Working Together To Improve The Housebuying Process
Anyone working in the housing market quickly realises that there’s very little you can do, or achieve, on your own. The very nature of the process and the ability to make it as smooth as possible is predicated on a large number of practitioners and stakeholders all ‘doing their bit’ – without a high level of collaboration and communication we are always going to fail.
It’s been quite clear to us here at the CA for some time, then when tackling some of the major issues in our system, we’re able to take part in the debate, provide a ‘party line’, proffer solutions to issues, promote them to members, work with stakeholders, and encourage firms to implement them, but without the support of others we can only move so far forward.
Improving the home-buying process needs to be a group process, as does all other problems that require solving, for example, in an area like leasehold where there are some who might not agree with our approach.
Fortunately, when it comes to leasehold – the sale of ‘leasehold homes’, the inflated fees and charges that have been brought to bear in areas like ground rent or purchasing the freehold, securing adequate upfront information, the costs and delays that come with getting the necessary leasehold information that is required before purchasing/selling, etc – we not only appear to have significant industry consensus but also, rather importantly, Government support to deliver in this area.
That clearly goes a long way, especially when you are dealing with a large number of vested interests, who have deep pockets, lobbying strength, and a significant financial reason why they’d like to keep the status quo.
However, our collective approach in this area to right the wrongs of the leasehold system, in order to provide fairer outcomes for all leasehold stakeholders, has made significant progress and the recent Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) consultation on ‘Implementing Reforms to the Leasehold System’ was further proof of that.
The CA recently issued its response to that consultation and we outlined our solutions to the questions raised particularly when it comes to the provision of leasehold information, the cost of acquiring it, and the time it takes to deliver. For too long, a number of Lease Administrators have overcharged and under-delivered in this area and we believe the time is right to introduce set costs and maximum timescales for this.
What is perhaps most heartening is to see other industry organisations and bodies supporting and endorsing our views in this area. In the consultation responses of both the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership (LKP) and the HomeOwners Alliance, you will find numerous references to the CA and the recommendations we have made in our own response.
I raise this not to pat ourselves on the back or to be self-congratulatory but as a further sign of progress because, as mentioned, without the backing and support of other trade bodies/organisation/stakeholders, we might simply be viewed as a lone voice in the market that does not speak for anyone else but our membership. That has never been our raison d’être because we decided a number of years back that it would be our aim to move for changes which benefited the entire industry and improved the entire process, rather than just focusing on those areas which would benefit our membership.
To read the support of bodies like the LKP and the HomeOwners Alliance – especially in an area like leasehold which is so clearly ripe for reform – is hugely encouraging and shows that a collegiate approach can work, and it’s important to take as many stakeholders with you in order to get real change.
The ball is of course now firmly in the MHCLG/Government’s court, but all meetings and dealings we have had with them, show a real intent on delivering in this area and ensuring that leasehold is not abused and those who buy leasehold properties in the future, and those who are currently leaseholders, are not left feeling they have made the biggest mistake of their lives. We have the opportunity to produce a far better leasehold system but, as the saying goes, it will take a village to do it.