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Bob Smytherman Alan Walker Legal Q & A


In the run up to the 2015 election, the FPRA will be arguing in favour of leasehold reform

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As I write this column, despite there being more than three months to go until polling day, we are well and truly into the general

election campaign. So will the political parties be wooing flat-owners during the next few months? Frankly, I doubt it. Ahead of the 2010 election, the FPRA produced a manifesto for all the main parties entitled Forgotten Leaseholders – and what has happened since then? Answers on a post card please!

One positive outcome has been the fact that the Coalition Government has revised its estimate of the size of the leasehold sector. The FPRA welcomes this acknowledgement of the fact that there are now around five million people in England and Wales living in long or short leasehold flats or houses, as we had long believed this was underestimated. These figures include leaseholders of private blocks, retirement homes and local authority and housing association properties.

Many leaseholders have substantial problems with a broad range of issues and redress of those issues, which is available through both the courts and the less formal First-tier Tribunal, sometimes proves complicated, expensive and unbalanced so far as the recovery of legal costs is concerned. Often the best that the leaseholder can hope for is to come away with only his or her own legal costs to pay.

The various trade bodies involved in property management have long been aware of abuses in leasehold management and have asked successive governments for statutory regulation. Sadly this has continually fallen on deaf ears and instead they continue to rely on self-regulation. Only two codes of practice – the RICS Service Charge Code for Residential

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Property and the Association of Retirement Home Managers' Code of Practice, are approved by Parliament. We hope the emergence of ARMA-Q will improve standards because best practice lacks real bite when it comes to sanctioning offenders.

In the run-up to the 2015 general election we are once again proposing a number of changes which we believe will improve the lives of those living in privately-owned flats. We want a commitment from all the political parties to long overdue leasehold reform. Our priorities are:

Measures to simplify and encourage conversion to Commonhold, in particular to bring the rules in line with those for enfranchisement by requiring only the support of a bare majority of leaseholders, rather than 100% as at present. Review of the operation of Landlord and Tenant Law A review of financial thresholds for consultation Less strict rules for leaseholder owned blocks. In particular, a simpler procedure for authorising urgent works or improvements, either beforehand or retrospectively with the agreement of, say, a majority of leaseholders and exonerating unpaid directors of leaseholder owned blocks from the consequences of getting it wrong.

So what can you do?… Well if a candidate knocks on your door asking for your vote, ask them about leaseholder rights and what plans they have to improve them.

During the next couple of months the FPRA will be attending a leasehold 'roundtable' in

…we are once again

proposing a number of changes which we

believe will improve the lives of those living in privately-owned flats.

the House of Lords with housing ministers, as well as being part of the group reviewing the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE). We will also be meeting with civil servants at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to put these and other points forward on behalf of leasehold flat owners. I will keep Flat Living readers updated on the progress we make through this column and hope to have positive improvements to report in the months leading up to next year's election.

Bob Smytherman is Chairman of the FPRA The Federation of Private Residents' Associations can be contacted: via its website at: via Twitter: @FoPRA Facebook: or its LinkedIn Group: The Federation of Private Residents' Associations


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