29 March, 2018
Unexpected service charges and unjustified hikes in ground rent have meant that leasehold ownership has hit the headlines in the last year for all the wrong reasons. The fact that a growing number of houses have been sold on a leasehold basis - if for no other reason than the delays and costs often experienced in seeking adoption by highways authorities - has become so unpopular that the Government has announced a virtual ban on new leasehold houses. Even where leasehold makes sense (such as blocks of flats), homeowners often complain of unfair and inflated charges for management and consents. The option of challenging such payments in the courts and property tribunals too often proves unattractive to the few leaseholders who are aware of their legal rights.
As part of the package of measures to improve the experience of property owners, the Law Commission is calling for evidence as to why Commonhold tenure is so under-utilised. It was put on the statute books 16 years ago as an innovative form of collective freehold ownership which removed the necessity for a traditional landlord-tenant relationship. However, only 20 schemes have ever been set up in all that time and it remains an object of mostly academic curiosity to property lawyers. This is a great opportunity for landlords and property developers to tell the government about their own views and put forward ideas to make this a more attractive option or even just increase publicity.
Christine Land (formerly of Forbes Solicitors) is one of the lawyers leading the project. Christine was previously a member of Forbes' Social Housing & Regeneration team and represented registered provider housing associations, including specialist leasehold management landlords.
Lachlan McLean, Partner and solicitor-advocate in Forbes' Social Housing & Regeneration team said, "We are delighted to support Christine Land and the Law Commission in this extremely important research, in which it is hoped to find new ways to make the ownership of property fairer and less prone to conflicts of interest between residents and developers. We urge our social housing partners to feed in their opinions to the Law Commission and to ourselves. Christine has always been passionate about leasehold ownership, which affects an increasing number of homeowners as the Government seeks to tackle the housebuilding crisis. It's important that we as a nation get this right for the next generation."
The call for evidence is available at: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/commonhold/ and is open until Thursday 19 April 2018.