Where does one start with Housing minister Heather Wheeler’s evidence to the Communities Select Committee?
LKP described Mrs Wheeler’s evidence on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme as “ill-informed”.
Of the ten or so MPs in the room, it was apparent that the housing minister knew the least about leasehold.
At 13.30 below:
You and Yours – Misleading advert, Fast-track degrees, Virtual reality care – BBC Sounds
Catch up on your favourite BBC radio show from your favourite DJ right here, whenever you like. Listen without limits with BBC Sounds.
It was considerably less encouraging than the meeting with Communities Secretary James Brokenshire of the week before, where he renewed hope that the government was committed to reducing new ground rents to zero.
Mrs Wheeler’s performance was called a betrayal of leaseholders by the Daily Mail in a double page spread.
The full transcript is here: HeatherWheelerSelectCommittee
The National Leasehold Campaign, and numerous leaseholders, also expressed their disappointment.
The Communities Select Committee, under chairman Clive Betts, has done an excellent job examining the leasehold sector.
At last, the commercialisers in this hidden corner of the property market have had to defend their interests and explain their practices publicly.
Their preference is to hide behind lawyers and lobbyists.
The one clear message to the Select Committee comes from the Law Commission: it thinks that leasehold requires fundamental reform and this would be its preference.
Here are some clips of the hearing on Monday:
Minister will NOT crack down on toxic leasehold deals
MP Heather Wheeler dismissed claims of mis-selling in toxic leasehold deals Appeared to play down number affected saying it could be 12,000 not 100,000 She said she would prefer to rely on developers and property companies voluntarily giving families better terms than setting new legislation Are you trapped in a leasehold nightmare?
Excellent commentary by Alex Brummer:
Grotesque abuse in leasehold rip-offs is just as bad as PPI scandal
Few consumer scandals are as flagrant as the rip-offs involving leaseholds. With some homeowners being charged more than most people earn in a year to buy the land under their own home, this is nothing less than racketeering.
Louie Burns’ blog:
Why Housing Minister Heather Wheeler is wrong
Leaseholders watching the progress of the government’s proposed changes to leasehold legislation have been on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. The irrefutable low point came with Heather Wheeler’s car crash appearance before the select committee on Monday. It was a staggeringly fallacious display of distortion and chicanery.
Leasehold Solutions calls Housing Minister’s select committee evidence a disgrace – Property118
Leasehold Solutions has labelled evidence by Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP as ‘factually incorrect’ and a ‘disgrace’. Wheeler was questioned by members of the Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee at the final session of its inquiry into leasehold reform.
Well done Sebastian for highlighting this again.
Whilst Ground Rent is an important subject how on earth can we as Retirement Leaseholders have confidence in Government when Ministers are seen to come and go and change what is needed every time, but to go to a Select Committee as a Housing Minister and to be seen as bit of a fool making wise cracks about Leasehold Reform.
Another Tory Housing Minister Heather Wheeler has backed down and away from government promises to end this abuse. The Mail has campaigned vigorously to highlight this scandal, which has seen thousands of hard-working families exploited by greedy landowners.
The Government vowed to end what has become a very lucrative business for landowners.
In 2017, the then Communities Secretary Sajid Javid promised to release leaseholders from such ‘feudal practices’, saying: ‘It’s unacceptable for home-buyers to be exploited through unnecessary leaseholds, unjustifiable charges and onerous ground rent terms.
So how can Ms Wheeler now lessen the problem and play down the fact that tens of thousands of people have been wronged by ruthless house-builders such as Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon, and, in most extremes cases, have seen their homes become unsellable.
Ministers are shamefully behaving like ostriches even though they are especially culpable in view of the fact that many of the properties involved were originally bought with the aid of £8.3 Billion Pounds for the taxpayer-funded Help to Buy Scheme.
The practice of selling homes on a leasehold basis – compounded by the rights to collect ground rents being sold to City firms has been a key factor behind the fat-cat bonuses Persimmon’s Jeff Fairburn who was paid a Bonus of £75million, then forced out of his job.
Regardless of Ms Wheeler’s lame responses, it is beyond doubt that the risks of taking on leaseholds, with the danger of ground rents rising inexorably, were never properly explained to buyers. If they had, I’m sure most would have backed away, however desperate they were to own the property. In many cases, cut-throat house-builders cynically took advantage of the naivety of some first-time buyers, what is surprising is how £400,000.00 is payable for a First Time Buyer?
Most depressingly, the Government’s refusal to take responsibility for this scandal follows a series of other mis-selling scandals. For example, in the run-up to the financial crisis a decade ago, unscrupulous bankers mis-sold to unwitting consumers PPI.
Heather Wheeler, backed away from government promises to end grotesque abuse leaseholds, then claimed the leasehold scam is different from PPI because the latter involved people being ‘sold something they didn’t really need.
Was she wrong again, as almost every House Sale of a property on leasehold was unnecessary.
Previously a long way from the days when leaseholds were sold because the landowners wanted to maintain future rights if coal or other mineral deposits were later found under the land. There is no such excuse today, house builders, like modern day Rachmans, have merely devised a new way of taking money from people’s pockets.
It’s long overdue for the Government to force house-builders and those in the City who have made hundreds of millions, if not billions, out of this scandal to repay the money, anything less would be a dereliction of duty and breach of public trust.
It was embarrassingly clear that Heather Wheeler doesn’t have a clue about the subject, and was relying on briefing notes from equally clueless civil servants.
She expressed surprise that there was no link between the level of ground rent and the services supplied by the landlord,. Perhaps someone should have told her that payment of a ground rent doesn’t entitle the tenant to ANY services, and they might also have explained to her the difference between a ground rent and a service charge.
She also completely misunderstood the difference between a peppercorn or zero rent and a cash rent, which is fundamental to leasehold law.
She was a disgrace both to herself and the Government. The subject is far too important to be left to such a bumbling amateur. She should be dismissed immediately. and replaced by someone who has at least a basic understanding of property law and how leases work in the real world.
GRANT SHAPPS MARK2
She has put us back 10 years
Or … she is an under-powered junior minister who does not count very much.
It appears her position as a housing minister is leasehold not freehold!(and the lease is running down!)