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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Boost for home buyers
Estate agent signs
Flatowners are promised greater protection
Millions of property buyers are to benefit from new legislation on flat leaseholds and land registration in Labour's second term of government.

The long-awaited Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill will help thousands of flat leaseholders gain ownership of the freehold of their home.

There is evidence of widespread exploitation by unscrupulous landlords

Lord Chancellor's Department spokesman

For those who do not wish to buy, they will have better options for managing their own homes as part of a commonhold association, in a move against bad landlords.

And millions of people will be affected by the reform of the "complex and out-dated" land registration system which will promote electronic conveyancing included in Wednesday's Queen's Speech.

The new "right to manage" will allow residents in a block of flats to take over management from unscrupulous landlords and agents.

People will be able to buy their freeholds as soon as they buy their flats, without facing a "residence test".

However, proposals to make sellers provide a pack of information for prospective sellers has been dropped.

Unfair system

The bill is designed to reform the "unfair system" for leaseholding, according to the Lord Chancellor's Department.

It said the bill would help leaseholders who pay as much for their homes as freeholders, but who find it more difficult to sell their properties as the length of lease shortens.

A spokesman said that leaseholders need greater control over the management of their services.

"There is no incentive to provide a cost effective service and there is evidence of widespread exploitation by unscrupulous landlords."

The bill was introduced in the last session but failed to gain Royal Assent prior to the dissolution of Parliament.

Land registration

The modernisation of land registration will have implications for the millions of people buying and selling property in England and Wales every year.

The conveyancing system going online would make the process cheaper, quicker and simpler, the Lord Chancellor's Department said.

A spokesman said: "The bill would completely replace the existing legislation to allow land registration to be faster, clearer and simpler."

The new legislation also promises to outline the rights and responsibilities of owners.

And it would mean better protection for owners against squatters.

"While the new system would take some time to introduce, it should lead to quicker and less stressful ways of buying and selling land as well as providing greater security of title," he said.

No 'Seller's Pack'

However, one proposal missing from the speech was that to make house sellers provide an information pack containing a range of documents including a survey, a draft contract and search details.

The proposal was part of the Housing Bill reforms in the last Parliament and did not pass into law.

Trevor Kent, a former president of the National Association of Estate Agents, who has campaigned against the idea, said the great majority of residential estate agents would greet the news that the proposal had been omitted with relief.

"I sincerely hope that the well-reasoned opposition from almost all professionals in the property business has been heeded," he said.

And Conservative housing spokesman Nigel Waterson said: "We are glad to see that the Government has hesitated in reintroducing its unpopular and unworkable proposals for Sellers' Packs."

While he welcomed the legislation on commonhold and leasehold reform, he said it was a shame it had taken the government over four years to deliver on its promises.

And he criticised the government for failing to make homelessness legislation a priority.

"Tony Blair once pledged Labour would do everything in its power to `end the scandal of homelessness'. But homelessness has risen by over 8,000 since 1997," he said.

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See also:

15 Oct 98 | R-S
27 Mar 01 | Facts
08 Mar 00 | UK Politics
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