Will Astor, who manages the £1.2 billion Long Harbour fund in residential freeholds, should come to Ellesmere Port in Cheshire to meet the owners of leasehold houses, according to local Labour MP Justin Madders.
Mr Madders issued the invitation at the All Party Parliamentary Group on leasehold reform on April 19.
Many of the leasehold houses in the North West are owned by Adriatic Land, which hides its beneficial ownership behind nominee directors.
But these are managed by Will Astor’s Homeground company, which gathers ground rents and numerous consent fees: for building alterations, conservatories, subletting, commercial vehicle on the drive etc.
Leasehold house owners have to pay a preposterous £108 fee even to learn how much the freeholder wants for the freehold – only to be told a ridiculous and inflated price.
“We know that will Astor is involved in this in some way. I would very much like him to come to Ellesmere Port and come and speak to some of the people whose property he owns and explain what his interest is in them.
“If he sees the look on people’s faces and the despair that they have knowing that they are beholden to someone else in terms of their futures, he might begin to realise that this is not just a figure on a spreadsheet.
It is people’s lives that are being messed with.
“We need to think again about this business practice because it is not what I consider to be morally correct.”
Mr Madders added:
“We have got a pretty clear statement from the current prime minister that there is no good reason for detached or semi-detached dwellings to be sold on a leasehold basis.
“Government has got the message that this is a scandal and it needs to do something about it.
“I think it is safe to say that there will be something in the Labour manifesto referring the trying to address this problem
“I’ve referred to this is the PPI of the housing industry and I think that gives an indication of how big an issue this is. The more focus on this will mean the more pressure on the house builders not to go down this road.”
There are signs that some housebuilders are getting the message that leasehold houses are a game play too far.
“I’m very pleased today to have it confirmed that 171 homes in my constituency which were going to be sold leasehold will now be sold freehold.
“Unfortunately, we still have Redrow, which has permission for 2,000 leasehold houses and which still insists for no reason that I can gather other than it suits their business model to sell them on a leasehold.”
Mr Madders, who is a solicitor, added: “I do not know how so many people could have ended up buying these properties without being aware of the consequences.
“I do not know whether this is negligence across the board or a tacit understanding that difficult questions cannot be asked, but I think that the legal profession has to answer some serious questions how collectively they have failed their clients and our communities.
“The election is a big opportunity for everyone who is affected to raise this issue with the candidates standing in your constituency.
“Sign up MPs to do something about this, so that when Parliament is reconvened you can hold your representatives to account to actually deliver.
“I think this rotten practice has been exposed and we now need to deal with it. I want to see transparency.
“I want to see contrition from everybody who’s been involved in this and I want to see people own their homes in a fair and transparent way.”