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NigelMoore

Chelsea Harbour Furore

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A couple of months ago I was chatting with MSO in Brentford, who told me that they were going to be inundated with work refurbishing many boats from the Chelsea Yacht and Boat Company moorings, who had all been told to smarten up.

Now, the Sunday Times has published an article revealing that the new pier owners are planning even more radical moves, ousting some of the long term resident boats to make room for multi-million pound giant houseboats.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/3f7582de-24a4-11e8-a283-1b5f066ae234

 The PLA have gone along with a preposterously grotesque deal that pretends to be within their legal remit. They are charging [for the “licence” to maintain Cadogan Pier] an annual “rent” starting at £53,050 and 25% of all mooring fees. Those mooring fees are set to skyrocket of course; projected fees of £168/foot/annum being announced, with [if I have understood correctly] almost double that for a 10 year licence premium.

Some 14 boats have apparently been served eviction notices despite having signed up for compulsory overhauls with [I presume] MSO. I cannot help wondering how that will affect Jake’s bookings – if they cannot return, why would they get the work done?

The situation was bad enough with the previous business owner. I knew several of the Houseboat owners there, one of whom had been evicted and became the losing party in a landmark High Court case regarding his security of tenure. Now, a couple of the resident houseboaters are taking the business to the High Court yet again, this time to determine whether the moorings operator is entitled to charge for a licence on top of moorings fees. I can’t see that going well for them, I am afraid.

https://twitter.com/chelseaboats

There is a petition out now, with nearly 2,000 signatures, asking the Council to make the moorings an “Asset of Community Value”. Quite how that will help the tenants is something I fail to see.

https://www.change.org/p/royal-borough-of-kensington-and-chelsea-save-our-chelsea-houseboats-and-make-them-an-asset-of-community-value-2916b637-28ac-4c70-a892-ea0bc7ac8c9f

I realise that many will have scant sympathy, but this situation highlights a core problem associated with living afloat. The whole houseboat security of tenure situation has been a long-running sore, and it gained a lot of publicity some years back, with an ODPM consultation in 2005, exploring whether government intervention was appropriate. I have had to say, when asked, that I had a foot in both camps and could see both sides. The one sure principle is that everybody should be able to count on fair play and all parties keeping to their word, but that has never been a given.

 

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3 hours ago, NigelMoore said:

Those mooring fees are set to skyrocket of course; projected fees of £168/foot/annum being announced, with [if I have understood correctly] almost double that for a 10 year licence premium.

Whilst those figure may be 'skyrocketing' from the existing levels they are only just starting to approach 'market rates' for London.

At £168/foot/annum a 50 foot boat would cost £8,400, 

A mooring (13.01-18 metres) in either Poplar Dock, or, Limehouse marina costs £8,970*

Going outside London - Portavon marina is £78*/foot/annum

* There is a surcharge of (I think) 20-30% for any boat over 3.0 mts wide

Edited by Alan de Enfield

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I agree that the sums bandied about are commensurate with top London sites, although if it is correct that they have to pay double for a 10 year certainty, then that changes the picture somewhat – but the principal area of concern is the seemingly arbitrary imposition of the new terms, and the wholesale eviction of boats that have apparently agreed to take steps to conform to new requirements [and who have actually committed funds to that], with their mooring agreements terminated anyway.

As an investor in such a business, it is to be expected that efforts will be made to maximise the return, but a bad reputation for arbitrary terminations and goal-shifting will not be conducive to attracting new customers.

It is more than a decade since the government last looked seriously at the situation; there is the possibility that this could provoke a new investigation, and that could be bad for all parties.

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Reading through the twitter posts on the subject a bit further back, the price situation seems to hinge around the imposition of both mooring fees AND a 'mooring licence' fee.

07 July 2016

CYBC claims it can charge £5,800/ft for a ten year licence - a 1,160% increase from 2015 & equivalent to £500,000 for an 85ft boat (ON TOP of the £12,410 per year mooring fee).

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A rational view from the other side, over the prices paid for houseboats on his moorings -

08 May 2016

Andrew Moffat quote: it’s time "the bubble was burst for the houseboat owners" & "if somebody had paid £800,000 to buy a boat then they had paid the wrong people.  They should have paid [CYBC] for the cost of the mooring & only £100,000 to the boat owner”

This has long been a bone of contention; he is correct; although people have been prepared to pay silly money as a premium for boats on residential or other moorings - on the BW canals as elsewhere - the fact is that the value of the premium does not attach to the boat without consent of the moorings owner/operator. People have protested in the past about marinas charging for boats sold on their moorings, but the fact is that the percentage 'cut' demanded in such situations invariably came in at far less than the extra commanded by the boat sellers.

As I had to comment in a news article during the ODPM consultation – any premium payable belongs to the party that has the ‘gift’ of the consent to moor there.

Since BW began addressing the situation some years back, insisting that pleasure boat mooring agreements were personal to the owner not the boat [official 'houseboats' being in a different category], the sale prices of such boats dropped to a more realistic market level.

A disturbing element appears from the news that Cadogan Pier boats that have been used as homes for many years on an 'under the radar' basis, could be threatened now with RBKC planning enforcement action, following an application [now withdrawn] by the pier owner for a lawful use certificate for residential moorings. That came hot on the heels of the pier's advert for a £2.25 million houseboat on the pier; one would have to be a chancer to pay out those sums for a 'boat' that has no relevant planning consent for its use.

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4 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

Whilst those figure may be 'skyrocketing' from the existing levels they are only just starting to approach 'market rates' for London.

At £168/foot/annum a 50 foot boat would cost £8,400, 

A mooring (13.01-18 metres) in either Poplar Dock, or, Limehouse marina costs £8,970*

Going outside London - Portavon marina is £78*/foot/annum

* There is a surcharge of (I think) 20-30% for any boat over 3.0 mts wide

The cost of Limehouse will no doubt go up once BWML has been sold on!

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1 minute ago, Naughty Cal said:

The cost of Limehouse will no doubt go up once BWML has been sold on!

And looking at pictures of the 'Chelsea boats' they seem to be all 'fattys', so in Limehouse / Poplar a 50 footer would be paying more like £11-12,000, makes their proposed £8,400 seem a good deal.

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Just now, Alan de Enfield said:

And looking at pictures of the 'Chelsea boats' they seem to be all 'fattys', so in Limehouse / Poplar a 50 footer would be paying more like £11-12,000, makes their proposed £8,400 seem a good deal.

Are you not forgetting the 'mooring licence' charge on top of that though?

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4 minutes ago, NigelMoore said:

Are you not forgetting the 'mooring licence' charge on top of that though?

 

7 hours ago, NigelMoore said:

 

 

 The PLA have gone along with a preposterously grotesque deal that pretends to be within their legal remit. They are charging [for the “licence” to maintain Cadogan Pier] an annual “rent” starting at £53,050 and 25% of all mooring fees. Those mooring fees are set to skyrocket of course; projected fees of £168/foot/annum being announced, with [if I have understood correctly] almost double that for a 10 year licence premium.

 

 

 

I maybe misreading but it looks as if the PLA will be charging the operator :

1) Annual rent £53,050 +

2) A maintenance fee ( Licence fee ?) for the pier

3) 25% of Moorings income.

Are 1 & 2 one and the same ?

These will presumably all be paid from moorings income.

What is the '10 year licence fee/premium' all about, and who pays it, and why ?

 

The principles strike me as being similar to C&RTs.

Lease a marina - take an annual rent

Take 9% of moorings income for access to the canal

The odd-one-out appears to be this '10 year licence'

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36 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

What is the '10 year licence fee/premium' all about, and who pays it, and why ?

I think you are confusing the licence from the PLA and the licence from the moorings owner.

The PLA are charging the owner for a renewed “River Works Licence”; I don’t see any 2-tier payment schedule for that – he pays a fixed sum, plus extra depending upon moorings income – not unlike the CaRT marinas arrangement as you say.

The ’10 year licence’ is, as I understand it, an extra tier of payment from the tenants to the moorings operator for the same mooring. Boats pay an annual mooring fee. In order to be in a position to do so, they additionally pay to the owner a ‘licence’ to occupy the berth, guaranteed for 10 years.

I don’t have time to trawl back through all the detail, but it seems some boaters have somewhat foolishly sought to publicly disparage the owner for his arrangement with the PLA that he pays his percentage on the mooring fees but not on the ‘licence’. That in my opinion is entirely down to the 2 parties involved and cannot affect the moorers; it just increases the owner’s profit.

The ‘licence’ seems to be one way of ‘legitimately’ skirting the ‘need’ to increase the actual mooring fee [on which he pays his percentage to the PLA], akin to what some marinas call ‘key’ money. A lot of them do much the same thing with power supplies; they cannot legally charge the users at a rate greater than what they pay the electricity supplier, so they apply an additional charge for access, to cover administrative and infrastructure costs.

In short, the tenants are seemingly being asked to pay both for a mooring fee AND a periodic ‘licence’ giving a measure of security of tenure for a fixed period. If I have read the details aright, the standard 40’ x 12’ boats would pay an annual mooring fee of roughly £ 6,720, but additionally pay nearly a quarter million over 10 years for the privilege of doing so. That would bump the total annual charge applicable to approximately £30,000/annum.

Happy to be corrected if I have misunderstood, but it is in line with conversations I have had with occupants of those moorings in years past.

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7 minutes ago, NigelMoore said:

In short, the tenants are seemingly being asked to pay both for a mooring fee AND a periodic ‘licence’ giving a measure of security of tenure for a fixed period. If I have read the details aright, the standard 40’ x 12’ boats would pay an annual mooring fee of roughly £ 6,720, but additionally pay nearly a quarter million over 10 years for the privilege of doing so. That would bump the total annual charge applicable to approximately £30,000/annum.

Thank you.

That being the case their mooring is actually costing £2500 per month.

Being just a country-boy I can see no pleasure (or need) to be in London. If they really need to be, get a mooring in (say) Newark and pay £10,000 per annum for a train ticket, £3000 for a mooring and be 'quids-in'.

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Actually, broken down like that, many high-earners with a prediliction for living on the Thames in central London would probably consider it a bargain anyway. Medium size one-bed narrowboats on the Thames are commanding rentals of nearly £1500/month - and you don't even own the boat!

A 40'x 12' two story houseboat with uninterupted views across the Thames at Chelsea offers extensive living space in a prime location.

It is the degree of vulnerability to swingeing increases and arbitrarily moving goal posts that makes the situation far from idyllic to me.

I see that 2 of the wealthier tenants have taken this to the High Court, but CY&BC have a track record of obtaining favourable [to them] judgments repudiating protection under housing law. The classic case of CY&BC v Pope remains an internationally oft-cited reference, while the later Appeal decision in Tristmire Ltd v Mew [2012] really hammered it home. Perhaps they might get some traction from a claim based on unfair contracts?

Edited by NigelMoore

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I found the article I was thinking of, dated September 2004. Interesting to realis at this remove, if somewhat depressing, that the public and Parliamentary exposure of the background problems came about too late for educated representations for amendments in the Housing Bill – that did indeed become law a few months later, leaving houseboat occupants in the lurch as the only occupiers of any form of housing, stationary or mobile, without the otherwise universal protections against harassment and abuses.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/advice/propertymarket/3335470/Cast-adrift.html

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