There are several organizations and companies involved with the Providence Square / Jacob's Island development, which may appear confusing at first glance, or if you are new to the development. This article aims to explain and demystify them !
The summary is that the residents of Providence Square, Providence Tower and Springalls Wharf have now obtained both the Freehold and the Right to Manage for the property - these are major milestones achieved by JIRA, which have now put us in almost complete control. As a result, the development has (on average) one of the lowest service charges in the area, despite delivering a high quality of service and maintenance.
In England and Wales, land law has traditionally made it very difficult to own a flat outright. The usual device for getting around the legal problems has been the long lease. Technically, this is very similar to a lease that one might sign for 6 or 12 months if renting a flat. The main difference is that the long lease is for a very long term – often 99, 125 or even 999 years.
Just like in a short lease, this means that there's a landlord and a tenant. The tenant is the person who owns the flat by having the flat let to them under the long lease. The flat owner is therefore the leaseholder, and the flat is often described as being a leasehold flat. In a block of flats, each of the flat owners will have a lease of their own flat from their common landlord. The landlord is usually the person who owns the actual land that the block of flats stands on. The landlord therefore usually owns the freehold of that land and is often described as the freeholder.
The agreement you entered into when you purchased your property is typically a 999 year 3 way lease between you, the owner of the property (the Tenant), the Freehold company which owns the land (the Landlord), and the Managing Agent (the "Manager").
Both the Freehold company and the Managing Agents have changed since the leases were first signed in 1996/1997, and both are now ultimately controlled by you, the residents.
The Freehold companies own the land on which the various apartments and houses are built, and they are one of the parties to your lease. All residents pay a ground rent (typically £175/year but it varies across the development) to the Freehold company.
The original Landlord was Berkeley Homes (who built the property), but in around 2001 the residents exercised their legal right to purchase the freehold from Berkeley Homes. This was achieved by inviting the residents to contribute money in order to buy out the Freehold.
Only a subset of residents funded this activity, and they (or their successors) are now the Shareholders of the Freehold companies. Ground rents eventually get paid back to the shareholders, as repayment for the original loans made to buy the freehold from Berkeley Homes.
Those who participated in the freehold purchase and contributed money towards it have each been issued one share in the freehold-owning company to which they contributed. So the shareholders in the freehold-owning companies indirectly own the freehold through this route.
If you purchased a property in the development after the Freehold was acquired, you may or may not have acquired a shareholding in the Freehold company as well. If your property has a share in the Freehold company, this share must be transferred to the new owner when the company is sold. There is currently no way to become a new shareholder in the Freehold company, other than by purchasing a property which owns a share.
Each of the Freehold companies has a small number of directors, made up from residents (or owners).
The Freehold companies are:
- Jacobs Island (Providence Square Blocks A B & C) Limited
- Jacobs Island (Providence Square Block J) Limited
- Jacobs Island (Springall's Wharf) Limited
- Jacobs Island (Providence Tower) Limited
Under the provisions of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, consequent upon the acquisition of the right to manage, the management functions of the Freehold companies under the lease then became the management functions of the relevant Right To Manage company.
Right to Manage companies
The original Managing Agent in the lease was "OM Limited", a property management company which was originally part of the Berkeley Homes group. Since the leases were originally signed, OM Limited rebranded and/or transferred their property management business several times, and our managing agent has operated under various brand names since 1997 including Peverel, Consort, and most recently FirstPort.
Early in 2010, the majority of residents in the development acquired the Right To Manage of most of the key blocks. A series of Right To Manage (RTM) companies, controlled by the residents, have been set up to control the managing agents.
Although the development is too large to be managed directly by the RTM companies themselves (which are run by volunteer residents), the RTM companies now have the important power to appoint and dismiss managing agents, and to control and direct them on behalf of the residents.
Appointment of the Managing Agent is reviewed regularly through a tendering process.
Managing Agent - FirstPort
The Managing Agent for the development is currently FirstPort (www.firstport.co.uk), who claim to be the UK's premier property management group. FirstPort is responsible for the day-to-day management of the development and employs the development manager, concierge and the cleaning and maintenance staff
Jacobs Island Residents Association
JIRA is the recognised Residents' Association for Providence Square, Providence Tower and Springalls Wharf. Any resident (whether owner or tenant), or non-resident owner, can join. JIRA represents the views and wishes of residents and owners, and is the main vehicle for influencing the right to manage companies in maintaining and improving the estate.