The Curious Case of the Suicidal Chicken

Our recent Management Committee and All-Members Meetings provided a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and members to discuss key issues and to share some fun times. Yes, conveyancers can let their hair down at times – those of us with the benefit of still having hair.

While chewing the fat post-meeting, our Director of Delivery, Beth Rudolf regaled me with a story which was odd in the extreme. It concerned one of the three chickens she keeps at her home – along with a fulsome menagerie of other animals I might add. One weekend recently her family held a BBQ for the local rugby team members and, let’s just say there was plenty of food and drink doing the rounds – as we all know rugby teams are not backward in coming forward when it comes to partaking of both.

So the team members visited her abode and as the afternoon went on, one of her chickens strutted around the party like she owned the place, with various people taking it upon themselves to feed her tidbits as she came close. After a couple of hours of this, the aforementioned chicken took a quick break, before returning to the fold and being fed even more. It’s fair to say the chicken left the BBQ in a state of food-induced euphoria, evidently as happy with its lot as it was ever likely to be in its life, especially given the obvious fate that awaited it.

That being the case, the chicken – in what Beth can only describe as a food fugue – decided that things really couldn’t really get any better than this, took itself off into the geese enclosure where it was promptly pecked to within an inch of its life, resulting in the inevitable having to be administered. We might call it the chicken’s version of Dignitas – let’s just say that, due to the chicken’s own decision, it’s no longer with us. The chicken is no more, it has ceased to be, it is bereft of life…etc, etc.

I’m not sure if this is the first case of a chicken committing a form of hari kari but if it’s not a local newspaper story before the end of this week, I’ll be very disappointed. So, what’s all this got to do with conveyancing you might ask? Well, during our AMM Beth was just as informative about the notion of Commonhold, and our belief that when the Government act on leasehold reform – particularly when it comes to outlawing new-build leasehold – they might wish to (at the very least) investigate Commonhold as a viable alternative.

As Beth outlined at the meeting, there are a number of significant pros when it comes to utilising Commonhold instead of leasehold including the fact there is no diminishing term of lease, a Commonhold Community Statement can be used across multiple sites, it’s certainly not as complicated as many think, our members are now more informed about it, and if the Government were able to mandate for Commonhold then our view is that there’s no reason why lenders wouldn’t want to lend on such properties.

There is, of course, one sticking point in all of this – as one member pointed out, ‘If Commonhold is so good, why do we only have 175 Commonholders across the country?” And here we can find the link with Beth’s chicken, because if there is no reform from the Government, we’re effectively asking developers/builders, etc, to carry out the same act as our fowl friend. After filling themselves up on leasehold and the profit-making abilities it has provided them with, we’re suggesting they should enter the ‘geese enclosure’ of their own accord and put an end to it all.

It’s a nice thought but given the money involved – definitely not chicken feed – it’s unlikely to happen. So, we need to continue to lobby MPs and the Government to ensure it takes these views on board, that it’s fully aware of the benefits of Commonhold and it acts accordingly to force this action. The next All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting next week will discuss Commonhold at some length – the more support we have there the better – and the leasehold reform consultation ends in a couple of weeks. Again, the more responses firms put in outlining their thoughts in this area, the better.

The most positive outcome in this will not be a collective wringing of developers and house-builders’ necks, but it will be a series of new rules and regulations that they have to abide by, which take away onerous terms and mean that the significant profit-making they have been involved in, can’t continue any more. Let’s all ensure that Beth’s chicken did not die in vain.

Eddie Goldsmith is Chairman of the Conveyancing Association

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