By Harry Scoffin
Last Friday, the National Leasehold Campaign launched a petition calling for the abolition of the leasehold system. Leasehold is described as “a form of financial servitude where the leaseholder is forever compensating the freeholder for living on ‘their land’.”
By the stroke of midnight last night, the petition had registered 10,000 signatures. This means that the government must provide a formal response.
As the call for abolition gains considerable traction, the media renews its interest in leasehold. For a second day running, the Daily Mail has reported on the leasehold ‘property trap’. Yesterday it published on the potential conflicts of interest between developers and conveyors; a follow-up to its devastating two-page spread on Heather Wheeler’s parliamentary performance earlier in the week.
LKP understands that there are editorial plans at the Mail to make leasehold the subject of one of its trail-blazing campaigns, to push for an end to the feudal practice of selling homes as tenancies.
Matt Oliver, who is heading up the coverage, yesterday joined the National Leasehold Campaign’s Facebook group and asked its twelve thousand strong membership for stories.
He urged leaseholders to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, the Daily Mail’s new dedicated email account.
“The double-page feature in the Mail has been helpful,” Katie Kendrick, a co-founder of the National Leasehold Campaign, told LKP. “But we’re not surprised how much support there is for the abolition of leasehold. This is organic. As more and more people realise they’ve been conned out of the benefits of home ownership, we expect many more signatures will follow. Instead of being property owners, our members are locked into long tenancies with all kinds of unfair and unexpected charges. The only way out is to sell the very homes they saved so hard for. And selling isn’t possible for people with escalating ground rents or exorbitant service charges. They’ve been lured into a trap.”
“It really didn’t have to be like this,” she added. “Houses should never have been leasehold. Even with flats, the rest of the world makes sure individual properties within a development can be owned on a freehold basis. America has condominium ownership, Australasia strata-title, with co-operatives across continental Europe. Under these systems, buildings don’t have third-party landlords. We say no to putting sticking plasters on leasehold law – we already have over 50 pieces of legislation on the statute books. Neglected commonhold title is the answer. We support the Law Commission’s work on making it easier for existing leaseholders to convert. And although the big developers are not going to like it, commonhold must be mandated on new-build flats. Government must act. It has a moral duty to prevent more innocent homebuyers from falling into the leasehold property trap.”
The National Leasehold Campaign’s next challenge will be to obtain the 100,000 signatures required to have the abolition of leasehold considered for debate in parliament. They have until August.