The Leasehold Advisory Service starts the year with a new Chairman. Roger Southam, a chartered surveyor and property manager, was appointed by the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, for a 5-year term.
Although his background, as founder of the Chainbow property investment company, suggests more familiarity with property management than the day-to-day problems facing leaseholders, he has previously spoken out against excessive insurance charges, telling the Evening Standard’s Homes & Property in 2007 that “London flat-owners are being regularly ripped off by their managing agents”. But when tasked by RICS to investigate the practice he claims he met with “nothing but obstruction”.
The LAS is funded by taxpayers but not accountable to any government department. Its critics say it fails to properly represent the interests of leaseholders. There are none on its board and at the 2010 annual conference, it allowed a speaker to set out how to inflate building insurance commissions and not disclose them to leaseholders.
Mr Southam has responded to criticisms made by Leasehold Knowledge, claiming that “I am still as much opposed to excessive insurance commission as ever I was and it should be acknowledged how much the market has changed. There will always be a small minority who want to push boundaries but on the whole it is getting better as the CMA (Competition & Markets Authority) acknowledged in their latest report.”
The spontaneous reform of the sector since 2010 will come as news to most leaseholders but let’s hope once he gets his feet under the desk he takes a long hard look at the overcharging, kickbacks and lack of transparency in insurance and starts sweeping up!