A long-ignored but problematic issue in the law regarding collective enfranchisement and individual lease extensions for leasehold flat owners has finally been addressed, with the passage of a new bill in Parliament today.
The Leasehold Reform (Amendment) Bill — an initiative championed by law firm Seddons and the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners (ALEP) — has successfully had its Third Reading in the House of Lords today, and is now set to receive Royal Assent.
The Bill “seeks to make an amendment to the 1993 Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act to assist long leaseholders of flats who are unable to sign, for whatever reason, the legal notices necessary to trigger an individual lease renewal or the collective enfranchisement process.”
Leaseholders will now be able to have a designated representative — such as a lawyer or other duly recognised individual or entity — sign any required documents on their behalf. Historically, such documents had to be signed in person by the individual in question, putting a number of types of leaseholders at a distinct disadvantage. These have included those who spend extended time abroad (such as retirees or high net worth individuals), or elderly or impaired individuals who may have difficulty making themselves available for the signing of such documents within the required timeframes. Now, any recognised representative — including appointed legal advisors or individuals holding power of attorney status — will be able to undertake such proceedings on their behalf.
In addition, the Bill provides clarity in relation to the signature of notices by corporate bodies, where there is currently uncertainty as to the capacity in which a company may sign and often notices need to be executed as a deed in order to prevent a challenge to their validity.
John Midgley, property enfranchisement partner at Seddons, commented:
“I am delighted that the Leasehold Reform (Amendment) Bill has now passed through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I commend both Philip Hollobone MP and David Nuttall MP for seeing the merit in the proposed change and for introducing the Bill in Parliament in the first place.
“The changes have made the law in this area more ‘fit for purpose’ by rectifying the legal anomaly in relation to the signing of collective enfranchisement and lease extension notices. This change will certainly make a big difference to the people who had previously been disadvantaged by the need to personally sign these types of notices when there was no obvious reason as to why they should be required to do so.
“I very much look forward to the change being implemented and to working on cases in the future where nobody will be excluded from extending their lease or taking part in a collective enfranchisement simply because they cannot personally sign their notice.”
Alex Greenslade, founder and Honorary Secretary of ALEP added:
“For some time ALEP has campaigned for a number of changes to the leasehold reform legislation to improve the situation for flat owners and those who work on their behalf. At the top of the list has always been the anomalous ban on official notices being signed by attorneys and so we are delighted to have assisted in the creation and passage of this bill through Parliament. We are particularly grateful to one of our solicitor committee members, John Midgley of Seddons, who deserves our recognition and thanks. Our collective work on this will soon improve the lot of flat owners in a very tangible way.”