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Leasehold campaigner cautious despite reform promises

The Leasehold Solutions Group has welcomed the government’s commitment to leasehold reform, which was reaffirmed in the Queen’s Speech.

However there is scepticism whether the reforms will go far enough, given that the government has been promising to reform leaseholds since 2017.

The Queen’s speech stated that the government will take forward a “comprehensive programme of reform to end unfair practices in the leasehold market” including working with the Law Commission to make leasehold enfranchisement “easier, quicker and more cost effective”, getting rid of unnecessary ground rents on new leases and giving leaseholders new rights to challenge unfair charges.

Louie Burns, managing director of The Leasehold Solutions Group, said: “Leaseholders have had more than their fair share of disappointments during 2019.

“For example, the publication of The Law Commission’s recommendations to government have been delayed time and again.

“Wanda Goldwag, the interim chair of the Leasehold Advisory Service – an organisation that is supposed to act in leaseholder’s best interests – refused to call for the government to set all future ground rents to zero.

“And Heather Wheeler, then Minister for Housing, took it upon herself to blame leaseholders for the ground rents scandal for getting ‘excited’ and not looking properly at the details of the lease they were signing.

“The Freeholder’s charter, a voluntary 14-point pledge launched by Wheeler, was particularly disappointing for leaseholders. Giving developers and freeholders – the very people responsible for the ground rent and leasehold housing scandal – the opportunity to regulate themselves, was a pathetic move that stands little chance of effecting real change.

“It was also made clear that the leasehold owners of retirement properties will be excluded from the benefits of any legislative changes. It is shameful that retirement home operators will be able to continue to exploit retired people through high ground rents, excessive service charges and event fees.

“It remains to be seen whether 2020 will bring the wide-ranging reforms necessary to make the leasehold system fair for homeowners. It is vital that all those involved in fighting leasehold as an unjust, unfair and unfit form of land tenure keep up the pressure on the Government to honour its many promises.”