Minority Government presents opportunity for reform
In a world where minority Governments appear to have few ‘easy wins’ and plenty of ‘hard yards’ to make in order to get policy onto the statute books, it seems somehow ironic that this appears to be the best time yet to deliver the key reform required in our own market.
Just this week Theresa May held out the hand of political ‘friendship’ to her opponents suggesting that there should be more cross-party consensus and collaboration between parties. The cynic in us all might suggest that given her very slim DUP-backed majority she has little other option, and would certainly not be doing this if the Election result had played out differently, but I suspect in those areas which are important to us, she may just get what she wants.
Take leasehold reform for instance. Our Director of Delivery, Beth Rudolf, was recently asked to speak about the impact of the abuses of leasehold on the conveyancing process at the most recent meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on leasehold and commonhold. As its name suggest this has a growing number of advocates from right across the political spectrum and is potentially one area where the Government can meet its Queen’s Speech commitments with little pushback from its traditional adversaries.
Indeed, one suspects there would be very few opponents of Government measures which could tackle some of those abuses which have become very widely known through the media – new-build leasehold houses, escalating ground rents, extortionate service charges, plus the large costs and delays that significant numbers of Lease Administrators can inflict on existing and potential leaseholders.
It’s not as if there isn’t a positive groundswell of support around leasehold reform and therefore the Government are likely to be pushing at an open door on this issue. To that end, we (and our colleagues within the Legal Sector Group) have been keen to put some substantial meat on the leasehold reform bone and recently published our proposals to deliver on this. Covering everything from ensuring reasonable fees for administrative activities to unfair lease terms, from the overhaul of tenure to the marketing of leasehold properties, we wanted to outline the measures we believe will help ‘clean up’ the sector delivering far greater certainty and confidence for all concerned.
I’m very pleased to say that these proposals have been met with a positive response – we have sent them to the new Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, and also to the Law Commission as part of its 13th Programme of Law Reform. Given that we are into the summer months, close to the recess period for Parliament, and the second sift of the 13th Programme will not take place for a couple of months, then we can look towards September as a month when we expect announcements to be made, and the legislative push to begin in earnest.
The importance of leasehold reform to the delivery of the CA’s Strategic Plan cannot be over-estimated, and from our perspective, it is a series of changes that will deliver tangible benefits for all stakeholders. Politically, one can’t help but think it is an opportunity for the Government to show that, even in its minority state, it is still able to make a real difference, to review a sector’s innate problems and deliver the necessary solutions.
We are therefore looking forward to engaging with the relevant Government departments and working with our membership and Legal Sector Group colleagues in order to deliver on our published proposals.
I could say that the end result looks in sight but that would be getting ahead of ourselves; perhaps simply best to say that we are further down the road to delivering on our leasehold reform objectives. We shall see just how far in September.
Eddie Goldsmith is Chairman of the Conveyancing Association
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Lime Property Lawyers launches in August. For updates on the firm’s launch please email [email protected] or call our new business team on 0333 305 5249.