With a general election just six months away, what are the main parties offering the approximately nine million voters living in leasehold? Research by Leasehold Knowledge Partnership found that more than 25% of the housing stock in England & Wales is held in leasehold. In London, where there are more flats than houses, this percentage will be higher.
In Europe, US and Australia, leasehold has been replaced with a modern and fairer tenure. Scotland and Northern Ireland have dispensed with it too. The law has been tweaked many times in recent years, but is still full of loopholes that commercial property owners can easily exploit. So it’s definitely encouraging that LKP have managed to identify the key problems and sum them up in a 7-point all-party election manifesto:
- Statutory regulation of property management firms holding hundreds of millions of pounds of leaseholders’ service charge monies, with robust protection of those funds.
- Immediate ending of forfeiture that gives freeholders inequitable powers to seize leasehold properties and all equity in them in cases of breach of lease.
- The property tribunal’s unfair cost regime favours freeholders and should be ended.
- A thorough review is needed as soon as possible of all legislation that impacts on leasehold and produces inefficiencies.
- Existing legislation that has become out-dated should be subject to review: eg the section 20 major works consultation procedures, and lift some of the regulations imposed on self-governing leaseholder-managed sites.
- Right to manage by leaseholders is a no-fault procedure introduced in 2002 that is being frustrated or delayed on minor administrative grounds by legal professionals. This should be stopped.
- Commonhold property tenure (which exists in almost all countries except England and Wales) was introduced in 2002 and should be encouraged – including a deadline after which all new-build flats must be commonhold.