January 2016 – London Mayoral Election article

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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

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