Rendall and Rittner – 11% service charge increase at Chelsea Bridge Wharf and £700 ‘cash call’ per leaseholder

The notes from the Rendall and Rittner meeting on December 12th 2021 showed that large service charge increases were on the way. Although as ever the information provided was muddled and incomplete (no column headings in the table below), and the actual projected service charge increase could not be determined from the information provided, the average projected increase across internal and external budgets was a whopping 10.6%.

Projected service charge increases at Chelsea Bridge Wharf (source: Rendall and Rittner, notes from December 2021 meeting)

The December 2021 meeting was the first since Rendall and Rittner’s online ‘broadcast’ in August 2020 and that was a one way rather than a genuine meeting.

‘Questions and answers ‘ from residents at the December 12th meeting are covered in one slide in Rendall and Rittner’s ‘notes’ and apparently no questions were asked about service charges, which seems strange to say the least. The ‘notes’ mostly consist of Rendall and Rittner public relations material, a list of their supposed achievements and a photograph showing the estate manager receiving an award from Richard Daver. No information is given on who voted for this ‘award’ but it would appear from the Rendall and Rittner website that it is a purely internal matter (i.e. no residents voted). Why this is covered in meeting notes is unclear as this non-event did not occur at the meeting.

Finally, the notes end with the ubiquitous Rendall and Rittner slogan ‘thanks for your continuing support’. But they do not have our support! The Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Survey showed that just 27% of residents are satisfied with Rendall and Rittner and having them replaced was a very high priority for residents. Repeating this slogan will not increase support for Rendall and Rittner and will not obscure the service charge hikes and continuing poor service. Maybe Rendall and Rittner could spend more time getting basic information right and presenting it clearly and less time on pointless PR material disguised as meeting notes. We live in hope 🙂

The Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association committee has not provided residents with any explanation of why service charges have increased, but have made vague references to ‘VAT on staff wages’. VAT on staff wages was introduced in November 2018 so it is hard to imagine how it could explain large service charge increases in 2021. It is not clear whether the Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association have asked Rendall and Rittner for an explanation of the large service charge increases or, if so, what the response was. It is not clear if Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association have made a ‘global’ section 22 request to Rendall and Rittner (i.e. to receive all of the invoices and receipts in relation to accounts for all blocks at Chelsea Bridge Wharf). If this has been done then no information about it has been provided to residents.

Recent enquiries by residents on the Chelsea Bridge Wharf app regarding the reasons for the service charge increases were met with very dismissive and disingenuous responses from the Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association committee, with one resident being told they were welcome to ask Rendall and Rittner themselves and share whatever they found out.

Explanatory notes to the 2023 budget supplied by Rendall and Rittner in March 2022 show that the large headline increases in service charge are only the tip of the iceberg. Rendall and Rittner also intend to make a ‘cash call’ of £700 on each property because the reserve funds are not sufficient to cover planned works. Or to put it another way, the reserve funds have been run down over several years so that Rendall and Rittner could make a lower increase in the headline service charge. Taking the headline increase and the ‘cash call’ together is equivalent to a service charge increase of over 30%.

Amazingly, it was the author of this blog who had to flag this issue to residents, via the Chelsea Bridge Wharf app, in March 2022. The Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association have not mentioned it to residents, despite the fact that it was apparently the Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association that agreed this £700 cash call with Rendall and Rittner (CBWRA claim that the cash call ‘increases transparency’).

Residents should note that here is no mechanism in the lease which allows Rendall and Rittner to make a ‘cash call’ on residents, and ‘cash calls’ are therefore not valid and are not enforceable via the lease. Personally I will be ignoring any such ‘cash calls’ from Rendall and Rittner.

The Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association have increased their membership fee by 100% (from £10 to £20). There has been no consultation with residents about this (indeed I was specifically instructed by the Chair of Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association to remove a question on this point from the 2021 Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Survey). In addition, from Autumn 2021, Rendall and Rittner (at the request of Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association) have made all leaseholders at Chelsea Bridge Wharf members of Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association by default and charged them £20 through their service charge account, without their prior consent. Leaseholders are of course free to opt out of CBWRA membership but they would first have to be aware that they had been made members and had been charged £20 and of course many will not be, unless they carefully examine the service charge demands and accompanying documents. This will greatly increase the Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association income, although we do not know by how much exactly as the number of members has never been announced.

The explanation for the increase in the Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents’ Association membership fee (bizarrely) was that it would ‘pay for Right to Manage’. This is untrue on at least two levels: firstly there is no Right to Manage process (CBWRA are retendering the management contract and this has nothing whatever to do with Right to Manage) and secondly the decision to increase the membership fee to £20 was made (without consultation) by the Chair of CBWRA in summer 2021 many months before any retendering of the contract was planned – indeed any such suggestions regarding retendering the contract or Right to Manage were met with extreme hostility at that time.