Ethical Property Company accused of mistreating its charity tenants

Former tenants of the social business say it did not live up to its principles while it was selling the north London building in which they worked

The Archway building
The Archway building

The Ethical Property Company has been accused of mistreating charities in its handling of the sale of one of its buildings.

Former tenants of the EPC, which owns 24 buildings across the UK and was landlord to 212 charities, community interest companies and not for profits in 2014/15, have claimed the company failed to live up to its ethical principles in the lead-up to selling its building in Archway, north London, last month.

The eight tenants at the office building, all charitable organisations, were informed in November last year that the building was due to be sold for development.

Five of the charities, all of them on heavily subsidised rents, had lease agreements protecting their tenancies until 2018 or 2020, but three were told their contracts were being terminated with three months’ notice, although this was later extended to six months.

The 3,000-sq-ft property was sold last month to another landlord, and the space left by the three charities is still vacant.

The Small Steps Project, an international aid charity, was among those forced to move out, and the charity’s two employees are now working from home after being unable to find alternative office space.

Amy Hanson, the charity’s chief executive, said the company’s behaviour before the sale had been "a disgrace".

At the initial meeting, the company had been very supportive, she said, but had later become rude and cold, and had taken weeks to answer questions.

"The impact on the charity has been absolutely devastating," Hanson said. "It has cost a fortune, we’ve been trying to work remotely while supporting beneficiaries and working 14 hours days, and we’re completely exhausted.

"And it’s needless – our offices are empty."

She said the EPC did not offer the charity a space in another of its buildings. Hanson added: "They’re not in any way ethical and they are completely misleading."

Ali McGinley, director of the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees, which is still in the building, said she and the other tenants had received very little communication over the eight-month period, other than the initial confirmation that the company was intending to sell, the extension of the notice period for the charities that were required to leave and the notice that the sale had taken place.

"They could have made this so much easier just by talking to us," she said.

When her charity asked what sort of help the company would provide to the charity to find alternative accommodation if it did decide to surrender its lease, she said she was sent a "piece of A4 paper with the names of half a dozen other landlords on it, and that was it".

Susi Bascon, UK director of Peacebridges, which has been in the building for 18 years and has a protected contract, said her charity had been offered £7,500 in compensation if it surrendered its lease.

"We consulted lawyers, asked if it was fair and made calculations, but with the cost associated with moving it was actually a very small sum," she said.

Asked to comment on the company’s actions, Conrad Peberdy, director of development at the Ethical Property Company, said the charities concerned had received correspondence about the situation: "If they feel that wasn’t satisfactory, then I am apologetic to them. They would have received communication above and beyond any statutory requirement to do so."

He said the notice, compensation and support offered to charities had been dictated by the terms of their contracts and rejected the idea that the company’s ethical branding was misleading.

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