarious inconsistencies and promises that all of the issues I raised would not occur again as staff would be retrained. I find it very hard to believe that RMG have been managing the properties since 2015 yet none of the staff knew that Scottish Law is different. It was also interesting to note that at each stage money, as a goodwill gesture, was offered, conditional on response by return. I guess it’s much easier to just fob people off with a little cash and hope they will just go away than deal with the issues. At stage 4 I was offered £100 which was promptly increased to £300 ,as full and final settlement, when I said I was not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint and would apply to the First Tier Tribunal. I obviously did not accept and am nearing completion of an application to the tribunal.

To list all the issues that we have had with RMG over the last 22 months would make this an incredibly long post. I have become aware through the RMG Residential Management Group rip off people’s pockets and National Leasehold Campaign FB pages as well as reading publicly available FTT tribunal decisions in England and Scotland and attending a tribunal that a lot of the issues I have been dealing with are common to many:-

Lack of clarity and accuracy in invoices

Charges from outwith the invoice period, sometimes up to a year before the person even owned the property

An inability to provide invoices on time.

Applying late payment charges when invoices have not been received.

Delays in or failure to respond to requests for invoices, tendering documents or explanations of items on invoices or budgets etc.

RMG ‘s claims that have sent out invoices, but they have not been received or have been sent to the wrong address, but they still apply late payment charges

The frequent claim by RMG that they have not received mail sent by homeowners even when it has been signed for. This also applies to emails. There was a lovely moment in the tribunal I attended when RMG claimed not to have received an important email from the person bringing the case. Watching their faces when she produced the email and their own response to it was a wonderful moment

Frequent changes of property manager so there is no continuity and a convenient scapegoat for all previous failings

Information not shared with other relevant departments of the company

Inconsistently applied debt collection procedures

Using their own or associate’s companies for maintenance and repairs etc without going through a proper tendering process

Spending more than the permissible amount on repairs without consultation with homeowners or without explanation if it was an emergency repair

Employing staff inadequately qualified or experienced for the job

I am sure people reading this will have their own additions to this list and if anyone wants to get in touch for support with their RMG nightmare please do so via this blog.


On 21 December 2017 Jonathan Reynolds (a man whose right-wing politics, I have to add, I intensely disike), in a debate on leasehold and commonhold reform in Westminster Hall, said before reading from a few lines of an email he had received from a constituent in Ashby Gardens, Hattersley:

'I am genuinely shocked by the stories I hear in my constituency and that we have heard in this debate. I am not a man prone to hyperbole, but I would go so far as to say that the only fair description of some of the practices we have heard about in this debate is legalised extortion. There is simply no relationship between the services being rendered and the costs charged for them.'

He mentioned another constituent, and added:

'Colleagues who know a little bit about Greater Manchester might know that Hattersley is one of the most successful urban regeneration housing schemes in the country. It took a huge amount of resources under the last Labour Government, and was originally one of the overspill estates from Manchester City Council. It is a fabulous story of urban regeneration and success, and activities such as this are frankly blighting that very successful legacy, which is extremely distressing to hear.'

Speaking in general about such legalised criminals as RMG of Hoddesdon, Jonathan Reynolds concluded:

'The time is clearly ripe for action, and there is clearly a consensus for strong action. My only plea to the Minister would be this: for many constituents, this matter is urgent. It is blighting their lives and affecting their quality of life. It is clearly affecting the liquidity of the housing market, and whether people can make reasonable decisions about their households going forward. We need the action to be as swift as possible. Clearly, it is not straightforward and there are issues to resolve, but I cannot believe that anyone who has listened to today’s debate, or others that have taken place, would not agree that there is consensus for political action. Please, Minister—let us get on with that as soon as possible.'

ADDENDUM 1:  It's very refreshing to hear things from contractors RMG use. Chris (not his real name) states that he worked for RMG at Holborough Lakes, in Kent, for most of this year (2018) until he was dismissed 'for complaining about health and safety issues to the estate manager which got me nowhere as I was made to be the lier.' Chris says 'I have witnessed many unsavoury things including the site manager constantly slagging off residents when they dare complain about something, residents getting fobbed off all the time, storing industrial weed killer and gallons of petrol in a residential garage under a residents flat. Untrained and uncertified gardeners weed killing on the estate and near a lake. The list goes on and on.' RMG, he adds, treat residents with contempt: 'the way the estate manager slagged off residents [...] is disgusting. Residents were always moaning about how RMG and the estate manager ran the place. [...]. We were badly paid. [...]. They really are a joke of a company.' And this sentence too is so common, and so revealing: 'People need to know what really goes on inside RMG and how they work.' He says he's 'livid with RMG' and calls them the 'worst company ever'. I learned yesterday (29 April 2019) that Chris concluded his legal dispute with RMG in an out of court settlement.

But the complaints many others make about RMG continue, the same kind of language being used about them. Google reviews here are very poor, although Trustpilot is useless: numerous obviously fake and extremely childish five-star reviews (attempting to give RMG the respect it in no way deserves) have appeared recently and Trustpilot refuses to take them down. Which not only shows whose side Trustpilot are on, but also reveals that they can't be trusted at all. Avoid Trustpilot at all costs.

ADDENDUM 2: On the Facebook sites National Leasehold Campaign and HORNet (Home Owners Rights Network), I note this inclusion, along with a link to my above post: 'RMG has decided – in spite of our vociferous protests supported by our MP Jonathan Reynolds, and against all logic (apart from their own purpose to screw more money out of us) – to make 'essential' (for which read profit-making) 'Internal Repairs and Redecorations' to properties in Pudding Fold, Hare Hill Hill Road and Ashby Gardens, Hyde SK14. This is under the name of the freeholder Aviva Investors Ground Rent GP Limited. It is a public outrage, and no repairs whatsoever need doing to five-year-old properties. It's interesting that these robbing bastards are becoming more aggressive, more verbally violent, trying to make as much money as possible before the new regulations come through early next year.'

ADDENDUM 2a: The writer of the above Addendum  has told me that it should be noted that reserve (or sinking) funds are created for any emergency repairs to flats. The funds on residential properties on this estate were already extremely low, although the 'manager' of the estate was (no doubt ferociously eager to claim a bonus) so obsessed with entirely unnecessary 'repairs' that the reserve fund has now been raided to such an extent that it is virtually non-existent. That's who RMG are.

ADDENDUM 3: Captured from a post online: 'For those who are unaware, Erinaceous [RMG's former incarnation] sank during an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office in 2007: here. One of its directors was a certain Hugh McGeever, who was the last director to resign (15 April 2007): here. Meet the current RMG team, with Hugh McGeever as Managing Director: here. Need I say more?


David Cade said...

Thanks for covering this matter. Managing Agents in the UK are getting away with providing appalling or little service while charging highly for it. In addition, Managing Agents in the UK are completely unregulated. The government has to bring them to heel. In addition any home-owners who are required to pay service-charges levied by Managing Agents must be able to easily contest every annual service-charge demanded of them.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

And thank you, David, for your comments. I welcome more contributions in the same vein.

Anonymous said...

RMG are obviously yet another phoney management company!

Anonymous said...

Residential Management Group are probably the worst "management company. Their service charges are outrageously high for little or no service. They have no interest in maintaining the property their only interest is money making - scum!

Anonymous said...

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Denise Clark said...

Thanks for this blog. I’ve just retweeted it. I can’t stand to see extortion like this!

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Thank you for this Denise.