Reform – What was Shelter’s response?

Reform slide

Shelter, it seems to me, is surprisingly protective as a national housing and homelessness charity of its responses to the government consultation: “All rights reserved. This document is only for your personal, non-commercial use. You may not copy, reproduce, republish, post, distribute, transmit or modify it in any way.

So if you want to read their response yourself, you’ll have to go googling. I’m assuming I can, as a leaseholder, comment on their response?

Shelter’s role, to me anyway, appears to be to prevent homelessness and fight bad housing?

I always ask myself what special knowledge or expertise any organisation, however large, brings to a particular subject, only so that I can, as it were, weigh the usefulness of each contribution one against the other. We are all entitled to opinions. I do not find all opinions useful. Facts are always useful.

Leasehold being private contract ‘home ownership’, I may be wrong in thinking that long leaseholders who face forfeiture might conceivably turn to Shelter for housing advice or assistance? Or if facing loss of their private lease for some other reason. If yes, this would presumably give Shelter as a national charity quite useful, direct, hands-on facts about the  day to day issues that surround and affect residential leaseholders?

Otherwise, I still ask myself what factual knowledge even Shelter brings to this particular table? I anyway stand my own twenty years’ direct experience of long leasehold, coupled to six years’ activity on a leasehold problems forum (with almost daily postings by leaseholders of issues), against any organisation’s opinions if I cannot see the background evidence for opinions expressed where they are different to my experience.

Freedom of speech, no?

In its introduction, Shelter asserts there is nothing inherently wrong with leasehold, and that leasehold is well-established, and that the critical issue is the abuses of recent years.

Speaking as a leaseholder, I politely but strongly disagree with this assertion and invite Shelter to: (a) further research the available body of literature on the lived experience of leasehold; (b) delve further into Hansard archives where leasehold has been debated more historically than recently; (c) download and study more of the almost endless litany of tribunal and higher court cases; and (d) publish any factual data it has of its own to back its assertion that there is nothing inherently wrong with leasehold.

I suggest these steps merely because, in my view, offers of solutions to any problem are – I would imagine – rather influenced by one’s assessment of the problem in the first place?

The fact that leasehold still exists does not mean that both sides of the contract got a say in its existence. Longevity in establishment is no measure of freedom from fundamental defect, as the UK Government itself said in 1998:

“The Government believes the leasehold system is fundamentally flawed”. Hillary Armstrong, Miniser of State, DETR, 1998.

When was this ‘fundamental flaw’ corrected betwixt then and now? I welcome facts.

In the body of its response, Shelter repeats an assertion that much of the abuse of leasehold has centered on escalating ground rents. Recently in the headlines, perhaps. But as to the quantum of the abuses of leasehold centering on escalating ground rents, I think this depends on what you read and how far back you read it?

Therefore I offer Shelter the following appetisers:

A long lease is a wasting asset: the investment in the tenant’s home steadily loses value as the lease approaches the end of its term […] The interest of the tenant under a long lease often conflicts with that of his landlord: many leaseholders experience serious difficulties with their landlords, ranging from neglect of their obligations under the lease to outright exploitation.” Wilberforce Report 1965

“…leasehold development, if not a dying industry, is at any rate an ailing one”. HWR Wade, 1972

“…the declining popularity of leasehold tenure makes the leasehold system less useful” Law Commission’s Gibson Report 1984.

Leaseholders’ problems arose partly because of the gap between the desire for home ownership and the reality of leaseholding. […] There are serious problems with leasehold law as it applies to private leaseholders. The law is firmly weighted on the side of the freeholder, whereas the burden of the cost lies with the leaseholder.” Jim Fitzpatrick, MP, HC Deb 10 June 1998 vol 313 cc987-1010 987

The Government still recognise that the leasehold system is totally unsuited to the society of the 20th century, let alone the 21st century”. Those words were used in a November 1998 consultation paper. […] Today no country has a leasehold system except Britain. [… ] The leasehold system is designed to give the landlord a second, sometimes a third and even a fourth bite of the cherry. It is a system whereby a tenant can effectively buy his own home. Then he or his successors can buy it again and sometimes again and again.” Lord Jacob, Hansard HL Deb 19 November 2001 vol 628 cc907-47

In addition I would suggest Googling for Sir Peter Bottomley’s experiences and comments on the abuses of leasehold, speaking as he does as a senior member of parliament. I would also suggest Googling for newspaper articles on leasehold problems. The investigative press has covered the widespread abuses of leasehold rather extensively.

The more responses I read, the more impression they suggest to me of opinions expressed. I want to see the data, the facts, the research. Surely somebody has this?

Whereas everyone is entitled to their opinion, my view if ever asked for it would be, please don’t offer me opinions on big subjects that affect my life and finances just because you can.

But that’s just me, a mere leaseholder.

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