News on the Block Article March 2015

I became non-executive Chairman of Leasehold Advisory Service on 1st January 2015 and the first three months has been a steep learning curve to understand the requirements of leading a Governmental arms-length body. I find myself sucked into issues and online comment from specific matters to general queries. I am finding everything that I have said or written in the past is scrutinised and quoted back at me as some rallying call for what we should be doing going forward.

The one thing I am old enough to know is that I will never please all the people and when you have a population as diverse as leasehold property this is even truer.

In February LEASE held a day conference which was paid for and attracts managers and lawyers and in the evening we hold a free conference for leaseholders. During the day I was asked to step in when the Housing Minister was detained at Parliament because of the Rotherham Council debacle.

I thought the 15 minutes I talked would be fairly uncontroversial asking for the professionals involved in the leasehold sector to communicate more effectively and to work with the leaseholders. I was surprised to hear a couple of comments outraged by my message to them.

Well had they been present in the evening session they would have been stunned to see nearly 100% of the audience of leaseholders put up their hands when asked if they thought their managers were trying to rip them off!

There is a lot to be achieved in the leasehold sector and I am committed to ensuring LEASE plays a full part in moving the service levels up and ensuring everyone involved is delivering a quality service. LEASE exists to give free advisory service to leaseholders and is here to help you. It would be unrealistic to think that there will never be any issues because of the amount of layers involved in developing and running the properties. I am sure that more can be done to explain processes and areas that would aid understanding and knowing where and how things can be addressed.

If you have any issues then LEASE is there for you and if you go to the website a wealth of information exists to guide and help on solutions and assistance. You can always fill in the online contact form if you have a more detailed query.

Roger Southam

14 March 2015

First Time Buyer article on LEASE – Whilst exciting, buying your home comes with responsibility, especially if leasehold

Buying your first home is the most exciting time imaginable and anyone who wants to put practicality in the way of the romance of the purchase has a hard task. It is the largest investment you will make and having your eyes open on the responsibilities is essential.

These two conflicting sentences create an important realism for you. Enjoy the excitement but make sure you know your commitment. If you buy a leasehold property it is essential you know your rights, responsibilities and liabilities. The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) exists to give information and guidance to leaseholders.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is seeking to have information presented to prospective purchasers before they look at a leasehold property to ensure they have the understanding of what is involved and their eyes are wide open.

On 1st January 2015 Roger Southam was appointed non-exec Chairman by the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis. Roger has been involved in various aspects of property for over 30 years and specialised in aspects of residential management over the last 9 years. His appointment came at a time when there has been a large focus on leasehold ad leaseholders. We have had the Competition and Markets Authority carry out an investigation in to how to improve the leasehold market and the last Government responded with positive responses in seeking to help leaseholders.

LEASE was formed 21 years ago and over the years has helped thousands of leaseholders with queries and problems. The challenge facing LEASE is the same as for any other Government department or arms-length body, namely budget cuts. Therefore the most pressing challenge facing Roger is the dual facet of making the service economically viable accompanied with expanding the remit to encapsulate all the challenges and communication needed going forward.

This is a challenge he is well equipped to meet having run his own company for the last 26 years and ridden through 3 recessions and caught the wave of the markets capitalising at the peaks.

He commented “LEASE is at an exciting time in its history. There is fabulous work carried out by the team and every day we are helping more and more leaseholders. The service is so well respected that lawyers and managers will use the service for their own queries. It is this respect for the first class advisers that gives us scope to capitalise on the service. We are very clear that the leaseholders will always have free advise from our service available to them. But we can go on to expand our facets to deliver new ways of educating and assisting the professionalisation of the residential management services.”

Expanding on the first time buyers he went on the say “With the housing shortage the UK faces more and more developers are building blocks of flats and creating leasehold properties. There is nothing wrong with the leasehold tenure in all its forms including shared ownership. However we have to make sure that we educate new entrants to the market place and make sure that they always have a place to seek answers as necessary”

The LEASE web portal is a great source of information in the form of guides and frequently asked questions and they put on training courses, conferences and seminars around the Country. LEASE has a remit to make sure that the leasehold market is well informed and where areas need change, informing and advising to influence to improve the market.

He concluded “LEASE offers a special service to meeting the needs of the market for high quality and clear advise. The web site should be the first port of call to assist you and if you have you need to speak to an advisor, they are always on the end of the phone to assist.”

“I hope over my five year tenure that I can ensure we see fairness for all in the leasehold sector.”

For the first time buyer, it is fairly typical to be buying a leasehold property. Therefore enjoying the excitement is important but also make sure you know your rights and responsibilities. Of course LEASE is always there to help you.