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Leasehold Reform

Volume 742: debated on Monday 4 December 2023

On 27 November the Government introduced the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, which delivers the Government’s manifesto commitments on leasehold reform and makes long-term necessary changes to improve home ownership for millions of leaseholders across England and Wales.

In January, the Secretary of State told The Sunday Times:

“I don’t believe leasehold is fair in any way. It is an outdated feudal system that needs to go. And we need to move to a better system and to liberate people from it.”

But the Government’s Bill does not sort it, nor does it free my constituents from their feudal masters. Why?

As the hon. Gentleman will know if he has read the Bill that was introduced last week, a substantial amount of progress is proposed under it: a substantial number of leaseholders will be much better off and experience a substantial improvement to their lives as a result of the changes that this Government are proposing.

A large number of freehold homeowners in my constituency pay charges to property management companies for maintenance services that are not always carried out. The management companies rarely respond to complaints from residents, who often do not have the money to seek legal advice with a view to taking court action. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the new Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill will grant freehold homeowners the right to transparency about how their money is spent, to challenge companies when the contracted services are not provided and, where necessary, to have the contract removed from that company?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight that issue, and I know that many of us will have heard of similar experiences in our constituencies. That is another example—I return to the point made by the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham)—of reform under this Bill that will significantly improve the lives of leaseholders for the long term.

As you will no doubt be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, the Government’s Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, designed to ban the sale of new leasehold houses, does not actually contain any provisions to ban the sale of new leasehold houses, because the Department apparently did not have time to draft them before publication. If and when the Government rectify their mistake and add the necessary provisions, will they incorporate measures to reinvigorate commonhold by making it accessible and available to both prospective homebuyers and existing leaseholders? If not, why not?

As has been outlined, we intend to bring forward further changes to the Bill during the process, as Opposition Members know is normal, because they have sat in the same Committees that we have. We are not proposing to change leasehold to commonhold under the Bill, but that remains part of our long-term approach and we would like to see further reforms as soon as we are able to.

One outsider and apparently one or two Opposition Members misinterpreted what I understood the Secretary of State to be saying in January. Can the Minister confirm that the opportunities for enfranchisement will take away many of the problems that residential leaseholders now suffer and, in effect, that will get them to commonhold? I will just add that if we had waited to transfer all leaseholds to commonhold, we would not have the Bill now and 6 million leaseholders would have been betrayed.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We all want to see those in leasehold in a much improved situation. We are making huge steps forward with this Bill and we look forward to continuing and augmenting that reform in due course.