It may seem folkloristic for Merrie England to have a handful of aristocratic families owning tracts of London, but there is absolutely no reason to create several hundred more of them.
Yet that is precisely what we are doing by creating ever more flats – scandalously, also houses – sold with leasehold tenure.
It is the means to withhold real home ownership from ordinary families, and to create investment assets in their homes for someone else.
This rigged system is unique to England and Wales.
These are the achievements of LKP since it was founded in January 2012:
1/ We exposed the collusive tendering racket of Peverel / Cirrus, whereby 65 retirement sites were systematically cheated of millions of pounds for expensive electronic door entry systems that were not needed.
We ensured this scandal achieved national attention in the media. Our MP patrons raised the issue in the House.
2/ We are solely responsible for the renewed interest in commonhold, holding meetings in Parliament for lawyers and academics, some from Australia, showing the way to an alternative to leasehold (practised virtually everywhere outside England and Wales).
3/ We exposed the leasehold houses and doubling ground rent scandal. This was taken up by the brilliant Patrick Collinson of The Guardian in October 2016; hugely helped by Peter and Jim and the APPG. By January 2017 we ensured the scandal was on national TV, radio and press.
Parliamentary debate secured government involvement. By April 2017 Taylor Wimpey had put aside £130 million to rewrite its toxic leases (inadequately).
The Prime Minister condemned leasehold houses and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid launched his inquiry into the scandal.
Without this exposure by LKP the current commitments to reform leasehold – by both government and Opposition – and the Law Commission inquiries would not be happening.
In January 2017 the National Leasehold Campaign was formed, now with more than 14,000 members. It has been invaluable in mobilising press and political interest in the scandal. This is a huge achievement of Katie Kendrick, with co-founders Joanne Darbyshire and Cath Williams.
4/ The Grenfell tragedy has immense implications for tens of thousands of leaseholders, living in buildings deemed at risk through having the same or similar Grenfell cladding.
LKP revealed this issue and has held the only two meetings in Parliament for leaseholders living in blighted and at-risk apartment blocks.
In addition, we are directly responsible for prompting developers – and Legal and General to the tune of £12 million – to commit to spending millions to replace this cladding. Inevitably, the property tribunal had ruled that leaseholders should pay for it all.
The cladding issue has since been taken up by others, in national media and the feisty young team at Inside Housing. Good for them!
5/ Reporting the leasehold sector in all its murky charmlessness, has resulted in the exposure of a host of appalling practices by:
bullying near-criminal freeholders;
offshore ground rent speculators hitching a ride in ordinary families’ homes;
dubious managing agents;
and ever compliant lawyers in the sector making life a misery for leaseholders and being handsomely rewarded for it.
We have faced a succession of defamation threats, and thoroughly dubious practices aimed at compromising us.
We pay tribute to our MP patrons, in particular Sir Peter who seems to have disconcerting familiarity with these dark arts, for their repeated help when we have faced adversity, some of it quite serious.
6/ But … We have not made ourselves particularly popular with those whose enthusiasm to reform this sector, or who are tasked to grapple with its complexities, is not as wholehearted as our own.
Some are commercially partial obfuscators or time-servers. These do not need to detain us.
Some are not. We think of the well meaning officials. We are sorry to have added to the burden of those who have made genuine efforts to make things better.