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Leasehold reform expected to be introduced in King’s Speech

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, has said that he plans to include legislation for leasehold reform in the next King’s Speech.

In response to question from the Levelling Up Department yesterday, Gove said: “We hope, in the forthcoming King’s Speech, to introduce legislation to fundamentally reform the system. Leaseholders, not just in this case but in so many other cases, are held to ransom by freeholders.

“We need to end this feudal form of tenure and ensure individuals have the right to enjoy their own property fully.”

Gove has previously said that legislation to change leasehold would be coming this year, and had suggested that the system should be updated.

There have been several changes to leasehold, with leaseholders getting ground rent refunds and the Building Safety Act mandating that costs be placed on building owners, rather than leaseholders, to pay for constructions.

Last year, the Government said that the date of the next King’s Speech – where the King speaks in the Lords Chamber to signal the state opening of Parliament and sets out programme of legislation for the session – would be delayed until the Autumn.

The current session has been extended to May in order to get through other major pieces of legislation.

‘Developers are lining up’ to sign remediation contracts

Gove added that developers were “lining up” to sign remediation contracts to around 1,500 buildings.

He said: “Some 95% of those buildings with the most dangerous Grenfell-style cladding have already been remediated or have work under way.

“The number of buildings that are being fixed by the building safety fund has doubled in the past year. The pilot for our new mid-rise scheme is making good progress ahead of its full opening in the coming months.”

Earlier this year, the Government gave developers a six-week deadline to sign legal agreements to fix unsafe buildings, warning of “significant consequences” if they failed to do so.

When asked by Shadow Minister for Transport Tan Dhesi whether the Government action was sufficient, Gove supported the moves, saying it would mean that owners would be responsible for remediation.

Dhesi pointed to some of his constituents who were “stuck in limbo” as they could not sell or remortgage apartments and faced rising service charges and other costs.

Gove said: “The action we have already taken will ensure not only that the ultimate owners of those buildings —whether that is the developers or the freeholders — are responsible for remediation, but that those leaseholders who are currently trapped and unable to move will be able to do so and to secure a mortgage on their property if required.”

Gove continued that insurance premiums had been “too high” and that “middle people involved have been gouging at the expense of leaseholders”.

“We have made it clear there are responsibilities on the Association of British Insurers and others to change their ways,” he added.

He continued that the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Lee Rowley was “responsible for local Government and engaged in work to make progress on that”.

Department will look at ‘kinks in the system’ of EWS1 forms

Gove was also asked about EWS1 certificates, as Labour MP for Leeds Central Hilary Benn asked if the Government would commit to help blocks below 11 metres as lenders were still demanding EWS1 certification that “cannot currently be provided”.

Gove said that he would “look into the specifics of any individual case”, but said that discussions that the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Lee Rowley had had with lenders showed that “there has been a significant diminution in the demand for EWS1 forms”.

He continued: “Where they are still being demanded, however, I would like to know more, so I look forward to working with the Right Hon. Gentleman to find out more about any kinks in the system.”