Private landlords are on the march in the borough as 40% of ex council houses in Wandsworth are now buy to let properties says GMB
GMB is seeking to establish how much it is costing for the Tory leader of Wandsworth Council, after voting to close Battersea Sports Centre at the council meeting on March 4th, to travel to Cannes to attend MIPIM which is the property developer’s jamboree.
MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels d'Immobilier which translates as International Market for Real Estate Professionals) is now underway in Palais des Festivals, Cannes, France from 10-13 March 2015. It is organised by Reed MIDEM a subsidiary of Reed Exhibitions. In 2013 the costs for Wandsworth council to attend the event were nearly £40,000.
This trip by the Tory leader to the property developers trade fair comes as a new GMB analysis shows that nearly one third of households in Wandsworth now live in private rented accommodation. The figure is nearly 40% in East Putney, Tooting and Bedford and is over 35% in Graveney, Thamesfield and Fairfield. See table below for all tenure by ward in the borough ranked by wards with highest % of private rented accommodation.
HOUSEHOLDS BY WARD BY TENURE IN WANDSWORTH RANKED BY % PRIVATE RENTED
- KS402EW - Tenure
- ONS Crown Copyright Reserved
- All households: 2011 Census of Population
- 2011 ward
Shared ownership (part owned and part rented)
- East Putney
- St Mary's Park
- West Hill
- Wandsworth Common
- West Putney
- Roehampton and Putney Heath
Paul Maloney, GMB Regional Secretary, said “At a time of cuts we need to establish how much this trip to the property developer’s trade fair in France is costing. In 2013 some £38,000 was spent for the jolly including £6,800 for travel, hotel and passes.
This cosying up to developers will not impress hard pressed renters who now make up a third of all households in the borough.
The Wandsworth Tories are behaving as if the council is a property empire with a sideline in local government.
Eleven councillors are either landlords themselves or are linked to property or construction firms. The Wandsworth Tories is now the party of the landlords and property developers.
We know on the Alton estate in Roehampton the ultimate plan, being drip fed to residents, is to make land available to property developers by knocking down up to 600 units of housing. Residents who refuse to sell will face Compulsory Purchase Orders forcing them to make the land available to the property developers.
Private landlords are on the march in the borough. Last year GMB, in a major study, showed that 40% of ex council houses in Wandsworth are now buy to let properties. 977 landlords own more than one ex council houses. Of these, 1 individual or company own 93 leasehold properties and another individual or company own 32. Another 15 people/companies own 10 or more leasehold properties, 83 own between 5 and 9 and 877 own 2 to 4. See notes to editors for details of the main findings of the GMB study.
By November 2013 no less than 7,887 households in private rented housing had to claim housing benefits to meet the costs of their rents to private landlords. Wandsworth council has paid out more than £1bn in Housing Benefit in the past five years alone. Much of this has ended up with the private landlords.”
Contact Paul Grafton 07714 239092 or Michelle Gordon 07866 369 259 or GMB Press Office: 07921 289880 or 07974 251823 or 020 7391 6755/56.
Notes to editors
GMB study for main findings of Wandsworth Leasehold home ownership- March 2014
GMB learned that under Margaret Thatcher’s Right-to-Buy scheme, Wandsworth Borough Council have sold 24,000 properties since 1978. For 15,874 of the 24,000 properties it was the lease to these dwellings that was sold as they were in blocks of flats where the council have retained the freehold, and the rest of the dwellings continued to be occupied by council tenants. Of these 15,874, 5,650 are leaseholders with ‘away addresses’ and it can be assumed that the majority of these will be sub-letting to private tenants.
Of the 5,650 leaseholders with ‘away addresses’, 977 are multiple leaseholders. Of these, 1 individual or company own 93 leasehold properties and another individual or company own 32. Another 15 people/companies own 10 or more leasehold properties, 83 own between 5 and 9 and 877 own 2 to 4. These are all leasehold properties where Wandsworth Borough Council own the freehold.
A subsequent Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the Daily Mirror has revealed that, as of 28 December 2012, Wandsworth Borough Council has 33,170 freehold properties, of which 15,874 are owned by leaseholders. Of these, 6,180 (38.9%) have provided the council with a different mailing address.
GMB submitted an FOI request listing known owners of the leaseholds and asking how many properties they own. This was refused under Section 21(1) – Information reasonably accessible to the applicant by other means. We disputed this and requested an internal review of their decision. This has taken place and their original decision was upheld. We have subsequently searched 69 blocks of flats in Wandsworth were it is known landlords are buying up large number of flats for their own financial gain. If we are able to analyse the whole housing stock from Wandsworth Borough Council who knows what we may uncover.
This study searched 1,438 leasehold properties where The Mayor and Burgesses of The London Borough of Wandsworth are the Freehold owners. It focussed on the estates in SW11 2, SW11 3, SW11 4, SW11 5, SW11 6, SW12 8, SW12 9 and a single block in SW15 4. See Appendix A for the list of flats and owners details. Of the 1,438 leasehold properties searched, 508 (35%) have a registered owner different from the property address. We know the owners of all of these properties, either individuals or companies. This figure is in line with the Borough of Wandsworth Freedom of Information request from the Daily Mirror.
What we know
From a question asked to the Leader of the Council by Councillor Belton, councillor for Latchmere, we know that an individual owns 93 leasehold properties with the next highest being 32. From our searches, Chelsea Estates Ltd, a company incorporated in Guernsey, own 30. Looking at a related company, Birkett Estates (also Guernsey registered), and individuals of these companies, the total owned is 67. This figure will be higher because it is not possible to obtain a definitive total owned by the individuals – the Land Registry does not allow searching on individual people. Wandsworth Council will not know the total owned by this grouping as they would not have made the links between the 2 companies and the directors (and spouses).
Main leasehold owners
The Birkett Smiths own properties across London through the Guernsey incorporated companies Chelsea Estates Ltd and Birkett Estates Ltd. Chelsea Estates Ltd own 30 leasehold properties and Birkett Estates Ltd own 9 leasehold properties where Wandsworth Council own the freehold. They also have a number of properties registered in their own names: Alexander Birkett Smith, his wife Helena, brother Nicholas and his wife Alexandra own 27 leasehold properties that we have found, giving a total of 66 properties. Alexander is an ex venture capitalist having worked for Rothschild’s before setting up his residential property business, with his brother, and running two farms near Scarborough which are in receipt of European Farm subsidy payments. The brothers are directors of Daleside Estates Ltd, Smith Street Ltd, Overdale Farms Ltd and Smith Street Estates Ltd. Nicholas is also a director of the Portman Hunt, a Dorset based Hunt, and Daniel Lambert Ltd along with his wife Alexandra.
Looking at a single block in Putney (Sherfield Gardens), it was found that out of the 120 properties, 90 are leasehold, with 62 having an owner with a different address (or known to live elsewhere). Of these 62 properties, Charles and Karin Gow own 40 with Charles alone owning 35 of these. He owns KCG Property (www.kcgproperty.com), a Roehampton Lettings and Management company, and both are directors of PCB (Surrey) LLP. If the original figures from Wandsworth are to be believed, in which only one owner has more than 32 properties, then Charles Gow may be the owner of the 93 properties mentioned.
The Palmyra Properties, CPIF group of companies own 46 leasehold properties where Wandsworth Borough own the freehold. Palmyra Properties is Jersey based, CPIF Property, incorporated in Guernsey, Affordable Property Investments incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and Skyprops is incorporated in Mauritius. The Daily Mirror is currently investigating the linkages between all of these companies.
Of the other companies searched, Drumree Asset Holdings (1 property) and Entreprises Generalles (Investissements) (1 property) are both incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
Cherwell Investments Ltd (cherwellinvestments.com)
Cherwell Investments own 11 leasehold properties where Wandsworth Borough own the freehold. Directors are Alexander Thompson and Thomas Holroyd, both directors of several other property investment companies. The website states that they own ‘a large number of properties in a small area of London (SW4, SW11, SW12 and SW18) We have focused on this for the past 20 years……We are constantly adding to and upgrading our portfolio in the Battersea, Balham, Clapham and Wandsworth area.
Marcus and Susan Locke own at least 11 leasehold properties where Wandsworth Borough own the freehold. Marcus is an LLP member of High Holborn LLP, director of 373 New Kings Road Freehold Ltd (letting of property) and juststjohn.com ltd.