And there will be no leaseholders on the board of LEASE
The new chair of the controversial quango the Leasehold Advisory Service declined an invitation to endorse no-monetary value ground rents on BBC R4’s You and Yours today.
Instead, Wanda Goldwag said only that contracts should be “fair”.
Former Communities Secretary Sajid Javid undertook to reduce to “as low as zero” new ground rents – which Sir Peter Bottomley earlier reminded the programme are for no service whatsoever, and should stop.
The government has since floated the idea of £10 ground rents, and will maintain them in retirement leases.
At present, LEASE’s publicly stated view is that ground rents above 0.1% of sale price are onerous (which, in fact, the vast majority of retirement housing ground rents are).
Sir Peter told You and Yours: “[The Leasehold Advisory Service] is one of the very few organisations that doesn’t put in its annual report things that it is noticing and which government should put right.
“They could advise the government there is no need for a ground rent at all as it buys you nothing and the sooner they go the better.”
Catch up on your favourite BBC radio show from your favourite DJ right here, whenever you like. Listen without limits with BBC Sounds.
The call for zero ground rents was echoed by three separate lawyers at the Communities Select Committee last week.
The item also included an interview with leaseholder, Lisa Chapple, who expressed strong criticism of the Leasehold Advisory Service, which costs just under £2 million a year.
“They did not help us at all and I think that they failed on all levels. They advised nothing at all and tried to pass everything back to me and that it was my fault for not raising these issues at the point of sale.
“They did not seem to understand that this [doubling ground rents] was affecting thousands of people.
“I’ve spoken to people on my estate and around the country, where we have had demonstrations, and we do not have any faith in it [Leasehold Advisory Service].
“It appears to be more for investors and freeholders rather than leaseholders.”
Miss Goldwag responded:
“I give my absolute assurance that from now only LEASE will only be acting in the interests of the leaseholders.
“We only have one set of customers, which are the leaseholders.
“It is really worrying that people are being told that it is your fault, and that you should read the lease.”
Sir Peter repeated his calls, over several years now, that leaseholder representatives should be on the board of LEASE.
“I do not believe the LEASE can seriously go on for a long time without having one or two leaseholders on the board, or one to two people who have experience of advising them.
“The idea that you can have a service like LEASE without having anybody who has been through the mill of being a residential leaseholder strikes me as odd.”
Miss Goldwag was asked whether she intended to have anyone directly affected by leasehold on the board.
“No, I don’t,” she replied. “That is not how government bodies work. We have non-execs to make sure that the service is excellent.
“But I want to say that what Sir Peter Bottomley and his colleagues have done has been excellent … But my job is to ensure that while they campaign I provide the information and data of the trends and issues that people are facing.
Miss Goldwag said that she is eager to share the “every single piece of information that we have collected in the last five years about what people are complaining about” and give it to “government, the civil servants and the very, very good campaigning groups we have in this country”.
You and Yours presenter Peter White asked whether LEASE’S reputation is so tarnished that it would be better for LEASE’s funding to be shared out among charities such as the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership or Citizens Advice.
“It is not for me to tell government where it should spend its money. What I am going to try to ensure is that the money that LEASE does receive we use very, very effectively.”
Historical footnote: The You and Yours programme also included the astonishing interview with former LEASE chair Roger Southam saying it was not the taxpayer-funded quango’s job to alert ministers to the doubling ground rent / leasehold houses scandal.