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Omitted from websites of estate agents, chartered surveyors, Eastbourne Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC), East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and the Sovereign Harbour Residents Association (SHRA) is any mention that all who purchase freehold and leasehold properties and their successors in Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour become covenanted to pay an Annual Estate Rentcharge (AER) of the type found nowhere else in Britain, Europe and the world. Sovereign Harbour is owned by the privately-held The Wellcome Trust which owns Premier Marinas Ltd, the Sovereign Harbour Trust (SHT) and its subsidiary Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) Community Interest Company Ltd.  The purpose of the latter is to charge Sovereign Harbour residents the Annual Estate Rentcharge, not give them any beneficial community interest. The SHT levies the AER and its Sea Defences CIC demands it. Nor does any estate agent website marketing any Sovereign Harbour residential property show a link to the SHT and its AER components. They make it clear the AER is not a nominal sum but a significant one, £263.55 per residential unit in 2020 irrespective of whether the property is worth £175,000 or £1.4 million. The AER is not instead of but in addition to council taxes, property insurance, management fees and ground rents. Deeds for each AER-registered property showing the AER obligation are registered by the harbour owners' private Sovereign Harbour Trust and/or its private Community Interest Company (both of which have an Eastbourne Borough Councillor on their boards of directors and trustees) with the Land Registry. Nor is it mentioned that some of the AER paid by Sovereign Harbour owner- residents (but not by The Wellcome Trust or Premier Marinas or any of their entities or any of the many property developers and other businesses that benefit much more than harbour residents) to the SHT is paid by the SHT to the Environment Agency for flood defence provided by the private Pevensey Bay Sea Defence Ltd (PBSD). Yet omitted from their websites is any mention that only the 3,500 Sovereign Harbour owner-residents, none of the 17,500 homeowners in Pevensey, Pevensey Bay,  Wealden District Council and Bexhill, Eastbourne or elsewhere in the UK pay this cost. Also omitted are that this flood defence scheme does not just include the 1 kilometre width of Sovereign Harbour but also the area 9 miles east of Sovereign Harbour from Pevensey Bay to Bexhill on Sea. Because estate agents do not refer to this principal AER covenant, mortgage companies are misled into believing only a harbour charge applies, not an estate rentcharge that mortgage companies either deny to applicants or charge extra to indemnify. A second unique covenant similarly undisclosed upfront by estate agents requires owners/leaseholders of 369 South Harbour properties within the water feature precinct to pay an (additional, not applicable elsewhere) annual water feature charge of more than £310. Potential new buyers of Sovereign Harbour property also need to know upfront that although Sovereign Harbour is a private estate they as buyers and exclusive payers of the AER get no exclusivity, the general public and their dogs can access Sovereign Harbour beaches, pathways and walkways at no cost..

Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne: before buying or leasing a property here know vital financial facts

Estate agents and surveyors do not obey legislation requiring full disclosure about expensive covenants unique-in-the-world to this area

By Keith A. Forbes. Disabled, he lives with his wife in the harbour and writes, administers and webmasters this website as a member of the UK's The Society of Authors and an activist for the elderly and disabled

Sovereign Harbour North

Two most recent pieces of legislation apply

They are the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (BPRs). The government took this step to reduce duplicate legislation regulating estate agents and other businesses involved in property sales and lettings. The previous legislation, the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 (PMA), which had made it a criminal offence for estate agents to make false or misleading statements about properties being offered for sale, was repealed on 1 October 2013.

Estate agents and others involved in property sales and lettings should all now know beyond doubt that the 2008 Regulations now offer far more protection to individuals against misleading sales particulars and advertising than was the case earlier.

The CPRs prohibit all traders from using unfair commercial practices in their dealings with individual consumers, and estate agents in particular are prohibited from engaging in commercial practices that are unfair to sellers, buyers, potential sellers or potential buyers of residential property. The BPRs prohibit traders in all sectors, including estate agents, from using misleading practices in their business-to-business advertisements. This includes misleading marketing used to advertise property for sale. While the PMA only covered estate agents, the CPRs and BPRs are much wider in scope covering letting agents and property managers. 

The CPRs prohibit misleading actions that cause or are likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision he or she would not have taken otherwise. A transactional decision is not just whether a consumer decides to purchase a property but also includes such things as to whether to view a property in the first place. A misleading action or omission includes omitting to mention any deeds or covenants or restrictions unique to an area such an in Sovereign Harbour with its unique-inthe-world annual estate rentcharge, the covenants it imposes that do not exist aanywhere else in the world and the fact that they include a flood defence charge that no one else in the entire UK has to pay. extra conditions and costs that no other place in the UK or Europe or the world and other factors that nowhere else impose must surely stated upfront to would-be buyers instead of being concealed.

As the CPRs and BPRs have been in force since 2008 there is no excuse for estate agents to ignore them. The Office of Fair Trading has published guidance for estate agents on the new Regulations on what they need to know in applying descriptions on a property. They have been circulated and can be seen at https://www.businesscompanion.info/en/quick-guides/services/estate-agents-property-descriptions. There is also now a specified Code of Practice for all residential Estate Agents and relevant others. See it at https://www.tradingstandards.uk/media/documents/commercial/codes-of-practice/tpo-sales.pdf

Thus, Estate agents and relevant others selling or leasing or renting properties to consumers need to be particularly careful about how they advertise properties for sale or lettings, and to make sure their particulars on properties are accurate. Describing properties as ‘stunning’, ‘desirable’ or in a ‘quiet area’ now require evidence to back up such statements. 

Estate agents and relevant others selling or leasing or renting properties to consumers particulars that contain misleading omissions are also liable by the new Regulations. Agents who do not wish to be in contravention of the new rules and regulations are now expected to make sure they have all their client vendors or landlords check and sign off on the accuracy of their particulars. Agents should also ensure their staff are trained on making certain their particulars and advertising are compliant with the Regulations.

General disclaimers telling buyers not to rely on details are not effective in preventing offences. 

Estate agents and other businesses involved in property sales and leasing or letting that breach either the CPRs or BPRs risk prosecution by their local authority trading standards services responsible for enforcement by bringing criminal prosecutions. On conviction, agents can face substantial fines or in more serious cases imprisonment.

Properties available

Estate Agents and other businesses involved in Sovereign Harbour property sales and lettings that ignore the above include:

Also see local house and flat prices at  http://www.home.co.uk/guides/house_prices.htm?location=eastbourne.

To comply fully with the 2008 CPRs and BPRs above, Estate Agents, developers and property managers should be stating the following on all Sovereign Harbour properties they market: 

Other factors you should consider:

http://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/money/property/buying-and-selling/avoid-the-six-sneaky-tricks-estate-agents-might-try 

Martello Tower 64 on Sovereign North Harbour beach

Martello Tower 64. Photo cc Keith and Lois Forbes

Advice from good law firms and others to avoid places with an Estate Rent Charge (like Sovereign Harbour)

This author also, on a daily basis, writes, edits, manages, publishes and web-masters the following

165-plus webfiles of Bermuda Online

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Keith A. Forbes at editor@sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk
© 2020. Revised: December 3, 2020