We love this term! Used by the BBC in its reports today online and on several local radio stations. Finally someone is picking up that estate charges as they are being applied across the UK today are the next scandal waiting to break in the housing sector.
The report of the governments select committee enquiry into Leasehold Reform is now published. It is clear that this group of cross party MPs has not had the wool pulled over its eyes by developers, investors and property managers. It has come out very strongly in favour of actions which would help to correct the power imbalance towards ordinary home buyers in the leasehold sector. These include making it easier to buy the freehold, scrapping ground rents, regulating service charges, making common hold the default tenure for any properties with shared space/buildings.
Although the enquiry title refers to leasehold, its remit did include estate charges, and our own written evidence was accepted by them.
On estate charges, they are recommending full leasehold style rights for home owners and also the possibility of common hold for estates in future.
We welcome their acknowledgement that there is a problem over estate charges, but feel these measures do not go far enough, especially in relation to the construction of sub standard estates when there is no intention for them to be adopted.
The report recommends an investigation into mis-selling leasehold houses with involvement of the Competition and Markets Authority. We think this equally applies to estate charges and we intend to develop and announce shortly a strategy for reporting to the CMA.
Produced in response mainly to the Housing Minister, Kit Malthouse, following his contribution to the Westminster Hall Debate on 22nd January 2019. We are getting similar messages in reply to our own representations from the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government. These defend the status quo on voluntary adoption and local 106 agreements passing the buck back to Local Authorities and disregarding the role of their own National Planning Policy Framework. There is also a reluctance to rise to the challenge of creating legislation to cover estate charges, although we do note that recently there has been a slight shift towards talking about a legal framework rather than simply access to the First Tier Property Tribunal. We have reports of two cases where the FtT has been unable to hear freehold estate charge cases due to the lack of legislation.
Helen Goodman MP has organised a Westminster Hall debate on estate charges. It is on Tuesday 22nd January at 4.30pm. It is not too late to email your MP to ask if they could support this initiative to put pressure on the housing minister to act and address the problems we are facing.
We are all grateful to Helen Goodman for continuing to push for change and hope that other MPs with constituents suffering from unregulated estate charges will support her.
The second reading of her 10 minute rule bill is also due this week, on Friday 25th!