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Tuesday, December 1, 1998 Published at 18:06 GMT

UK Politics

Leaseholders demand more control

Campaigners say property law has to change

Leaseholders have been protesting outside parliament demanding leasehold reform.

The Labour MP Barry Gardiner let himself be chained outside College Green to symbolise restraints on the leaseholders.

[ image: Barry Gardiner MP chained himself in protest]
Barry Gardiner MP chained himself in protest
The Member for Brent North in London led a lobby of more than 200 leaseholders demanding that the government make it easier for them to buy the freeholds of their homes and stop landlords "abusing" the system.

The group said leaseholders are at the mercy of landlords and often have to put up with high service charges, insurance costs and ground rents.

"What we want is for leaseholders to be able to take control over their own lives without landlords being able to say when you have a new roof, how much you pay for it, who does it, when it's going to happen," he said.

"You should be able to decide that for yourself in your own home."

'Councils must answer to tenants'

Both public and private sector leaseholders were represented.

Andrew Coles, the Chairman of Tower Hamlets Leaseholders' Association, said council tenants also wanted reform.

He told BBC News Online: "We're looking for an end to council maladministration, controls on the way they charge for their services, accountability and changes in the law which would allow us to dispose of managing agents in the same way as they can in the private sector so that if a council is corrupt or imcompetent we can get rid off it, in the same way as they can in the private sector."

Mr Cole was optimistic that a change in the law would come soon.

"I think that there's been a shifting of opinion and I think a number of MPs have listened to the grievances of council leaseholders. While it was Thatcher's flagship, no-one would listen to us. New Labour have got a mandate to pursue social justice and the first thing when you're looking for justice is equality before the law."

Reform proposals

Last week, the Housing Minister Hilary Armstrong published a consultation paper proposing a fairer deal for the country's two million leaseholders.

While the document was broadly welcomed by the pressure group, Campaign for Leasehold Reform, it said the proposals did not go far enough.

Ken Murray, national co-ordinator of the reform group, said: "Ms Armstrong has accepted that the whole [leasehold] business is fundamentally flawed and must be changed. However these proposals do not remove all unfair charges."

Stella Evans, a campaign representative, said: "Freeholders can cause untold misery to their tenants. Many people suffer serious health problems as a result of the fear and anxiety that are part of everyday life for so many leaseholders.

"The government must act now and put a stop to the legal blackmail and misery permissible under the current legal blackmail and misery permissible under the current legal system."

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