In a wide ranging BBC 5 Live Investigates programme on leasehold scandals – which can be heard here – Sir Peter Bottomley said the Charity Commission should recognise LKP’s application without further delays.
He told interviewer Adrian Goldberg on May 24 (for which LKP reproduces the transcript below):
“The Charity Commission need to register Leasehold Knowledge Partnership as a charity to fight on behalf of leaseholders being beaten off.
“The Charity Commission got the idea they are on the side of the property owners.”
The interview then asked whether the Charity Commission was “siding with the property agents”.
“Not quite. The people who have been giving good free help include the Leasehold Advisory Service, which the Government part-fund: they are quite good.
“But the really key people are Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, combined with Campaign Against Retirement Leasehold Exploitation -, where two people, for free, for years, have done more than the whole of Parliament has, and whole of the media has.
“I don’t want to embarrass them by naming them. They have done fantastic work. They now think they should be a charity. The Charity Commission, has spent a long time not yet approving them, but that will come.”
Sir Peter’s comments came during a thorough overview of leasehold by the Sunday morning radio show.
It included an interview with Chelsea property manager Bob Suvan, of Blocnet, which is accredited to LKP.
He claimed figures for leasehold overcharging are between £300 million and £1 billion.
“It is a crime; it is wrong,” said Suvan, a Canadian who came to London as a result of his wife’s academic tenure and who was appalled at leasehold management practices he encountered in England.
Another interview featured Steve Birkbeck, of No. 1 Deansgate in Manchester, which eventually won right to manage before it reached the Court of Appeal after CBRE Global Investors eventually threw in the towel.
It was yet another blatant example of the legal gamesmanship routinely played in leasehold.
Michelle Banks, the out-going chief executive of ARMA (Association of Residential Managing Agents), made the argument of improving leasehold property management from within through the more rigorous ARMA Q regime.
This meant not kicking out outfits such as OM, now FirstPort, but improving matters by insisting on higher standards.
She told Adrian Goldberg that some ARMA members had been thrown out of the organisation for bad practices.
Partial transcript of BBC Radio 5 Live Investigates
Adran Goldberg – introduces PB: “the MP who wants to change the law on leasehold.” AG welcomes PB, “lets speak to Sir Peter Bottomley, Conservative MP for Worthing West and campaigner for leasehold reforms. Sir Peter, how are we going to reform it?”
Peter Bottomley – “Good morning, the first thing is, I hope you will put a transcript of this programme on-line because you have done a better investigation than any other part of the media in the last 5 years. I think this is an award winning programme, if I may say so, up to now anyway. Secondly, the Charity Commission need to register Leasehold Knowledge Partnership as a charity to fight on behalf of leaseholders being beaten off. The Charity Commission got the idea they are on the side of the property owners.
The next thing, for the future, we make sure we unblock the problems to Commonhold which is a far better way of owing flats in group developments than leasehold, it stops a second bite of the cherry.
If you take out the issue of the call entry system to the front door, there should have been a criminal prosecution when a firm called Cirrus had rigged bids, I’m not saying this one in Lambeth (referred to by a leaseholder speaking earlier on the programme) is a rigged bid, but, it has elements which need investigating. I think people should say, are these people subject to, what is in effect, fraud. I am not making a direct accusation, but there needs to be an investigation because in the past, too many people have been ripped off by fraud.”
AG – “let me go back to your specific point, the Charity Commission then, your saying is siding with the property agents.”
PB – “not quite. The people who have been giving good free help include the Lease Advice Service, which the Government part-fund, they are quite good, but the really key people are Leasehold Knowledge Partnership combined with Campaign Against Retirement Leasehold Exploitation -, where two people, for free, for years, have done more than the whole of Parliament has , and whole of the media has. I don’t want to embarrass them by naming them. They have done fantastic work. They now think they should be a charity. The Charity Commission, has spent a long time not yet approving them, but that will come.”
AG – “you think the Charity Commission could do more to help those bodies who are willing to help the leaseholders.”
PB – “I do, absolutely.”
AG – “you mentioned this kind of held-in-common notion”
[KB, a reporter, – explains the Scottish system – in private blocks around 70% satisfactions levels says survey commissioned by OFT]
AG – “is that the answer then Sir Peter, for the rest of the UK to follow Scotland’s lead and do away with this freehold?”
PB – “yes, for the future, but for the present, because we have up to 6 million leasehold properties at the moment, some local authorities you pointed out. There should be a presumption that any group of leaseholders, sometimes called tenants, but I think of them leaseholders, who get together shall be recognised, unless the freeholder can prove it is not representative, not the other way round. Secondly, you should have an open book so they can see all the costs straightaway. You should go back over some of the scandals where some professional bodies, including surveyors, accountants and bankers, have approved freeholders overinflating the freehold value of a property then trying to charge too much. I could go on for quite a long time, but I think you guys have opened up the field. I do hope Which? the Consumer Association will return to this as they have done some good work in the past, but more needs doing.
But most of all, Government, mainly the Department for Communities and Local Government should take on the law of Commonhold from the Department of Justice. They should make sure they provide enough Ministerial attention to get this going, because 6 million people – let’s say half of them are suffering problems unnecessarily. That’s probably one of the biggest scandals in the country.
I make my own declaration of my own interest in my flat in Worthing. We had a good freeholder, a good managing agent, we do now control our own maintenance, we have bought the freehold and we have not had a problem at all. It can go right.”
AG – “Sir Peter Bottomley thank you very much indeed.”
AG – “I’ve got to say, I expect that this is a story we may well be returning to in future. We are getting so many stories coming through on text and email.