Flat dwellers are familiar with the problems that can arise from owning a leasehold property. More recently housebuilders have come under fire for conditions in leases which require high fees to be paid when a homeowner wants to make changes to their property. LEBC cannot advise on these issues but we asked Wanda Goldwag, interim Chair of the Leasehold Advisory Service to tell us about their work in helping leaseholders.
The Leasehold Advisory Service, better known as LEASE, is a public body funded by the English and Welsh governments. It was established in February 1994 to provide free advice and information on residential leasehold, including leaseholders of high-rise buildings with ACM cladding on fire safety; and anyone living in a park home in England and Wales.
All the advisory staff at LEASE are legally qualified and we have the luxury of being able to specialise in relatively narrow subjects; hence there is a high level of expertise.
As Chair of LEASE my role is to make sure that LEASE functions extremely well – all the research says that it does and that it gives great advice, I intend to make sure that continues to be the case.
The advice we provide is initial legal advice that empowers our customers to make informed decisions and to engage more confidently with third parties like freeholders. Leasehold and park homes law is complicated, so we understand that our customers need our help to understand how the law affects them. Nevertheless, we are looking to do more to help our customers in the coming months.
One of our main aims is to expand the provision of advice across England and Wales through outreach events, where our advisers go out and meet groups of leaseholders and provide bespoke advice and information to them. We have undertaken almost 50 of these events so far this year.
Customers can access advice via a number of different channels including the LEASE website at www.lease-advice.org, by phone or by letter/email. We have a wide range of online advice guides, Frequently Asked Questions and tools used by thousands of people every week.
The issues we tend to see revolve around the vexed and complex topic of the duties and obligations of the landlord to leaseholder. Leaseholders, often rightly, have concerns and queries with how their building is managed and the fairness of simply being a leaseholder.
Two examples highlight where we have been able to help. First, a leaseholder in Essex contacted us after receiving a demand for ground rent. It also included an initial administration charge of almost £120 that shorty increased to almost £300. Large amounts of money, but moreover the law imposes certain steps before a ground rent is payable, let alone charges such as these. We advised and the leaseholder subsequently challenged the charges and they were withdrawn.
The second example saw us assist a leaseholder in Hackney. She had been billed almost £600 for work which carried out more than two years previously. We were able to explain that billing for matters such as this is time sensitive. In fact the law has an 18 month time limit. Advised accordingly, the bill was successfully challenged.
Readers of this blog may already be aware that circumstances like those highlighted above, and I am afraid many even worse, have meant that leasehold reform has been a very active policy area for both England and Welsh Governments over the last 18 months. Both are committed to improving fairness for leaseholders, and this includes tasking the Law Commission to actively make commonhold, the Right to Manage and the buying the freehold of a block of flats easier. The Law Commission has seen two-thirds of its recommendations adopted by Government, so change is plainly ahead; but almost certainly only after we are some way past Brexit.
If you are a leaseholder or park home owner worried about your situation, please get in touch with us. We are here to help.
Please remember, no news or research item is a recommendation or advice to buy. LEBC Group Ltd is not responsible for accuracy and may not share the author’s views. If you are unsure of the suitability of any investment or product for your circumstances, please contact an adviser. All investments can fall as well as rise in value so you could get back less than you invest. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax planning. Tax rates and allowances may change in future and depend on individual circumstances.
LEASE is governed by a board, appointed as individuals by the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.Back to News & Views