Firstly, Happy New Year to you all and what a Year it promises to be. Immediately before Christmas the Housing Minister, Alok Sharma made announcements during the leasehold discussion in the House of Commons on the future of leasehold. From the statement it is as far reaching and revolutionary as we have heard for nearly two decades. In my column in November I urged you to participate in the calls for evidence and consultations being undertaken.
It is now clear that the Secretary of State and the Housing Minister have a big commitment to see leasehold revolutionised under their watch. Hopefully this will lead to regulation of managing agents along with transparency & fairness in all leasehold handling.
During the Christmas break I met a chap who is a leaseholder in South London and a director of the resident management company for their building. The tale he told me of the problems he and his fellow directors had suffered was extraordinary. To hear of a leaseholder fighting through the courts against fellow leaseholders is always tough. When the problems have been exacerbated from poor legal drafting and delivery it is made worse. From a chance meeting it affirmed my view that tackling leasehold is only one part of the equation. We have to keep in mind the necessities, responsibilities and challenges of communal living.
The conversation made me reflect on how we can deal with the human side as well as the legal title issues. Of course dealing with one will not address the other. Equally we will always be reliant on lawyers and conveyancers to ensure that the documentation is robust and correct.
The human side could be assisted with changes to Company Law to single out Resident Management Companies and Right to Manage Companies for simplified running along with a requirement to have AGM’s. It would also be expedient to enact the accounting provision from the Commonhold & Leasehold Reform Act 2002, which have not been enacted to date. Changes to right to manage could make it available to wider selection of buildings and leaseholders, this would enable more leaseholders to take control of their destiny and appointing their chosen managing agent.
The human side to communal living will never go away and that will always be a topic for debate, but if we can get the framework and structures addressed there will be a major leap forward.
The announcement on 21st December was only the first steps and more is promised. We will wait with interest for the next steps. It is incumbent on all participants to work together to improve leasehold. Working together we can all ensure that this moment in time is capitalised and we have an improved arena for leaseholders as a result.
Roger Southam, Non Exec Chair at Leasehold Advisory Service