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!
Our FaceBook group has nearly doubled in size from 2300 to 4300.
We have 400 estates reported by members on our database.
All members have been working hard to successfully raise awareness of how estate charges impact on home buyers and on the estates themselves, culminating in Helen Goodman MP presenting a 10 minute rule bill on the subject with broad cross party support. This would not have been possible without HorNet members efforts in writing to their MPs, taking part in media articles and reporting the extent of their problems to us.
Congratulations and thank you! We look forward to a 2019 where we grow in strength and voice to further influence government policy to change the law and abolish the private estate model for residential developments.
We thank all our members for submitting details of their estates – keep them coming!
We are starting to use the data to support our campaign, as there are nearly 400 estates on our database now. If anyone would like an up to date spread sheet extract (CVS file) to use in campaigning please drop us a line using our contact form.
From the information we have to date we have picked out the house builders and the managing companies which appear more than once, and here is the “Naughty List”. All of these firms are involved with either creating or maintaining private managed estates.
Bovis – Redrow – Persimmon – Taylor Wimpey – Gleeson – Morris – Miller – Barratt – Bellway – Keepmoat – Linden – Countryside – Bloor – Crest Nicholson – David Wilson – Charles Church – Harron – Kier – Bett – St Modwen – Avant – Ben Bailey
We have an amazing opportunity to say what we think, and as “consumers” of estate charges we are the experts. Please spend some time completing the governments questionnaire, every single answer counts!
Far be it from us to put words into your mouths, in fact the opposite is true, you have given us the evidence for our campaign message and put words in ours!
Just to make it a bit easier, here are some thoughts you might want to consider before you answer:
Question 22 and 23 relate to estate charges on freehold (fleecehold homes), if you are a leaseholder, please answer as many questions as you can. It is not necessary to answer questions which don’t apply to you.
The government have totally failed to recognise that estate charges are onerous terms for leaseholders on private estates as well. Their focus on freehold home owners is too narrow, and whilst regulation might improve standards of service and value for money in some cases, it is not the answer, and would only prop up a system created by developers to deliver sub standard estates on the cheap and then have their mates run them at the expense of the home owners.
Information from HorNet has helped Bishop Auckland MP, Helen Goodman, draft her Ten Minute Rule Bill which was laid before parliament on November 14th 2018. In her speech she covered the major aspects of the estate charges scam most eloquently. You can hear it here in full or shortened version.
HorNet co-ordinators were invited to Westminster to hear the bill being presented and meet with the many cross party MPs who supported it.
At present the government is looking at giving leaseholder type rights over estate charges, including redress via the First-tier Tribunal and Right to Manage giving choice of service provider.
However, this approach totally ignores the “21st century blight” referred to in the bill. Developers are using this model to construct estates of low quality and save themselves hods of cash. The long term liability for this falls on the estate dwellers via costly repairs of defects down the line. Hanging on to the land also gives developers the opportunity to further monetise it in future should planning conditions change and allow for extra houses to be built.
On many larger estates, there are areas of open space which benefit the general public, it is fundamentally unfair that a small section of the community should pay for the upkeep of these spaces.
Regulation and redress are simply not enough. We know from our friends who are leaseholders that it doesn’t work for them, so why should it work for us?
You have to ask yourself why estate residents should have to spend a great deal of time and effort forming and running a Right to Manage association to maintain land belonging to a private company, which may also be used and abused by the wider community who make no contribution.
In its recent report to the government, the Law Commission put forward the idea of enfranchisement for estates. This would mean that estate residents would be able to purchase the freehold of the estate, much as flat owners can do for their block, then owning the shared areas in common. The residents would manage the estate through their own appointed agent directly accountable to them. This would be a definite improvement on the current situation, but still does not address the defects in construction which may be taken on or the unfairness of an estate providing a public amenity.
We believe that the only solution which addresses all of the issues for home owners and the future quality of the estates is compulsory adoption, and will continue to lobby for this.
On November 14th Helen Goodman MP (Bishop Auckland) will table a 10 minute rule bill in parliament calling for:
Measures to regulate the fees charged to homeowners by management companies
Measures to ensure shared facilities are of an adequate standard
Provision for the self-management of communal areas by residents, should they wish.
This is a major step forward in raising awareness of the issue in parliament, and we hope more generally as well.
It is not expected that a ten minute rule bill will be enacted, but it can do much to lay the foundation for government action, as Justin Madders successfully did with his bill around doubling ground rent leasehold issues.
The more support the bill has from MPs the more likely further action will arise. We urge all HorNets to email/write to their MP asking them to support the bill. Helen Goodman has provided a letter template, which you can use or customise if you wish.
HorNet are not too concerned that the title of the bill refers to freehold homes, we expect that any future legislation will cover estate charges for all tenures, and in all circumstances, not just new build estates. We will continue to promote the message that estate charges on peoples homes are the problem and fight for their abolition.
It is true to say that when we first began, we knew what we did not want. Gradually it has become much clearer what we do want:
What we want for all new build estates:
Those with public open space to be constructed to adoption standards, inspected and adopted by the Local Authority compulsorily.
Those smaller developments which have no public open space to be constructed to adoption standards, independently inspected, and conveyed to the residents under common hold with a proper regulatory framework.
A ban on estate residents having to fund the maintenance of adjacent existing green space in perpetuity as part of planning agreements. If developers wish to “donate” these services instead of providing green open space on their site, then they should pay the local authority a commuted sum for maintenance.
Abolition of estate rent charges for residential property – retained for commercial property if necessary.
What to do about Existing Sub- standard estates?
Whilst we DO want to drive up estate quality and give future home owners a fair deal with true freehold, we DO NOT want a whole (very large) group of residents on existing estates being left on run down, expensively maintained estates with devalued properties. Whatever is done, must address the plight of current estate residents who are caught unwittingly in this trap.
The Law Commission is recommending Government look at enfranchisement (that is residents having the right to purchase the freehold of the estate and run it themselves), and whilst this sounds better than the existing arrangements, there are serious snags. The sub-standard construction leading to “un-remedied liabilities” being the biggest obstacle. We would also argue that most people want to enjoy their homes in peace and not have further, possibly onerous, responsibilities placed upon them and the risk of falling out over costs.
So we say it could be a two stage process. Enact enfranchisement, with peppercorn cost for the land and indemnities against defects. Require Local Authorities to adopt these estates at no cost to residents if they as the new land owner ask for the estate to be adopted. Local Authorities can adopt sub-standard now, but are unlikely to do so unless compelled. If this seems unfair on Local Authorities, then do remember that they agreed to the current arrangements with the developers.
When we first started networking together 2 1/2 years ago, we knew what we didn’t want. That is to be unfairly exploited by being forced to pay inflated estate charges to either predatory private companies or inept housing associations. The deeper we dug, the more horrifying the story for ordinary home owners, who were nearly all totally uninformed of what they were buying in to. Continue reading “Adoption Now!”