Leasehold reform campaigners have expressed concern that home owners could mistakenly delay extending or buying their freehold while they wait for the Law Commission to review the sector.
The Law Commission set out its terms of reference at the end of last week for its Residential Law Reform project, which promises to present solutions as part of a review of leasehold law before Parliament’s summer recess this year, with the final report expected in 2019.
The terms of reference promise to consider the case to improve access to enfranchisement – the process of extending a lease or purchasing a freehold – and to producer options for a better valuation for how much the process should cost.
It also wants to look at promoting commonhold as an alternative to leasehold.
But Louie Burns, managing director of Leasehold Solutions – which helps with lease extensions and freehold purchase – warned that the language wasn’t tough enough and cautioned that home owners may mistakenly let the time left on their leases run down while they wait for legislation.
He said: “We welcome any announcement that promises to bring about meaningful reform of the leasehold system, but we are concerned that the scope of the Law Commission’s review is based on vague platitudes such as ‘will consider’, ‘will seek to’ and ‘will review’.
“Ultimately there is no guarantee that the reforms will deliver the seismic changes needed to bring meaningful improvements to the leasehold system, nor that the Government will actually implement the Commission’s recommendations when they are published.
“We also worry that many leaseholders will now not take action to remedy the issues created by their falling leases, while they await fresh legislation from Government. In reality it will be several years before the Law Commission’s report is published, and even longer until the Government is in a position to propose legislation to tackle the many problems with the leasehold system.”
Sebastian O’Kelly, of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, agreed that there was a risk home owners would wait for legislation.
He told EYE: “There is a risk people will look at this and just wait.
“If a home owner is comfortable with a lease above 82 years they don’t need to worry too much, but if below they should seriously consider extending anyway.”