Taking Stock

This is a time when we might feel we are in the doldrums, with a lack of government action and little prospect of any in the near future.

Such a time is a good opportunity to look at what actually have achieved.

We have gone from a position of public ignorance and government denial to a constant stream of prospective home buyers asking us more about the issues. Many are pulling out if they can, this is great – market forces may change things more effectively than new laws.

We have over 8000 members of our FaceBook group and through this and email we have developed a broad picture of the private estate model as it is being used throughout the UK, read more on the low down here. Our database of affected estates has grown to 690 and counting!

Hornets have taken part in email campaigns to MPs and in government consultations to the extent that it is fair to say government do know the essence of the problem even though nothing has been done to address it. This paper at the house of commons library is a fair summary of where they are in this commons library article.

We also were asked to brief Helen Goodman former MP for Bishop Auckland, on her 10 minute rule bill around estate charges. Sadly this only had it’s first reading before that session of parliament ended due to an early General Election. This means that any future effort will have to start over. We are still working with sympathetic MPs as the government are hiding behind lack of parliamentary time. We all know time can be found if it is their priority, whatever else is going on.

We are still in communication with the Competition and Markets Authority to act on their undertaking to look at fleecehold once their leasehold mis selling enquiry is complete. We argue that for estate charges, it is not just that there has been mi selling, but that the implementation of the model is anti competitive in most cases.

We work closely with the National Leasehold Campaign and over time have come to see that the issues of doubling ground rents, unsafe cladding and unjustifiably high charges are facets of the same underlying problem. The land and property markets are now dominated by large faceless companies, often based offshore and whose primary aim is profit. There is no longer any concept of providing good quality buildings or services since the priority is primarily shareholder value. There are third party interests in peoples homes which we believe are not necessary and do not significantly benefit the home buyer.

We found it fascinating to hear about how student accommodation has contributed to the spread of Covd19 in that population, and then into the community. We learn from the investigative TV program https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-54575788 that students were encouraged back to halls even though teaching turned out to be online. They didn’t need to be there and were treated like prisoners for the most part. Apparently the universities have made deals with developers and undertaken to provide agreed levels of occupancy. If the students weren’t paying rent, it looks like the universities will have a big bill. Students suffer, we all suffer – but the money is still made. This is just an editorial opinion, but doesn’t it all look a familiar pattern?? Different groups of ordinary people needing accommodation being profit farmed. Weak institutions from central government and local authorities to university boards appear unable to see through or stand up to these tactics.

We keep campaigning – it is however important to “know your enemy”.


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Great News from the CMA

We are thrilled to hear that the government watch dog, the Competition and Markets Authority, are taking action against a sample of the national volume housebuilders over mis-selling leasehold houses. This action vindicates the work of the National Leasehold Campaign and the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership in lobbying for change and highlighting the issues for home buyers of new build leasehold houses.

You can read what the CMA have to say about their investigation here and it is clear that they are still focussing on leasehold selling practices.

This is however good news for HorNets, as they have undertaken to look at fleecehold pending the outcome of the leasehold enquiry.

What are HorNets doing about it?

We submitted evidence to the parliamentary select committee on leasehold reform in 2017, which surprisingly was accepted, but disappointingly not included in their issues for the CMA to investigate.

We have written to the CMA on a number of occasions about fleecehold pointing out not only the mis-selling, but the anti-competitive nature of the management arrangements on many developments. We believe that they know there are issues and we are optimistic that they will pick up on them – our only concern is timescales, as estate residents are being exploited right now, with further unfairness in some cases during the pandemic.

We intend to write again and ask about timescales and consider what other avenues may be open to us now that action is being taken against some of the big names.


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To Buy or Not to Buy?

figure with large question mark

It is a measure of our success in raising awareness of the private estate/fake freehold/fleecehold scam that we now have a large number of enquiries from people thinking of buying properties affected by this.

We have been responding individually, but realised that we needed to publish some general guidance. This is based on the shared experience of our members and does not constitute legal advice. What we have found during the past four years can be summarised as:

Click to read our advice
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Leaseholders Mourn Sad Loss of Champion

We are very sorry to report that Louis Burns, an outspoken and dogged supporter of leaseholders, died unexpectedly at his home last weekend.

He had worked exclusively for leaseholders in the legal field and also put forward in no uncertain terms the case for abolishing this form of tenure which enriches the wealthy and exploits those with more modest means. He set up ALEP to help leaseholders find suitably expert lawyers and worked on fairer formulae for calculating the cost of freehold purchase. He also wrote a very amusing and helpful guide for leaseholders – with a short section on fake freehold near the end. You can buy this on Kindle here.

He was a trustee of Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, and a good friend to our allies at the National Leasehold Campaign who grieve for him at a personal level.

We offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.


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MP Quotes

Over the last three years of our campaign, there have been plenty of references to problems with the private estate model in parliamentary debates. We are sharing a few quotes taken from Hansard in this article. It is abundantly clear that MPs of all parties have heard from their constituents, and have pressed the government to act. Sadly there has only been consultations and promises of measures based on the already broken leasehold system. Regulation of property agents and redress through the first tier Lands Tribunal are measures which we do not feel tackle the poor quality of new build estates, or the fundamental unfairness of estate residents subsidising leisure facilities for the whole community. We also do not believe they will achieve the government’s stated aim of ensuring fairness and value for money.

It is clear to us that this government is more interested in supporting the construction industry than in ensuring quality developments and a fair deal for home buyers.

Sarah Jones Westminster Hall 22/01/19

As we have heard, home owners on private estates across the country are being fleeced through a system of spiralling fees, shoddy service, lack of choice and zero accountability. We know it is an issue that affects up to 1.3 million households and it is a problem that mirrors the exorbitant service charges and draconian standards facing leaseholders. It is a problem that the Government have had years to fix, but they have yet to do so.

Read more QUOTES
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