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Wednesday, June 10, 1998 Published at 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK

UK Politics

Pledge on overhaul of leaseholds

Leaseholds should go: MP Jim Fitzpatrick

The government has promised to bring justice to a million leasehold tenants with a radical reform of the law as soon as possible.

Nick Raynsford, minister for London and construction, gave the pledge after a series of MPs made pleas for leaseholds to be scrapped.

He said the law was fundamentally flawed and the time had come for comprehensive reform after the results of a consultation later this year were assessed.

"Our overall objective will be to provide leaseholders with the opportunity to reap the full benefits of owner-occupation and to have control over the way in which their homes are managed," the minister told MPs.

He was replying to an adjournment debate launched by Labour's Jim Fitzpatrick, who wants to end the abuses suffered by many of the one million leaseholders in England and Wales.

Mr Fitzpatrick said many people had complained of bullying and harassment by owners over charges for items such as concierge services, repairs and parking.

Back to renting

Often they invested huge sums in their properties, but still did not own them, he said.

He was supported by MPs who told of constituents faced with bills of thousands of pounds or who had become victims of fraudsters.

Mr Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Canning Town) said a study showed more than half of all leaseholders had complained about charges and level of services.

For many, their savings had been eaten away by charges, he said.

"It has even come to the point where a number are prepared to give up their lease and return to renting, for fear of losing the roof over their heads.

"My personal view is that leaseholds have had their time."

Call for commonhold tenancies

Mr Fitzpatrick, vice-chairman of the all-party group on leasehold reform, suggested the system could be replaced by one of commonhold tenancies.

There were a number of loopholes in the existing law, including any absence of a definition of structural defects.

[ image: Jaqui Lait:
Jaqui Lait: "a government promise"
Conservative Jaqui Lait (Beckenham) quoted from Hansard to show the government had promised a Bill in the first Queen's speech.

Labour's Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington North) detailed a string of headaches which she had heard of, saying reform was desperately needed.

"Council lessees across the country have been victims of policies not thought out. Private lessees have waited decades for justice and I look forward to the consultation paper," she said.

System branded a shambles

[ image: The freeholder holds power: Adrian Sanders]
The freeholder holds power: Adrian Sanders
Liberal Democrat Adrian Sanders (Torbay) called for the leasehold system to be replaced by one of commonhold as unscrupulous freeholders were lining their pockets.

He branded leaseholds "archaic and unfair". England and Wales were the only countries in the western world to have them.

"Little more than time-shares": Adrian Sanders MP
Mr Sanders added: "The current system is a shambles and should have no place in a country which espouses the benefits of home ownership so forcibly."

Some leaseholders who believed they would become owner-occupiers ended up with little more than a time-share, he claimed. The freeholder had all the power.

[ image: Barry Gardiner:
Barry Gardiner: "legalised extortion"
Labour's Barry Gardiner (Brent North) added his voice to the outpouring of attacks, saying the actions of some leasehold companies - "groundrent grazers" - amounted to legalised extortion.

An adjournment debate gives backbenchers the chance to air issues of concern to them and their constituents, but no vote is taken.

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