The Queen may be busy preparing her Christmas address and deciding which hat she will wear for Prince Harry’s wedding, but a new issue is coming into her inbox.
Louie Burns, managing director of Leasehold Solutions, which helps home owners extended their lease or buy their freehold, is calling on Her Majesty to end her support for the UK’s feudal leasehold system, by changing the land tenure for the Crown Estate’s property portfolio.
As one of the UK’s largest property managers, the Crown Estate’s £12bn property portfolio includes thousands of leasehold homes for which it owns the freehold, he said.
The Crown Estate is owned by the monarch for the duration of their reign.
Under the terms of the Sovereign Grant Act 2011 the monarch is provided with a stable source of income from the Crown Estate’s annual net revenue.
The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, recently agreed to increase the Queen’s personal share of the Crown Estate’s income to 25%, roughly £76m a year.
Burns questioned how leasehold can ever be abolished or reformed significantly if the law upholds “the aristocracy’s long-held belief in their entitlement to own other people’s homes and property in perpetuity”.
He said: “Leasehold properties have generated hundreds of millions of pounds in income for the Crown Estate – and the Queen personally – including through ground rents and the huge charges paid by leaseholders to extend their leases.
“Although there have been lots of encouraging statements from the Government about ending unfair practices in the leasehold system, the Crown Estate’s ownership of residential leasehold properties adds a veneer of respectability to our unjust and feudal leasehold system.
“Their refusal to let go of this leasehold cash cow validates the commitment of other freeholders to retain their ground rent portfolios too.
“The history of leasehold reform over the last 150 years has been one that repeats itself like a feudal ‘ground hog day’. It starts with great public dissatisfaction and anger with the leasehold system, which eventually prompts politicians to take notice and introduce some legislation that tinkers around the edges of the issue, without ever bringing about the changes that are needed – namely the abolition of the leasehold system in the UK.
“It is time to change this depressing pattern of events and abolish this deeply flawed leasehold system for good. The Queen and our Government should show the way, by changing the land tenure on all leasehold properties owned by the Crown Estate and giving the tenants the option to become homeowners.”