By Harry Scoffin
As MPs debated the Queen’s speech on Monday, Sir Peter Bottomley demanded the government urgently brings forward legislation to help the “10 million people” at risk of abuse in leasehold properties, “a very high proportion of our electorate”.
The Tory veteran remade the case for bold action on the leasehold scandal, saying that it is as much about “justice as it is about law”.
His intervention comes after an absence of leasehold reform bills in the Queen’s speech.
A stalwart of leaseholder campaigning, Sir Peter called for assurance that the measures already pledged by his party are still intended for the statute books.
“Leasehold reform was accepted as a key element in the findings of the government white paper on fixing our broken housing market. That white paper produced a number of consultations, all of which accept the urgent need for reform.
“By urgent, we’ve been seeing leaseholders abused over the last 10 to 20 years. Partly by mistake, partly by crooks and too often, in the last 10 years, by ordinary commercial organisations who realised they could stuff their own pockets and those of their shareholders by exploiting the weakness of individual people whether under Help to Buy or in other ways.”
Sir Peter said that the government has now accepted Lord Richard Best’s recommendations on regulating and professionalising managing agents. LKP hopes this development leads to a clearer, more detailed and more challengeable service charges regime for leaseholders of flats.
He highlighted the body of work being carried out by the Law Commission. MCHLG officials are also reviewing areas where reform is needed, he added.
The highly critical Communities Select Committee report on the sector was given high praise.
“It’s one of the best Select Committee reports I’ve read in this House over my time here,” said Sir Peter.
Sir Peter reminded the minority administration that leasehold and commonhold reform has strong support across Parliament and hinted that there could be a political dividend in any November general election:
“I think we have the chance of big progress. It’s in a bi-partisan area, and it’ll make a difference to many of the people who live in the 5 to 6 million leasehold homes, so you might say that’s 10 million people, which is a very high proportion of our electorate – of those to whom we are responsible.”
Meanwhile, the Labour party’s John Healey has taken to Twitter to slam the government’s failure to include the leasehold houses ban and peppercorn ground rents in its legislative programme.
His opposite number, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, had shared on social media graphics implying that the policies – announced by his predecessors Sajid Javid in December 2017, and reconfirmed by James Brokenshire in June – are still a priority for the Boris Johnson administration … despite them not making it into the Queen’s speech on Monday.
Further delay over such a fundamental issue – how we live in our homes – risks giving the opposition a wedge issue in any election campaign.
With 10 million votes up for grabs over leasehold and commonhold reform, it’s a big gamble to ignore the very symbol of our housing crisis: when you buy a property, but don’t ever own it …