The government’s decision to replace the Lords initiative to license managing agents in favour of compulsory membership of ombudsman schemes won’t help resolve real issues behind the acrimony in leasehold.
This is the view of Rob Plumb (left), chief executive of HML Holdings, which is accredited to the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership.
“The general consensus in the sector is that an ombudsman is used surprisingly infrequently (in the context of how much unhappiness there is generally in the leasehold market) and the value of the settlements is comparatively low,” he said. “Usually a few hundreds of pounds.”
The companies in the group – HML Andertons, HML Shaw, HML Hathaway, HML Scotts and HML Hawksworth – manage 40,000 leasehold properties and have been signed up to the ombudsman service since 2010.
“I would guess that we have had less than a dozen cases,” says Plumb. “Our limited experience of the service has been mixed, but it’s fair to say that there have definitively been some very satisfactory resolutions. From a managing agent’s perspective, the service has the advantage of reducing the time wasted in having to deal with obsessive complainants.
“But while the ombudsman system may help to deal with day-to-day service issues, it’s a million miles from being able to deal with the type of complex legal issues that, for example, surrounded Charter Quay [in Kingston] or St George’s Wharf [Vauxhall, central London].
“Ombudsman services certainly won’t be addressing the type of structural issues that have created this groundswell of leaseholder antagonism and, indeed, gave rise to the formation of LKP.”