By Sebastian O’Kelly
The estate of Nigel Wilkins, the leasehold activist who died after a brief illness in February 2017 aged 66, has left £10,000 to the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership.
LKP sincerely thanks the executors and Nigel’s family for making this donation and we will ensure that it is put to good use.
For years Nigel Wilkins ran the Campaign Against Residential Leasehold.
In addition, he was a leaseholder in South Kensington and was employed at the Financial Services Authority, and its successors the Financial Conduct Authority.
As such he was well placed to appreciate the financial scale of the residential leasehold market, and the considerable financial interests – often based offshore – which sought to profit from it.
Nigel produced an authoritative printed newsletter called The Leaseholder, which I used to receive as a journalist on national newspapers long before the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership was founded.
I was struck by his observation that a mortgage fraudster, a Mr Waya, was treated more leniently by the criminal courts than leaseholders are by the civil ones.
Although Mr Waya was sent off to prison and his property portfolio of flats repossessed by the banks he cheated, the criminal courts were scrupulous in returning to him his seed capital that had launched his career.
Leaseholders, on the other hand, face lease forfeiture – often from the most dubious landlords and their legal henchmen – which results in total loss of all capital in a lease and any mortgage, too.
As Nigel pointed out:
“So leaseholders are being treated far worse than criminals when it comes to forfeiture. Moreover any debts due are purely civil debts, and not a result of theft.
“As we all know a large proportion of the “debts” owed by leaseholders arise because of theft and incompetence by landlords, managing agents and others – the so-called ‘professionals’.”
With such sharp and accurate analysis of the leasehold sector, Nigel would have been a natural ally of LKP.
CARL had been set up by Nigel and another formidable West London activist called Joan South (who is still recalled with some dread by older leasehold sector professionals).
But its glory days were the 1990s, and CARL never made the transition into mass media digital communications, which have seen the rise of LKP and, later, the National Leasehold Campaign (which Nigel would have also hugely applauded).
At Nigel’s memorial wake, I made the observation that his membership of the Kensington Labour party was evidence in itself of an optimistic and cheery mindset. Indeed, he stood unsuccessfully for the local council several times.
Sadly, Nigel did not live to see the extraordinary election of Emma Dent Coad as Labour MP for Kensington and Chelsea – probably the richest constituency in the country – a few months after his death.
Another regret is that he did not live to see the current transformative efforts being made to reform the leasehold sector, with both the Conservative government and the Labour Opposition committed to ending future ground rents.
Nigel would have understood that the ending of this sole legitimate income stream, ends the leasehold game.
Everything falls away to leaseholder empowerment after that, and every new block of flats will be set up – as it should be – with a residents’ management company.
Nigel was far too sensible to know that there will always be plenty of squabbling in communal living set-ups such as flats.
But ridding residential leasehold of a whole load of anonymous scamps, often based offshore, from turning ordinary people’s homes into their investment asset is something he would have warmly applauded.
Requiescat in pace, Nigel. It is up to us to finish the job.