Fellowship of the IRPM!

The IRPM educates and seeks to professionalise the property management industry for the residential leasehold sector. Each year they hold a fellows meeting which is more of a think tank and explores how the property management industry can better serve its customers.  One perennial topic is the constant challenges for any service industry is to overcome prejudice and perception.  If you think about NHS, British Rail, HMRC, even the banking industry, the chat in the pub or media coverage can colour your judgement of the service delivery and performance.

It is impossible to have a balanced argument with any negative preconceptions being brought into play. So what is your preconceived perception of the NHS?  Is it failing, privatising, a basket case? Do you believe press coverage and anecdote or have you had good experience that you dismiss as not typical because of the wider media coverage.

In the leasehold industry there are responsible managers wanting to deliver good service and manage professionally. Equally there are managers who do not have any desire to professionalise or improve.  There is no other arena where so much public money is held without regulation.  It has to be right for the property management profession to be regulated.  The challenge is getting parliamentary time allocated to bring this into play.  When focussed on Brexit and regulation reduction targets it is a tough shout to convince politicians adding a new regulated activity is appropriate.

Training and qualifications exist to show where managers have committed to professionalise and provide quality management services. So recognising the IRPM logo and commitment to training of staff is a way to seek professional managers along with ARMA Q and RICS regulation.

This is not a problem unique to the UK. In the USA there has been a long standing initiative to professionalise property management and to make it a career of choice rather than people falling in to it.  This is a never ending mission and one that takes constant reinforcement.  How appealing is it to ask someone to join a profession where there is a level of abuse and rage that can be sole destroying.  That is not conducive to getting the best out of anyone.  But for some they feel it is acceptable if they do not get their way or they are not happy with an outcome to abuse the manager.

Equally it is not acceptable for managers to not reply to emails or fail to deal with things. But in reality we are dealing with real people in real life.  Can all leaseholders say they are perfect in their jobs?  Have never made a mistake?  Well who castigates you?  Who shouts at you?  Some of the emails I have seen over the years and call made are unbelievable.  We all get frustrated with poor service but it is never right to take it out on the individual.

So we need leaseholders and managers alike to get on to the same side of the table and approach matters in a mature manner to keep improving property management services. Working together will be far more effective than conflict and challenge.

Roger Southam

Non Exec Chair Leasehold Advisory Service

1 October 2016

Squatting in your own flat!

Over 6 years ago I moved flats and found I had owned a different flat to the one I had lived in! I have been involved in property for nearly 40 years having started life as an Estate Agent during school holidays while doing A levels. Therefore I should know a thing or two. But what caught me out has now happened to two thirds of the owners of a block of flats in Carlisle.

The problem I am talking about is when you find the flat you bought and have lived in is not the flat registered at Land Registry! Now sitting reading this you are likely to say “how on earth can that happen?” How on earth indeed! Well in reality it is fairly simple to see how it can happen. If there is a new block of flats the individual units will usually be given a plot number that may not be the same as the eventual postal number. Equally the conveyancer for the developer may be preparing leases and agreement for leases for a very large number of units. Either of these two factors can result in a very simple error but one that can cause stress and distress and create a challenge to unpick.

If the wrong flat is identified in the lease plan or the wrong plan used in filing at Land Registry then you can find you live in one flat but legally have registered a different flat. I was lucky because in my case the error turned out to be on just my flat. So we only had to rectify the manifest error at Land Registry on my flat title. However with Willow Court in Carlisle the issue affected ten of the fifteen apartments in the building. The problem comes to light when someone sells their flat.

So how and why does it occur? Well the simple answer would be lazy conveyancing from your lawyer. Although this doesn’t take into account the reality of the transactional process. Now at his point I must make it clear, I am not making excuses for the errors and I am not seeking to excuse the errors. It should never happen and when it does it can create a huge amount of distress and result in loss of a sale of the flat.

Housebuilders and developers rely on the sales of the flats to fund the development of the flats. They conveyancing solicitor may oversee a large number of buildings and flats. The work of putting the leases together will fall to an administrator and depending on work load and time of the year will lead to pressures to produce documents quickly or it can just be simple human error. Now one would hope the solicitor or conveyancer acting for you would pick up the problem. But how would they? Unless they send the paperwork they are going to file at Land Registry to you to check first and you can read a plan then it is possible to create the problem. If your solicitor hasn’t been to the property (and in reality that is extremely unlikely!) they would not necessarily know the right flat. Compounded if the plot numbers and the postal numbers differ. A different example really highlights the need for checking and speaking with the advisors when buying your home.

Years ago a neighbour had a bigger problem which really highlights the challenge of conveyancing and buying your home. They bought a house in a small village. The house was “L” shaped and had a small single storey extension at the corner of the “L”. When we went to build on top of the extension they discovered the extension had been built with no planning permission and the foundations would not support the additional floor on top. He thought either his building surveyor or solicitor had been negligent in not picking up either of these issues. On breaking it down however it became apparent that in reality it was communication that was lacking. The only person who knew the whole picture was my neighbour. He hadn’t told the solicitor of the extension and the conveyancing plan did not show the extension, so the solicitor would not know it existed.

The building surveyor hadn’t seen the conveyancing plan and therefore thought all he saw was in order. The building surveyor hadn’t been told my neighbour wanted to build on top and therefore would not comment on foundations, they were doing the job for the single storey.

So I would always advocate making sure you check the plans, reports on title, all the information you get to be sure it is right. The only person who has a full picture of what you are buying and able to determine the lines are in the right place is you. Therefore dull as it sounds it is worth checking! After all you don’t want to squat in your own home.

Roger Southam

Non Exec Chair Leasehold Advisory Service

14 October 2016

Disruptors & Challenges

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Negotiator Conference on the subject on the changes in the housing market which prompted an interesting reaction. Asking how many of the estate agents were aware of the Information for Leaseholders sheet which should be given to all prospective buyers there was not a hand in the room which went up. Not one of the attendees was distributing the document.

For the leasehold market to deliver fairness and evenness for all will require the buyers to know what they are buying into with a leasehold property. We have to make sure that through the NAEA we get the message out widely and ensure the information is made available for all. If purchasers understand what rights and responsibilities they are buying it will assist the improvements in the service delivery.

In any capitalist society profit is a driving force and property development is no different. As we speed through the 21st Century there is a growing requirement to deliver transparency and compassion in all business arenas. Complying with the law is not being enough, businesses have to deliver morals and compassion above and beyond the law. A good thing and it means that standards will be raised step by step. Of course the challenge sits with who provides the moral compass.

We are seeing a seed change in politics where the old guard is being disrupted by fed up voters wanting change. Business arenas are being disrupted by new entrants the most obvious examples being taxis versus Uber; record sales versus Spotify; letting versus AirBnb.

In a recent case (Nemcova v Fairfield Rents Ltd) a leaseholder has found themselves unable to use AirBnb to rent out the property because of breaching the terms of the lease. Some would see the lease being at fault in not allowing someone to use a flat as they wish and not to be able to make money as they wish. But it is something they could have checked in advance as the terms of the lease would dictate a properties use.

Uber has relied on its driving staff being self-employed so they could deliver cheap fares. They had no assets and owned nothing, effectively just providing a virtual service. Well no longer, the British Courts have ruled the drivers are employees and entitled to employment rights. So is it the fact that people could get cheap fares that they didn’t mind about the treatment of the Uber drivers?

We are seeing shifts in estate agency to provide cheaper agency services by online platforms that let you become the agent. How will that allow for complex transactions or explaining leasehold? Coupled with cheap conveyancing outlets who do not charge enough to be able to explain lease terms in detail. These disruptors in the market place could actually compound the lack of leasehold understanding.

If someone buys a flat intending to use AirBnb would they tell the conveyancer to have it specifically checked? Would a cheap conveyancer look out and flag the issue? We are in for interesting times, but it behoves all property professionals to work to ensure all leaseholders know their rights and responsibilities.

Roger Southam

Non Exec Chair

Leasehold Advisory Service www.lease-advice.org

6 November 2016

First Time Buyers Club

You cannot open a paper or turn on the news without mention of housing in some context or other. For the residential professionals 2017 will herald a new Housing White Paper and this is eagerly expected. The Law Commission are looking at leasehold property and engaging with the profession as to areas needing improvement or change. There is also no shortage of initiatives to aid the first time buyer and this is really exciting.

For any first time buyer the prospect of getting on the housing ladder is exciting but equally scary and challenging. The Government is certainly focused on how to aid and deliver housing stock that will facilitate your first step. The latest initiative sees a commitment for developments of houses only for first time buyers. It is essential of course that the first time buyer is equipped with all the knowledge they need to be able to take on the commitment of owning a home with eyes wide open and aware of your liabilities and responsibilities.

For housing estates it is increasingly common to find they are sold with leasehold tenure. This means you own the property for a term of years under a contract called a lease which provides specific obligations and liabilities. The reasons for this can be many fold. It could be because the estate roads and land remain private with the houses and need maintaining therefore the leasehold facilitates the governance and management of those areas; it could be because the developer owns the land leasehold or it could just be that the developer is wanting to sell the ground rent income stream as well as selling the houses. This can be a lucrative source of income for the developer.

Whatever the reason if you buy a leasehold house it is worth preparing yourself to understand your rights and responsibilities. It is always worth doing this but especially with houses because the landlord and tenant legislation that exists generally does not offer as much protection for leasehold houses as it does for flats. For example if you have a leasehold house you cannot challenge the service charge at First tier Tribunal for reasonableness which you can with a service charge for a flat.

If leasehold houses are to continue to multiply then there needs to be some form of action from the Government with regard to legislative governance. For example it would be very easy to remove all residential statutes and put in a place a single Act which covers all the existing provisions that are operable. Over the years as legislation is layered on top of itself parts of Acts become redundant and parts of Acts become superseded. Therefore a consolidating Act would put everything in one place and remove a heap of statutes from the legislative books. A consolidating Act would also facilitate the extension of provisions to cover houses as well as flats and thereby affording leasehold house owners protection.

There is always Commonhold that could be promoted for houses with estate management. It is generally considered that the current legislation from 2002 is flawed and needs amendment to make it work. It would also require a wide ranging education process to ensure that all areas of the residential market understands the tenure type. At present there are only around 16 buildings held in Commonhold. Mortgage companies do not understand them and are reluctant to lend on them, estate agents see them so rarely they do not appreciate what it offers.

The need for educating the market should not preclude the use of Commonhold but without parliamentary intervention it will be hard to see its wide spread use. Especially as developers have the option of selling the ground rent income stream that leasehold can offer.

Consistent professional standards in property management is the other part of the jigsaw that is needed. An organisation called ARMA (Association of Residential Managing Agents) are doing good work in professionalising the residential property managers however they only account for around 25% of the market place. Anyone can set up as a managing agent without any knowledge, controls, or professional indemnity insurance. When service charge monies collected from a site can amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds then it is worrying. I do not know of any other industry or profession where the public’s money is taken without the need for control or regulation. Therefore whilst parliament generally dislikes regulation and has eased a lot of controls over the last couple of decades it would be sensible to see regulation introduced in this arena.

As we move through 2017 and you first time buyers are wooed and courted and seduced by estate agents and developers to fill the homes coming your way, perhaps a thought or two on what do I need to know? How can I best educate myself? Of course the guides on the Leasehold Advisory Service website are always there to help and educate.

Roger Southam

Non Exec Chair Leasehold Advisory Service

7 January 2017

From Developer to Manager – a journey

It is always exciting to be buying a brand new property, whether it is your first home, your next step or an investment for your pension. It is like any retail experience where the newness and expectation is all; except of course on the largest scale you will buy anything and you need a lot of help and guidance.

If you are buying a new flat in a new development your first engagement will most likely be with the developer’s sales team. You will be looking at plans, models and 3D imagery in the show home alongside the scaffolding, cranes and concrete. Once the development reaches practical completion, (PC i.e. finished to be able to complete the sale to you) then it is time for the final checks, completion of legal paperwork and transfer of the purchase price. The keys are handed over and the flat is yours.

At practical completion the management of the property will be passed over to the managing agent who will be responsible for running the service charge and delivering the services to maintain the building. This is where the grey areas start. In an ideal World at practical completion everything will be finished perfectly and the builders would all leave site and the manager take over.

In reality because of the process of development it doesn’t work like that. The contractor wants to get their money for building the building and wants PC as soon as possible. The developer wants PC so they can complete the sales and get in the purchase monies to be able to pay the contractor and make their profits. This often means that the first units sold will still have other parts to finish around them. The timescales and impacts can be dictated by when the contractor or developers year end is or quite simply the nature of the financing of the development. A complicated process and it has been ever thus probably back to when Noah contracted his Ark to be built.

The biggest challenge this can create however is between flat owner and managing agent. You do not care who deals with what parts if you have items not working or the next phase of the building works is causing nuisance, dirt or dust. However, it is important to understand the different roles and the different relationships between the various parties as it can ease stress and strain as well as enable more effective solutions to your issues.

Perhaps the development process is one area that needs explaining more and there should be a greater understanding of the different roles and responsibilities. When the purchase of a flat is a very occasional experience you have to learn so much so quickly that easy guidance and assistance is essential. The team at the Leasehold Advisory Service are there to help and advice. On the website there is wealth of advice and guidance.

Roger Southam

Non Exec Chair Leasehold Advisory Service

8 January 2017

Right from wrong?

There was something reassuring when films and TV depicted the good guys in white and the bad guys in dark colours. Seeing the Lone Ranger and Tonto rid the Wild West of the evil outlaws in their dark Stetsons and waistcoats you always knew the World was a good place. Well in our technicolour, multimedia age the ability to spot right from wrong is more challenging. Of course one bad experience and conspiracy theories abound about how everyone is out to be corrupt and rip people off. Generally an experience you have will be reinforced from conversation with others, replaying in your head or reaction to the issue. This is never truer than in leasehold management.

It may be a matter completely unrelated to where your ire is directed but an incident in one place escalates and magnifies everything. As an example if your common parts are redecorated and you don’t like them (after all decor can be incredibly subjective) you may find fault with the managers accounts, the communication from management, the response times, etc. Trying to keep perspective can be incredibly difficult and certainly if someone feels wronged it is incredibly personal. For a property manager to empathise or alter perception can be very difficult.

I have often said that it is important to educate leaseholders to ensure they know their rights and responsibilities they sign up to but more importantly to be able to know what to expect and receive in the management and running of the service charge.

I was a leaseholder before I went into residential management and I am still a leaseholder; living in leasehold and not as an absentee landlord. It has always been fascinating to be on the receiving end of management services. Of course I have a wide and deep knowledge of the sector but it is interesting to watch discussion amongst my fellow leaseholders on the perspectives and opinions levelled at the managing agents and ground rent owners. Two recent incidents.

Firstly I am sent a service charge demand with arrears from July 2016. I check and I had paid the whole invoice. Turns out it relates to a balancing charge from the previous year end accounts but not described as such. To get clarity and resolution took two months. I know this is pressure of time and someone trying to deal too quickly rather than thinking through the matter. It happens easily and often in any business. I am sure you will have had similar situations in your own work. But because it is so personal and your home or investment, and you have some control it is way more suspicious. Secondly, the ground rent owner wrongly allocated a payment made and claimed I hadn’t paid. Easily solved by identifying the payment and having it reallocated. But I had to go to the trouble of looking up and engaging.

In reality no major issues but I could extrapolate into rhetoric of the agents being incompetent and not caring. In reality it is just life and busy companies doing the best they can. As a lot of other businesses and companies are doing every day.

So I would urge everyone in the sector to make sure we try and recognise that not everything will be perfect and work together. We need to get perspective and make sure we recognise the ones who are trying to deliver service from those who really are not. Sometimes mistakes occur, we are all human after all.

Roger Southam

Non Exec Chair

Leasehold Advisory Service www.lease-advice.org

23 January 2017

Can the UK benefit from following the American model for PRS?

Over the last 20 years the US multifamily market has blossomed into a key sector of the US residential market. From the early days of Mom and Pop rentals, the Private Rented Sector (PRS) now sees major corporations running hundreds of thousands of units. With a core focus on service and rent maximisation, PRS in the US has grown and matured.

The UK has seen a similar Mom and Pop approach with buy-to-let, though the Institutional PRS is in infancy compared with the American model. However, by considering the lessons learnt in the US over the last two decades, we can aim to avoid the pitfalls and errors made to increase returns and delivery in a more effective way from the outset.

One simple example is rent maximisation. After many years of trial and error the US now boasts high specification analytical tools and systems to effectively monitor daily pricing of rents. This means that at any point the manager and letting team know the value of their units to let effectively and mitigate voids. This can be adopted in the UK and some American suppliers are bringing the tools over. Analytical tools are vital if PRS to deliver returns to make the asset class viable and attractive to institutional investors.

We can also look to the US for its exemplary customer service in PRS. Confidence and the willingness to go the extra mile to assist renters is at the centre of the US’s successful model. The same quality of service needs to be adopted in the UK.

Another key differential that should be addressed is the lettings market. In the US a customer will be dealt with directly by the PRS management company and a letting will be handled in-house as part of the service. In the UK the lettings market has grown differently and, in most cases, a third-party letting agent will handle enquiries. This is not a problem in itself: the third party agent has a distinct place – we just have to align interests and make sure they are incentivised to achieve long-term renters.

The UK system leans towards short-term lets with fees driven by a constant turnover of lettings. In reality, be it buy-to-let or build-to-rent, the property owner in PRS should always want to have a long-term renter who is responsible and reliable and the customer’s needs should come first and foremost. We need to recognise this for the sector to evolve.

By working with the US and learning from their PRS model, we can showcase good standards of practice, share our learned experiences and evolve as a united sector that works for both investor and renter.

Savills is a member of the UK Apartment Association (UKAA), the first overseas affiliate to the US National Apartment Association (NAA), which has been set up with exactly this objective in mind. With the UKAA now up and running we hope to share the lessons learnt in the US to facilitate the growth of the market.

As featured on Savills blog

What are the biggest challenges facing the UK’s Build-to-Rent sector?

The Build to Rent (BTR) sector, a sub-sector of the UK’s Private Rented Sector (PRS), has come a long way in the last six years with new Government-backed measures, an increasing number of local authorities placing it high on the agenda and evidence of an appetite for large-scale investment into the sector.

Savills research also suggests that rental demand will expand by 200,000 households a year, as an increasing number of people are priced out of homeownership but do not qualify for social housing. With the rapid rate of expansion there are unsurprising challenges on how the UK PRS sector expands to meet this demand. In terms of BTR, these broadly fall under three headings: management, development and knowledge.

Management
Management is key in ensuring the UK can offer a truly customer-focused delivery of scale, with consistency across the sector. Without the correct management and regulation in place, it is all too easy for there to be disparity in the quality of the offer and one bad experience could negatively impact the overall reputation of the emerging BTR sector. Therefore it’s imperative we iron out any loopholes where there is an opportunity for landlords to offer a substandard service. These changes need to be made now rather than further down the line when a reputation may already be tarnished.

Development
There are over four million rental properties in the UK’s BTR market currently and, with the development pipeline, institutional stock will account for just 5 per cent by 2020. We have to make sure that this institutional stock is developed to a quality that lifts the market generally to improve rental experience across the board. The institutional stock will create its own demand, attracting tenants who want a high standard of amenities and the lifestyle that goes with them. We can already see rents in areas surrounding new BTR builds rising as a direct result and it is therefore vital that the management and delivery of such schemes is carried out thoroughly and successfully to avoid bad experiences for the renter (and the investor) and allow the asset class to flourish and grow.

Knowledge
Investors and developers need to communicate with property managers to understand what renters want and guarantee that the end product meets demand.

As featured on Savills blog.

Property Week PRS Article

What is/are the biggest challenges facing the UK PRS sector at the moment?

At the present time the biggest challenges facing the UK PRS sector is threefold and broadly falls into management, development and relevance. Management is key to make sure the UK can offer a truly customer focus delivery in scale and this should raise standards across the board although from current examples the impact of a PRS building can raise rents in the surrounding area as people move to the PRS building. If the market delivery is of a low quality service then it could have negative impact on the investors and their aspirations as well as leaving the renters with more to complain about.

Development because it is essential the amenities and quality of the build is meeting the needs of the renters and the area and commensurate with delivery. This is ultimately a matter for the investors and developers but it would be a great shame if the early PRS buildings produced are not fit for the renters nor are differentiated to the existing rental market.

Relevance because there are over 4 million rental properties in the market currently and with the current development pipeline, the institutional stock will account for around 5%. We have to make sure that the institutional stock lifts the market generally to improve rental experience across the board. The institutional stock will create its own demand and from current examples we can already see rental in the surrounding areas rising. It is therefore vital that the management and delivery avoids bad experiences for the renter to give relevance and allow the asset class to flourish and grow.

In a letter to Property Week last year Roger wrote: “Can we benefit from following the American model? Do we need controls? Do we need everyone to work together? The answer to all these questions is yes.” How can we benefit from the American model, why do we need controls and why do people need to work together?

We can benefit from the American models because we can learn from the mistakes they have made over the last two decades avoiding the pitfalls and errors and increasing our returns and delivery in a more effective way. One simple example is maximisation of rent. This has been twenty years in growing in the USA and when I first encountered it in 2012 in the USA it was an obvious game changer. Chainbow have effectively utilised this technique on buildings and delivered exceptional rental returns. Now the companies behind the analytical tools and systems developed in the USA are coming over to the UK and bringing their systems to enable better financial returns.

We need controls because I its simplest the market is the Wild West. There are still letting agents operating with exorbitant letting fees, no redress scheme, ignoring tenant deposit protection, etc. We have to make sure the renters know the good guys from the bad guys; the renters have to know what service to expect and we have to improve the professionalisation of the rental sector. This will take controls, some of which exist and some of which will come because the market place will not tolerate poor service, poor quality flats and poor agents. Of course this is a long game but a key element in differentiating the institutional PRS delivery.

We need to work together because the more good experiences we can highlight, the more good examples we can showcase, the more we can share our learned experiences the quicker the market will grow and develop and the quicker we will create a critical mass that meets the investment demand. Generally a market place is more effective if it shares information and builds together than all learning and tripping up along the way. Why would you reinvent the wheel!

How can the sector improve and raise its standards of customer service?

This will be achieved by highlighting in the most public ways what renters should expect from their rental, the agent, the management. It will be achieved when managers and owners talk in terms of hours for repairs and not days and weeks. It will be achieved when we look at spending money on management as an investment and not a cost.

The American managers understand this and see it as key to performance. On a recent trip over the NAA were aghast at low staffing levels for sites in UK and even more shocked at the repair and service timescales.

When is the UKAA launching in the UK and why? How do people join up? What are the benefits to members? Who is the association targeted at (large funds or individual investors)? How does/will the relationship with the NAA work?

We will be launching in March and people can join by contacting Roger Southam at Chainbow. The benefits are having access to all study information, research and analyses in the USA NAA and their educational programmes. It will give a forum for sharing information and learnings to improve returns and service. It will facilitate study tours for members and access to the USA members of NAA. Most excitingly of all is the international ambitions of NAA and the UKAA will be the link to an International grouping encompassing other countries with active PRS markets. We are ahead of the curve and leading the international grouping with Canada and Holland close behind.

In addition there will be a supplier forum that will give for the first time in the UK a platform for suppliers to work together to show who are capable and competent and removing those who are not, giving access and sharing with the owners and operators to improve standards and service.

We have taken RICS, ARMA and ARLA along with us and UKAA is there as an umbrella working with those organisations not replacing. IRPM is on board with educational standards which will be promoted and delivered and will harness the NAA educational learnings.

The UKAA is targeted at all owners and operators in institutional PRS sector that want to be seen at the forefront of the market and service delivery.

The NAA are seed funding the UKAA to facilitate launch and running. It will give a recognised service and platform for the American organisations coming over as well as help the UK market grow and develop.

4th January 2016

January 2016 – London Mayoral Election article

Housing is dominating the London Mayoral election and every stop and turn there is an announcement or commentary about the market. All the while there is the serious business of the leaseholder and their homes.

LEASE holds stakeholder meetings every 6 months and at the last one in December there was discussion after a comment that a leasehold property is not ownership. Of course this is nonsense. Even rental is ownership, it gives you a right to your home.

There is a debate about leasehold being good or bad and I genuinely believe that misses the point. Leasehold has been around in England and Wales for a very long time. The problem is not the tenure types; the problems are social and human. It is the guys who want to behave unreasonably – on both sides of the table that cause the issues.

Some leaseholders may want not a lot spent on the property for anything because that is their mind set and others will want everything pristine and immaculate. This is human nature. What we have to seek to do is keep working to narrow the divide on the extremes of each side.

The real challenge however is to look at the elements that cause hardship and are less service orientated. I am referring to the need for lease extensions, the conflict that is caused with administration fees, the conflict that is caused by exit fees.

Well on the exit fees the Law Commission are consulting at the moment and we will see what their proposals are. Lease extensions could be addressed by legislating that all flats must be sold with leases of at least 250 years. We could introduce standard forms of lease that removes the problems encountered with wording and nuance between sinking fund, reserve fund, and a raft of other technical points. Administration fees already have to be reasonable and are challengeable; although there are always charges we are not happy with – I hate the 5p plastic bag charge. Not because I don’t think it’s a good idea just because we should be able to be responsible and reduce over usage without a charge.

This will take a lot of people working together but what is achievable and doable now is working on education of the responsibilities everyone has in their role in dealing with people’s homes and with living in leasehold. I am confident we can move these areas forward as long as well play our part.

Roger Southam

7th January 2016