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  1. Fire at historic Rotherham building By Tom Austen The Howard Building, the derelict former college building in Rotherham town centre, has suffered a large fire which could mean that redevelopment plans have also gone up in smoke. One person was rescued using a ladder as at least four fire engines attended the scene on Howard Street after being called at 8:40 this morning. The ambulance service and South Yorkshire Police also attended the scene. Now suffering from vandalism and damaged even before today's fire, the prominent four storey building opened in the 1930's. It previously operated as part of the college and also housed the council's environmental health teams and a day nursery before being sold prior to going to auction in 2014. Revised plans to convert the historic building into self-contained studios and apartments were approved by the planning board at Rotherham Council in 2015. With little evidence of the conversion into twelve, one bed apartments and 60 studio apartments at "Howard Residencies", applicants, AVRO Developments headed into insolvency, with Rotherham Council leading the petition in 2015 to have the company wound up - likely to be for non-payment of business rates. Cllr. Emma Hoddinott, cabinet member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety at Rotherham Council, tweeted how she was "angry about how private owner has let this happen" adding that the "council has already taken enforcement action against them." Crown Union Ltd and DS7 Ltd submitted plans earlier this year to amend the scheme but they have not yet been approved. A company called 2380 REVERSIONS LTD is now responsible for paying rates on the building. AVRO, Crown Union Ltd, DS7 Ltd and 2380 REVERSIONS LTD all share directors and links to previous "dubious" property investment schemes. Rothbiz reported last year how the Rotherham scheme is linked to Absolute Living Developments, Fresh Start Living and Empirical Property, all highlighted in the media as leaving buy-to-let investors out of pocket. Howard Residencies is currently being offered as an investment opportunity by Crown Union. It is offered as an "Ideal purchase for investors looking at UK Buy To Let's as a way of getting onto the first rung of the property investment ladder. From dynamic apartment layouts to classic period façade and stonework surrounds, this redevelopment brings together Rotherham past and present to create a truly unique place to live for post-graduates, young professionals & key workers." Starter pads and 1 bed apartments are being offered at £51,449 and £72,049 with an 8% ROI per annum. http://www.rothbiz.co.uk/2017/07/news-5590-fire-at-historic-rotherham.html
  2. Rotherham Development linked to Dubious Investment Schemes Work is slow on a housing development in Rotherham town centre with development companies wound up and even linked to protests in Hong Kong by worried investors. Revised plans to convert the historic Howard Building into self-contained studios and apartments were approved by the planning board at Rotherham Council in 2015. The prominent former college building was sold prior to going to auction after it was advertised as a development opportunity and given a guide price of £250,000 by local auctioneers, Mark Jenkinson & son. With little evidence of the conversion into twelve, one bed apartments and 60 studio apartments at "Howard Residencies", applicants, AVRO Developments headed into insolvency, with Rotherham Council leading the petition in 2015 to have the company wound up. Financial documents link AVRO Developments to DS7 Limited which has acted as a lender to Absolute Living Developments, Fresh Start Living and Empirical Property, all highlighted in the media as leaving buy-to-let investors out of pocket. Similar schemes in Manchester, Bradford and across the North of England were sold off plan to investors with the promise of decent returns, but the work was never completed and companies were wound up and projects moved on in complex deals. In some cases where some work was carried out, tenants were left with exposed electrical wires, a leaking roof, an illegal gas connection, a car park strewn with contaminated waste and an open sewer pipe. The Telegraph & Argus reported this year that police in Hong Kong are conducting an international investigation into Liverpool-based Absolute Living Developments, which had been part-way through three apartment projects in Bradford when it was placed in compulsory liquidation. Overseas investors fear they have lost their money paid in deposits. Howard Residencies is currently being offered as an investment opportunity by Crown Union (located at a virtual office in London and shares directors with companies linked to the Howard Building and DS7 Limited). It is offered as an "Ideal purchase for investors looking at UK Buy To Let's as a way of getting onto the first rung of the property investment ladder. From dynamic apartment layouts to classic period façade and stonework surrounds, this redevelopment brings together Rotherham past and present to create a truly unique place to live for post-graduates, young professionals & key workers." Starter pads and 1 bed apartments are being offered at £49,950 and £69,950 with an 8% ROI per annum. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fre...gh-2919959 http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/ne...9_s_collap %20%20se_continues_as_num ber_of_people_alleging_de ceptio%20%20n_grows/ http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-ne...?id=170660 http://dmh.plcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/...rd_web.pdf Crown Union website http://www.crown-union.com/item/howard-residences/ by Tom Austen http://www.rothbiz.co.uk/
  3. UPDATE: ON PROPERTY INVESTMENT FORUM : Anyone investing in Viewpoint Salford, be aware that this property is owned by FSL Properties Ford Lane Limited, a company owned by Empirical Property Group Limited, previously known as Fresh Start Living (Holdings) Manchester. Charles "Charlie" Cunningham is connected to all these businesses and you can see his track record here: Fresh Start Living: Investors and tenants hit by dodgy flats deals: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fresh-start-living-investors-tenants-2303754 FreshStart Living is shut down by the High Court: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/freshstart-living-shut-down-high-2919959 http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5465489
  4. Developers Link To Failed Firm By Oliver Clay, Runcorn Weekly News / Liverpool Echo http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/government-rules-forcing-700-flats-10577103
  5. I have been asked to let consumer forums notice of the following on the moneysavingexpert website. Although they now claim to be at 7 Empress Street, Old Trafford, Manchester, M27 8FF, I could find no sign of them there. The telephone number is 0845 259 1904. Or you can get them at urbanblox on 0845 653 1029. My experience: Pre-contract, Fresh Start Living Limited misrepresented to me they owned property but didn't; They also misrepresented the timescale to exchange and completion. On the basis of their misrepresentations I paid a deposit. FSL took my deposit money of £xx,xxx without supplying property and have not returned my deposit for over 2 YEARS.. They have no valid excuse. They ignore all contact requests. They obtained my deposit by deception and simply refused to give it back despite obtaining a court order to repay it (CCJ) and sending the Bailifs round. They have numerous active CCJ's against them. A few helpful but negative posts have been filtered out despite being FACTUAL. I would be surprised if this post isn't removed. Fresh Start Living Limited have been taken to court many times for not paying their debts i.e. at Luton Court on 15th January 2013. Google this case or you can phone the court to confirm this. An investor has applied to the courts to have the company shut down. The One Show on the BBC are doing an expos! very soon and will be filming in Manchester THIS FRIDAY. If you have been a victim and lost money to Fresh Start Living please contact the BBC One Show and help protect further victims by raising awareness.
  6. Troubles mount for developer FreshStart - special report by James Graham : thebusinessdesk.com DEVELOPER FreshStart Living has broken planning and fire safety rules at a residential scheme in Stockport, as problems mount across the group. Stockport Council issued a planning contravention notice last month over breaches at Mac Court in St Thomas's Place while Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has separately issued an enforcement notice over fire safety issues. The latest action comes as the company faces a winding-up petition over a scheme in Nottingham and has five county courticon judgements outstanding worth a total of £31,400. Its Trafford Press development is now in administration and several subsidiaries have been wound up this year following legal action. In an interview with TheBusinessDesk.com, FreshStart's chief executive Charlie Cunningham said the root cause of the group's problems stemmed from issues with the Trafford Press development in Manchester, and claimed a law firm had made mistakes with contracts that led to sales falling through. This caused funding problems and drained cash from the parent company, Empirical Property Group, said Mr Cunningham. Administrators at accountancy firm Leonard Curtis have now been appointed to the subsidiary that owns the Trafford Press, FSL Properties Trafford Press, and FreshStart is suing its former lawyers. Mr Cunningham, who would not name either the firm he has instructed or the firm he is pursuing, said he hoped to win the case and restart the scheme with the proceeds. He also expects creditors to be repaid at Trafford Press and at other schemes. Trafford Press is one of several FreshStart schemes where investors have been trying to get their money back. Elsewhere tenants have complained of unfinished buildings and non-existent maintenance. In Stockport around 20 residents at Mac Court, a converted mill, complain it was never properly finished. They say windows leak, communal areas are not completed, the lift shaft is boarded up and there is a vermin infestation. They compiled a dossier with a list of 35 faults and problems which prompted the intervention by the authorities. The residents are now seeking to form their own management company to replace a FreshStart subsidiary and are questioning how the building was signed off by the local council. One of the residents, former FreshStart employee Lauren Dean, said: "All we want is some communication from them to advise us what's happening. There is a smell of sewage because there are drainage issues, they've known for a year, but don't do anything. They don't reply to emails, there's no maintenance, no update, nothing. All we want is to be able to live in peace in a building that's finished, that's not leaking and where the fire alarms work." FreshStart launched a number of schemes across the country several years ago, marketing them cheaply to buy-to-let investors and promising good returns. Many were advertised as "student pods" - a student room for under £30,000 with guaranteed rental income for several years. The action in Stockport follows a case in Manchester where people who had bought FreshStart student rooms at Montgomery House in Whalley Range took charge of the building's management and sued a FreshStart vehicle over unpaid rent. Elsewhere disgruntled investors have taken legal action against the company over the failure to return deposits at schemes where work did not start, or was never completed. In at least one case deposits were taken for a property FreshStart did not own. The business was set up in 2009 by Salford-based Andrew Camilleri who was declared bankrupt in 2011 over property loans totalling £9m, including interesticon. FreshStart is owned by Empirical Property whose majority shareholder is Alan Pierce, one of Mr Camilleri's relatives. Mr Cunningham holds 10% of the shares. He has a background as a City broker and was drafted in last year to prepare FreshStart for a stock market flotation. He is an Empirical director along with construction chief Phillip Wright, and Christian Yates who works as an adviser at City investment firm Shore Capital. Referring to the problems at Mac Court, Mr Cunningham said: "It is finished apart from two basement conversions. The space next door is being developed but we haven't be able to embark on any new developments because we haven't had the funding to do so. "We've had a serious blow with Trafford Press. We're cash restrained and we've cut costs. We're operating with a smaller staff and trying to make sure everyone's looked after. "The group has been putting cash into Trafford Press, over £1m without any return. That has affected other companies within the group and we will be seeking arrangements with creditors to protect those companies. An offer will be made and any offer will be the full sum. We're not looking for any creditors to get a reduced sum." He added: "We've sold over 1,000 units in the last couple of years. Yes, there are people complaining and bits haven't been done properly, but 98% of people are happy with their investment and have done well out of it. Anyone who bought a unit will be getting a decent return and will make money if they sell." The problems associated with some of FreshStart's schemes are listed below. Trafford Press Trafford Press was a high profile FreshStart scheme which involved convertingTrafford Press the former buildings of the Veno drug company and the Trafford Press on Chester Road. In 2011 the plan was for around 116 apartments across old and new buildings. Some renovation work has taken place on the original buildings and there are tenants, but building work stalled, leaving just the steel frame of the new buildings. A FreshStart vehicle, Trafford Press Construction, is now in liquidation after a successful winding-up petition by the Wetherby-based insulation firm Encon. Investors who paid deposits but have not seen their flats materialise are now understood to be preparing legal action against the company. Mr Cunningham said he expects all creditors to be repaid in full, either from the proceeds of FreshStart's legal action against its lawyer, or if the administrators find a buyer for the building. But a lender called SKPB Services holds a charge against the site and as a result will be paid first. He said: "If the administrator decides to sell what's left and raises enough money to pay back creditors, everyone will get paid out of that. What we're working towards is getting a settlement to take the company out of administration and pay people, and continue the build." Empress Mill empress millEmpress Mill, a stone's throw from Trafford Press, was taken on by FreshStart in 2011 which planned to develop 100 apartments across two blocks, a converted mill and a new six-storey building next door. It was expected to be complete by this year but the conversion is unfinished and the new block was not built. However, some of the flats are occupied. One investor won a £5,000 county court judgement against the firm in the summer over a deposit that was not returned. Victoria House Halls, Nottingham FreshStart announced it had bought a 30,000 sq ft office building in central FreshStart planned Victoria House Halls scheme in NottinghamNottingham from Capital Shopping Centres in 2011 which it planned to convert into 157 "student pods". Work on the project was due to start in January 2012 with completion expected in September in time for the start of the 2012-2013 academic year. Pods were sold to investors who placed deposits of around £2,000 on each room, but FreshStart did not own the building and had no planning consent. Capital Shopping Centres, now called Intu Properties, confirmed it exchanged on the sale subject to planning consent earlier this year. Plans were submitted in April, but later withdrawn. Last month FreshStart's chief executive Charlie Cunningham told TheBusinessDesk, "It's taken much longer than we hoped it would but there's no question of the scheme not going ahead". But investors are trying to get their money back. One, London-based Roger Walters has issued a winding-up petition against FreshStart over a £20,000 deposit. Chinese investor Rosa Wong has been to FreshStart's Salford office several times to recover £15,000. On one occasion she went with a Chinese estate agent who was owed £4,000 in commission for marketing FreshStart properties overseas. He recovered the debt but Ms Wong was told the scheme was still going ahead. In search of help she went to Salford City Council, the police, Trading Standards and The Property Ombudsmanicon and felt she was "kicked around like a ball". She has now issued civil proceedings. She said: "I planned to invest in the real estate market in the UK, but after the issue with FSL and the experience of complaining to different official departments I changed my mind and put most of my money in the States. Many real estate agencies in my city never trusted British companies again because they lost money and didn't get commission from doing business with FSL. They have turned to the property markets in other countries, just as I did." Last week Mr Cunningham admitted it had been a "difficult" scheme because of the building's layout. He said the planning application had been withdrawn because it required amendments, "but we're doing our best to get it through". Montgomery House, Manchester FreshStart Livings Montgomery House (rear)FreshStart bought Montgomery House, a former YMCA building in Whalley Range, south Manchester, in 2011 to turn it into 240 student pods. The work went ahead but investors sued FreshStart over unpaid rents which were guaranteed for a set period as part of the deal. They claimed £200,000 but settled for £131,000 which FreshStart's parent, Empirical Property, paid in April. Last year FreshStart sold the freehold to Stratford-upon-Avon-based property group Marden Ltd for £930,000 and its management company was wound up following a separate action by investors. TheBusinessDesk understands another case is being prepared against FreshStart by investors whose student pods were turned into communal kitchens in order for the block to comply with Manchester City Council's HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) rules. One investor lost three apartments in this way, for which she paid a total of £72,000. Mr Cunningham would not comment on this situation due to the pending legal action. On the matter of guaranteed rents Mr Cunningham said there had been "delays", but he didn't think, "many people were behind on rental guarantee payments". Colonnade House, Bradford This FreshStart student scheme at Provident Financial's former headquarters inCGI of Fresh Start Living's Colonnade House Sunbridge Road, Bradford, was shut down in November for breaching fire regulations. West Yorkshireicon Fire Service issued a prohibition notice saying the fire escapes and alarms were inadequate. The notice has since been lifted. FreshStart acquired the nine-storey 1960s building in 2011 and was converting it into 200 student rooms. At the time of the inspection only the top three floors had been completed and were occupied by up to 70 students who were forced to move out. In the summer Bradford University and the students' union warned students not to take rooms at the building for the 2013-14 academic year, but retracted a statement after protests from FreshStart. Last week Mr Cunningham said the scheme was "practically complete". Earlier this month the Paisley Daily Express reported that a FreshStart student scheme in the Scottish town had been shut down for breaching fire regulations and building laws. In an echo of Colonnade House, fire safety officials evicted tenants following an inspection and only the second of five floors had been completed. Bispham House, Liverpool bispham houseThis 1960s block in Lace Street close to the city transferred from council ownership in the 1990s. It was previously the subject of a renovation by FM Developments which went into administration in 2009 before the work was finished. FreshStart acquired the site from administrators and sold 78 apartments to investors. But as with Mac Court the building was not completed and guaranteed rents have not been paid. FreshStart has now sold its freehold interest and investors have ousted FreshStart management company, opting for one of their choice in the same way as investors at Montgomery House in Manchester. A source told TheBusinessDesk: "Landlords have paid more to bring it up to standard and they have not received rents. FreshStart always said it would be completed and it never was."
  7. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined Cheadle-based mortgage lender, Cheshire Mortgage Corporation Limited (CMCL), £1.225 million for failing to treat customers fairly in the sale of mortgages and arrears handling from October 2004 to the end of 2009. The CEO of CMCL, Henry Moser, has been fined £70,000 and agreed to step down from his role within three to six months. Andrew Lawton, the firm’s compliance director, has been fined £13,500 and banned from holding a significant influence function. The FSA has also required CMCL to carry out a redress exercise that could see approximately £2 million paid to around 2,000 affected customers. CMCL operated in niche markets, including lending to customers with poor credit histories. The FSA found that CMCL failed to treat some of its customers fairly when they fell into arrears, was unable to always demonstrate that mortgages it sold were affordable, and did not always communicate regularly or fully with its customers. Moser has been disciplined for failing to spot these problems and put them right. CMCL overcharged some customers in arrears and applied arrears charges inconsistently and unfairly. Customers were also sometimes notified of charges after they had been incurred. The FSA also found that: when CMCL transferred customers in arrears to Monarch Recoveries for debt recovery, they were charged £150 despite it being an in-house company; CMCL did not always make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with customers in arrears over method of payment; and CMCL did not always properly assess the affordability of mortgages by, for example, challenging a customer’s declared income. Moser, as CEO, was ultimately responsible for the actions and compliance of the firm, however he failed to ensure the firm was being properly managed so that problems would be identified and remedied. Lawton was aware of certain poor practices taking place at the firm but failed to put them right and demonstrated a lack of competence and capability in his role as a compliance director. Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime, said: “CMCL’s lacklustre approach to regulation, combined with very poor practices in collecting arrears, meant that some customers already worried about being able to pay back their mortgages were put under undue pressure and sometimes ended up paying more than they should. “The failings of Moser, Lawton and CMCL were serious and let down a vulnerable group of consumers. Where firms and individuals fail to comply with our rules and treat customers fairly they should expect to be held to account.” CMCL and Moser both settled at an early stage of the investigation so qualified for a 30% discount, without which the fines would have been £1.75 million and £100,000 respectively. Lawton settled at a later stage of the investigation and qualified for a 10% discount, without which he would have been fined £15,000.
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