Taxpayers will have to intervene over cladding, by issuing loans, to prevent hundreds of leaseholders losing their homes.
But the crisis shows the pointlessness of current leasehold landlordism.
What do they actually do, apart from having all the power over ordinary people’s homes and raising revenue for themselves?
The Grenfell cladding crisis demonstrates to an ever widening number of politicians and administrators that they do absolutely nothing at all.
When it comes to expenditure to make a building safe – a building which in law they own, on land which is also theirs – they do not pay for a single thing.
Even when it comes to the safety of the residents.
Not. A. Penny.
Over the whole Grenfell cladding issue the freeholders are exposed. They are not the objective, business-minded custodians of a block of leasehold flats, who ensure its long-term maintenance.
This is a fiction they have spent years promoting, aided by their eager little assistants at trade bodies such as ARMA (the Association of Residential Managing Agents).
Instead, freeholders are now revealed as simply an unnecessary and over-complicated parasite, hitching a ride on the home-owning aspirations of others.
In the recent issue of Private Eye, Will Astor’s Long Harbour / HomeGround group was congratulating itself for issuing a £750,000 emergency loan for fire marshals at Heysmoor Heights, in Toxteth, Liverpool.
Come again? The freeholder provided the funds to save its own skin with the fire authorities and then set about spending the money as it saw fit, with no reference to those who will have to repay the money at all.
With commonhold tenure this would have been impossible and the building may have had to have been evacuated.
Possibly. Although its worth remembering that the rest of the world – outside England and Wales – sells flats with proper ownership structures and has to deal with these emergencies.
And at Heysmoor Heights the freeholder is a murky offshore company called Abacus Land 4 Limited, based in Guernsey, where the beneficial ownership is kept hidden.
Astor’s group says he has no beneficial interest and the investors are blameless British pension funds that just happen to want to own this freehold through an offshore vehicle for “administrative convenience”.
Well, if the arrangement is so innocent, it surely does not need to be secret.
At Heysmoor Heights we face the appalling prospect of low income home owners having their flats forfeited over the Grenfell cladding bills by anonymous speculators in ground rents.
That cannot be right, surely?
Meanwhile, we have the chief executive of ARMA, Nigel Glen, running around Whitehall and Westminster urging that public money be spent to ward off precisely these issues.
This is a view echoed by London mayor Sadiq Khan in correspondence to Sajid Javid.
Of course, Glen is doing this primarily to protect the landlordism that employs the members of his trade body, rather than in the interests of leaseholders.
Nonetheless, it is useful that he is doing so.
The more he says only public money can save ordinary people’s homes from a disaster that was absolutely not of their making, the more he reveals the absurdity of the freeholders’ power and position.
Even the most credulous civil servant must be asking: what do they actually do for all that money?