November 26, 2022

Bottomley demands meeting with Housing Minister Mark Prisk

Sir Peter Bottomley chairs meeting over leasehold reform at his Westminster offices this afternoonSir Peter Bottomley is to calling for an urgent meeting about leasehold issues with Housing Minister Mark Prisk, following the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation conference at Westminster this afternoon.

“It is quite clear that pensioners and other leaseholders are facing serious issues and this need to be addressed,” Sir Peter told a gathering of 20-30 including interested MPs and Lords.

Many of those attending, such as Caroline Spelman, MP for Meriden in Birmingham, had been contacted directly by Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation suporters and urged to attend.

“There are desperately serious problems facing elderly constituents about service charges and the systems of redress,” said Spelman, who has asked LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation for a dossier of information on the fraught issue of retirement leasehold.

The meeting was also addressed by veteran leasehold campaigner Baroness Gardner of Parkes, who is raising the issue of commonhold and the need to build more of it in the Lords on November 19.

“Being born Australian and owning a flat there I know full well that commonhold is a far less complicated form of property tenure, and  less susceptible to abusive practices,” she said.

As well as a meeting with the Housing Minister, Sir Peter is also to seek a meeting with officials in both the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Ministry of Justice. Responsibility for the much criticised Leasehold Valuation tribunal system is to pass back to the Ministry of Justice next year.

Although invited, no officials of the DCLG attended the LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation meeting. However, two did find time to attend the annual conference of the trade body the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) last month. It is headed by former DCLG civil servant Michelle Banks.

Sir Peter said that officials in both departments must meet and listen to the complaints about leasehold, which have been directed to LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation.

Many MPs and Lords had direct experience of leasehold sharp practices in their constituencies, and LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation will be reporting on the leads established at the meeting.

Robert Plumb, the CEP of HML Holdings plc, which manages 33,500 residential properties, was able to give the MPs direct insight into the problems of the sector – and the urgent need to regulate it properly.

Baroness Greengross, the president of the Association of Residential House Managers, who in the Lords debate in April dismissed complaining pensioners as “barrack-room lawyers” with too much time on their hands, said nothing.

Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation chairman Sebastian O’Kelly cautioned the MPs to ignore the self-interested calls within the sector for mediation as a means of resolving leasehold disputes.

“Mediation has at its heart this complicit deal: the freeholder knows you know you have been cheated, but you will keep quiet about it if he stops. It sets no precedent, it is not public, it helps no one else. The leasehold industry is very partial to mediation as a remedy, and the reasons are obvious enough.

“Even worse is the suggestion that mediation be a compulsory first step before an LVT action.”

Baroness Gardner echoed this sentiment, saying mediation was a waste of time in important leasehold disputes.

Martin Boyd, of LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, who masterminded the meeting, outlined the legislative and judicial reforms in leasehold that are urgently required.

Thanks were expressed to both Chris Paterson, of the liberal centrist think tank CentreForum, and Steve O’Connell, a Conservative member of the London Assembly whose report Highly Charged .

The CentreForum report was funded by Lord Alliance, who was also at the meeting.

 

Comments

  1. MICHAEL HOLLANDS says

    What a pathetic performance by the DCLG in not attending the briefing when they were prepared to attend the Annual Meeting of the ARMA last month. Clearly putting vested interests before solving the problems of the elderly they are supposed to serve.
    On the DCLG website it states that one of their commitments is “safeguarding vulnerable adults from exploitation”.
    No hope of fulfilling this promise with this government.

  2. I agree with the last comment– those who gave their lives and those who fought in the war a mentioned before having to spend years fighting at the leasehold valuation tribunal– in their eighties — having to hire solicitors and barristers— those MP’s who did not show up– should be ashamed!

    • We should mention a number of MPs had made contact apologising that their diary did not allow them to attend but have asked for information.

      The attitude of the staff at the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) who are meant to oversee this issue is more of a worry.

      The Housing Minister had apologised in advance for not being able to attend, but had also been placed in the embarrassing position of having to apologise that none of his officials were attending.

      Invitations had been sent to the head of DCLG Sir Bob Kerslake, who did not respond, and then the two managers who have links to leasehold issues. One of those managers finally wrote back on the 25th October advising that nobody would be available.

      It is very unusual for any Department not to send along one of its staff to an MPs’ briefing relating to their role. It seems likely the Housing Minister will also have asked for an explanation from his staff.

      On a far more positive point, can we mention that the Ministry of Justice, which is in the process of taking over administration of the LVT, has shown a keen interest in the meeting. While the relevant official was on holiday this week, they had asked for copies of all papers provided at the meeting.