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Leasehold Reform

Volume 651: debated on Monday 10 December 2018

3. When his Department plans to publish a response to its consultation on implementing reforms to the leasehold system. (908088)

The Department’s consultation on implementing reforms to the leasehold system closed on 26 November with almost 1,300 responses. It set out how the Government intend to tackle excessive and unjustifiable practices in the leasehold system. We are currently analysing responses and plan to publish the Government response in due course.

I know that the Secretary of State has, on numerous occasions, met developers, freeholders and other industry stakeholders as part of the consultation process, but he has not met representatives of the National Leasehold Campaign, the very people most affected by this scandal. Is it not time that he did so?

I certainly recognise some of the appalling practices that have taken place in the leasehold market, which is why we have made it clear that anyone with doubled ground rent should be able to get it changed to one linked to inflation. I look forward to engaging with leaseholders and everyone across the sector to see that reform happens.

The House will welcome what my right hon. Friend has said. On another day, we can deal with the statutory instrument recognising leasehold associations.

Today, I ask him to note the Law Commission’s proposals on getting commonhold working properly. May I draw his attention to the post on the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership website, which says that the Government’s Help to Buy team advised a builder that flats cannot be bought under commonhold because that does not apply within its rules? Can he get the rules changed so that commonhold, which we all want, can work?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I will certainly look at the point that he has raised. I highlight the fact that the Government support the use of commonhold and we are considering all the options for reinvigorating it. We certainly recognise the publication of the Law Commission’s consultation and want everybody to take part in it.

What we need to do is to get on and get things changed. Having a review in the way that the hon. Lady has suggested is about deferring things, so we want the industry to take steps to take action. Labour can talk in that way, but it is this Government who are intent on actually bringing about reform.

The leasehold problem is an abiding scandal, and the Secretary of State does need to fix it. When he is reforming it will he consider being imaginative enough to copy the city of The Hague, which allows people on the housing register to go on to a register to get a serviced plot of land, which, if they cannot afford to buy it, they can lease at a peppercorn rent and then elect to buy later? If we are going to have reform, let us have imaginative reform.

I look forward to discussing that issue with my hon. Friend, because there is a sense of a need for change. Some of the abuses that we have seen are unacceptable. Although we have already put forward proposals to make that difference, I will certainly continue to talk to colleagues who may have some further imaginative thoughts.

I was shocked to hear that A2Dominion has sent leaseholders of a block in my constituency a landlord water bill of £900 per flat payable within 30 days, with the only explanation being that it had not read the water meter for two years. This has caused huge stress for residents and is the latest in the long line of unacceptable, sudden invoices with little or no explanation. Does the Secretary of State agree that there needs to be a change in the transparency and standards of housing association service charges, because leaseholders are treated like cash cows and the law is weighted in favour of landlords?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for highlighting that particular example. It is especially appalling that leaseholders should have been presented with such a significant charge in that way. If she can send me some more details, I will look into the matter further.