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UK Government’s leasehold reforms ‘not the revolution required’, peers told

24 May 2024 4 minute read
Reforms to leasehold and freehold in England and Wales are on course to become law

Reforms to leasehold and freehold in England and Wales are on course to become law, amid warnings it is “not the revolution” required.

Government and opposition officials agreed to push ahead with the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill in the final hours before Parliament shuts down for the General Election on July 4.

Leaseholds are a form of home ownership that gives the householders the right to live in a property for a fixed number of years but can also mean having to pay service charges to the freeholder, who owns the land.

The Bill aims to make it cheaper and easier for more people to extend their lease, buy their freehold and take over management of their building, although campaigners warned it did not go far enough.

As the parliamentary session entered the process known as the “wash-up”, the Government had to concede that not all aspects of its intended reforms could progress.

Restrict ground rents

In February, MPs urged the Government to go further to restrict ground rents for existing leases and end forfeiture, with housing minister Lee Rowley pointing to ongoing consultations.

Speaking on Friday, Labour frontbencher Lord Kennedy of Southwark said of the Bill: “This is far, far short of what was promised … and the Government should be ashamed of the fact, the way it has behaved over the last few years, and behaved over this Bill, making promise after promise after promise, and delivering very, very little.”

Conservative whip Lord Gascoigne replied: “This is a good Bill as it stands, the Government wants to see it through.”

Intervening, Lord Kennedy pushed the minister to confirm whether there is “nothing on forfeiture and nothing on ground rents as promised in this Bill”.

Lord Gascoigne confirmed that these were not included in the Bill.

Suboptimal

As peers considered further proposed amendments at report stage, Conservative Lord Bailey of Paddington said: “This Bill is suboptimal, it’s not the revolution that many leaseholders across the country have been desperate for.

“But it’s the only game in town, a game that has currently taken 22 years to get to this point.”

Other Tory peers accused the Government of “rushing through” attempts to implement the Bill.

Conservative peer Lord Howard of Rising said of Friday’s proceedings: “It’s a disgrace. It’s not washing-up, it’s letting all the water out. You’ve got a major piece of legislation that creates certain precedents and it’s being rushed through here without a moment’s notice.”

Party colleague Lord Moylan added: “This seems to me, for a complex and difficult piece of legislation about which many serious questions were raised in Committee, a most reckless way of proceeding… this is being rushed through in the most reckless fashion.”

They argued that the legislation was not initially mentioned in the list of bills to be pushed through before Parliament is dissolved for the election, and warned that parts of it are likely to be challenged in the courts.

Tory frontbencher Baroness Williams of Trafford said she does “utterly appreciate the frustration” of certain bills being included, or not being included, but said it has been agreed between the Government and the Opposition which ones would be prioritised.

Infected Blood Compensation Authority

Elsewhere on the final day of the session, the Victims and Prisons Bill – which paves the way for the establishment of the independent Infected Blood Compensation Authority – cleared both Houses.

The Pet Abduction Bill also cleared all parliamentary stages, with Conservative peer Lord Lexden labelling it an “important day for animal welfare”.

Criminals face up to five years in jail for abducting cats and dogs under the legislation.

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill, which closes a loophole to ensure working fathers who lose their partner in childbirth will be given the right to “day one” paternity leave, cleared Parliament.

Measures to provide a new and easier route for Irish nationals who have lived in the UK for five years to register for British citizenship also received the backing of Parliament.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s flagship Tobacco and Vapes Bill – designed to ban young people from ever being able to smoke tobacco legally – did not re-emerge on the final day.

The Renters Reform Bill, which was expected to pave the way for an end to section 21 no-fault evictions, was also axed.

Once consideration of the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill is complete in both Houses, the prorogation ceremony to end the current parliamentary session is expected to take place.


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Richard Davies
Richard Davies
9 days ago

It is actually legal to smoke (and drink alcohol) from the age of 5.

The law is concerned with the age you have to be in order to purchase, in this case, tobacco.

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