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.
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.
There have been many initiatives by government and banks to cushion the economic effects of the Covid 19 epidemic, with mortgage holidays amongst them. However, in the property management sector it seems that with or without a reduction in services, property managers both in the Leasehold and Estate Management sector (very often the same companies) continue to charge the same fees. We have reports from the National Leasehold Campaign that leaseholders are struggling with unreduced charges.
The human cost is portrayed in this heartbreaking story recently aired on the BBC:
The comments are made by Paula Higgins of the Home Owners Alliance.
We note the management company quotes the contract signed by the purchaser – how often have we heard that? It is worth remembering that the initial contracts are drawn up by (or for) the original house builder.
The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) have issued an interim update report on leasehold houses mis-selling. The findings totally vindicate the work of the National Leasehold Campaign and Leasehold Knowledge Partnership in publicising the selling practices and onerous leases being almost universally promoted by the big plc housebuilders in recent years. The report identifies the major areas it will work on and plans to call for more evidence.
In paragraph 14 there is specific reference to “fleecehold” :
The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, a number of MPs, and members of the public have expressed concerns about freehold mis-selling – so called ‘fleecehold’. This is a separate issue from those presently under investigation as our current focus is on issues in leasehold home ownership. As the CMA’s Chairman, Lord Tyrie, has said, the CMA will in due course consider whether to investigate freehold mis-selling, assessing the matter against its prioritisation principles. However we wish to complete our work in leasehold first and anticipate that doing so will assist us should we open a case on freehold mis-selling
What we would like is for them to also understand that estate charges are based on unfair contracts both for leasehold and fleecehold – it is not just a matter of mis-selling although this has happened with fleecehold too. The private estate market is rife with anti-competitive practices including embedded management companies, and sale of rent charges and/or land to private companies without any resident input, accountability or choice.