The blog of Roger Southam, the controversial chairman of the Leasehold Advisory Service, was removed this afternoon.
The article was seen as an apologia of the existing leasehold system that has brought misery to tens of thousands of leasehold owners, particularly those in new-build properties that now cannot be sold.
Instead of expressing the slightest sympathy with their predicament, the chairman of the quango that is supposedly representing leaseholders’ interest, Mr Southam made references to “vitriol” and a “rhetoric of profiteering and finger pointing”.
“In reality leasehold is not the evil thing that is being portrayed,” he wrote.
Someone has obviously had enough, and Mr Southam’s words were removed.
Mr Southam is a lifelong leasehold sector insider, controversial property manager and advisor to freeholders on “how to maximise your ground rents”.
Both the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership and the National Leasehold Campaign have urged him to resign.
In April, Mr Southam astonished listeners of BBC r4 You and Yours when he said that it was not the job of the Leasehold Advisory Service to alert ministers to the unfolding leasehold houses scandal.
In For those who missed it, Mr Southam’s article is reproduced here:
It is great to see the two DCLG consultations launched and the opportunity to have open engagement to address the issues.
In reality leasehold is not the evil thing that is being portrayed. Doubling ground rents and unreasonable administration fees are the evil things. We can have all freehold houses and bring in Commonhold across the board for flats but it will not remove the challenges of management and the need for regulation of managing agents along with effective ways to resolve conflict.
As a result of the consultation and process I sincerely hope that we get an easier route to access information for leaseholders to create resident associations. I also expect that developers will be forced to create freehold houses and reduce ground rent amounts.
There is of course an elephant in the room that has not been discussed with all the vitriol and upset that was caused by the doubling ground rents. To be clear I do not want to see any person have unfair contract terms under any circumstances and I have always sought fairness for leaseholders, indeed I was a leaseholder before I became a residential manager. I still live in a leasehold home.
The elephant is the investment sale of ground rent provides additional income for the developer to make schemes viable in a lot of cases. There is rhetoric of profiteering and finger pointing but somewhere along the way we need to have an objective conversation about the whole development cycle and how it works in all facets to ensure that the right decisions are being made for the right reasons. For example, there will be situations where houses must be leasehold because the developer has a head lease. In these situations, there must be the same rights for leasehold houses as leasehold flats.
There are parades of houses that have been sold freehold that should have been leasehold. I know of one where there are all sorts of challenges for the owners because of the behaviour of other owners where access is affected, door entry systems damaged and major alterations undertaken to the houses. The effect of each is to impact and effect the neighbours adversely.
There is a drive by planners and society to have the most environmentally efficient and friendly developments. Indeed, meeting the Breeam standards is compulsory with a desire to get to the highest grade. This is achieved with communal heating plant and systems. This is as applicable to houses as well as flats. Therefore, houses would be sold freehold with a need for positive covenants to pay for shared services and the running thereof. This can bring challenges as the above example shows.
So, we need to make sure we have an objective debate that considers the challenges and complexities of the development process. That will weigh up and balance the benefits and disadvantages of the tenures. That will ensure fairness and equity for the consumer. That will ensure we have the housing developed needed to meet demand.
Make sure you make your voice heard by contributing to the consultation.