MP Says Putney Hard Hit by Failure to Reform Leasehold Law

Constituents in despair over 'nightmarishly spiralling fees'

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June 23, 2023

Putney’s MP is calling on the government to end what she describes the despair experienced by some leaseholders living in her constituency.

Fleur Anderson MP wants the Conservatives to fulfil their manifesto commitment to reform the leasehold system, which the Labour Party argues is ‘feudal’ and leaves leaseholders trapped with nightmarishly spiralling fees.  

Government Housing Minister Lee Rowley had pledged to change the current system but the proposals, due this year, will not include a date for ending the sale of leasehold properties.   The new rules would enable leaseholders to challenge "unreasonable charges" and making it easier for people to extend their lease. 

Unlike a freehold ownership, with which an owner owns both a property and the land it’s built on, a leasehold gives the owner only the permission to use the property. Many leasehold properties are flats within blocks.  

A high proportion of properties in Putney being leasehold, which means that among many other drawbacks leaseholders must get permission to make changes to the home and may have to pay expensive ground rent, service and maintenance charges, as well as expensive legal fees if they wish to extend their lease.  

In October 2022, Ms Anderson launched a survey on the impact service charges were having on household budgets. Her survey found that 85% say they have had a service charge increase in the last six months, three quarters believed it was not proportionate and 32% said they cannot afford the increase.  

Leaseholders in Putney have also had to contend with the fall out of the cladding crisis.  

Ms Anderson said, “I have fought tirelessly for years on behalf of Putney residents caught up in the cladding scandal, so ending the outrage of the leasehold system is a cause close to my heart. The Government vowed in 2019 that they would address it. But for four years, they have done nothing, leaving residents I represent in Putney and millions across the country in a leasehold nightmare. That is why I voted to end the leasehold system this month and will continue to demand that it is overhauled and the sale of leasehold properties ended.”

“I was pleased that through our campaigning, the Building Safety Act now legally protects leaseholders from paying cladding remediation costs – a huge win that I had called for since the Grenfell Tragedy. I also set up meetings with Ministers and affected residents, which led to direct action being taken to improve housing. But the Government must now fulfil its 2019 manifesto pledge and fully reform the system which ended leaseholders up in this nightmare in the first place. I surveyed leaseholders in Putney and my findings were stark: service charges are sky-rocketing and some management companies are using the cost-of-living crisis to profiteer.

“The emotional and financial toll the leasehold takes on residents in Putney is immense. We thought there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, with the Government due to overhaul the leasehold system, but for four years they have failed to act. Michael Gove himself, the Minister for Levelling Up, has described the system as unfair and outdated. So when will the Government get on and do something for the residents I represent and end this outrage?” 

“Our current housing system is broken – it simply does not work for anyone. I was speaking in Parliament earlier this week about a group of Putney residents whose landlord’s mortgage had increased dramatically. The landlord increased their rent, which they can’t afford, and so they are forced to leave their home and cannot find anywhere reasonably priced to rent in south west London. It’s truly terrible that residents are being forced out of the area they love by spiralling rents. Mortgaged households, private renters, leaseholders – all of these groups are struggling to contend with our broken housing system. Real reform to our housing is desperately overdue.” 

Mr Rowley had previously told the House of Commons that change is coming saying, “This Government believe in the moral aim of people owning their own homes and in allowing them to build up capital for themselves, their families and their future. That security and freedom should allow people to make decisions about their own home, including over changes, repairs and improvements that are made or costs that are paid. In reality, the time-limited nature of residential leasehold and the sharing of control with the landlord means a significant imbalance in power.”

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