This week Leasehold Knowledge Partnership reports a scandal that shows how right to buy, combined with feudal leasehold law, creates fresh hell for ordinary Londoners trying to get a secure roof over their heads.
Within months of completing their purchase the tenants-now-leaseholders are presented with massive bills for major works. In Lambeth a bill for £38,000, in Haringey for £44,000 and Brent, £15,000. One leaseholder has managed to challenge it after a 10-month legal battle but several of her friends are facing the same monstrous bills. Sebastian O’Kelly of LKP spoke about this on Radio 4’s You and Yours, and what people in this situation can do.
The situation arises from already problematic methods in the way local councils award maintenance contracts to private contractors – often for 5 – 10 years with no competitive costing. LKP reports nine current convictions or investigations into local council major works schemes. And so the tenant who buys their home, unwittingly buys into this too – a toxic gravy train of inflated and unaudited costs.
In the same week Parliament debated the Housing Bill and Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse again urged the long overdue reform to phase out all leasehold tenure by 2020 and replace it with Commonhold saying “There are major anomalies and weaknesses in leasehold regulation, including the amount paid in service charges, as well as insurance, ground rent and forfeiture charges, all of which mean that leaseholders are vulnerable to unscrupulous freeholders. Sadly, there are too many such freeholders, even though they are in the minority.”
Sadly he’s right. And not only freeholders, but also thousands of managing agents and solicitors who earn their crust from the quirks and absurdities of leasehold law. As leaseholders our challenge is to join forces and make our voices louder than theirs!