January 19, 2021

Complacent and lazy letter on leasehold from junior minister Don Foster

https://www.betterretirementhousing.com/complacent-and-lazy-letter-on-leasehold-from-junior-minister-don-foster/donfoster2/DonFoster2Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation supporters in Yeovil have received a woefully complacent letter from government minister Don Foster after raising retirement leasehold issues with their MP, David Laws.

In spite of all the efforts of Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, Age UK, assorted trade bodies and the British Property Federation, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government could still write that complacently brushes aside leaseholder complaints.

“We do appreciate, however, that where disputes arise which cannot be resolved between the parties (or by mediation), some leaseholders – particularly the elderly and more vulnerable – may find exercising their statutory rights somewhat daunting.”

That is a somewhat insulting remark to make to, say, the residents at the retirement development Elim Court in Plymouth, which last week staged its third attempt at right to manage. That is, to choose a managing agent and get rid of their current one, which is owned by their freeholder and is eager to spend their money on capital expenditure projects (involving contractors the freeholder chooses).

The pensioners are being resisted by their freeholder who deployed a barrister – one of the country’s experts in leasehold law – at the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. It is indisputable that the pensioners want to manage themselves, yet technical arguments over RTM notifications have frustrated them. If they do win their action, it will almost certainly be appealed, which will take a year.

Four of the original applicants have since died.

Then there is the case of Oakland Court in Worthing, earlier this year, where the freeholder deployed numerous legal stratagems to delay pensioners claiming back £137,000 of over paid service charges. Sir Peter Bottomley raised this issue in the Commons, referring to “legal torture” being inflicted on the pensioners.

Find both these cases by typing “Elim Court” or “Oakland Court” in the search bar.

Foster, the MP for Bath, says that “improving residential leasehold … can and should be left to the professionals operating in the residential leasehold sector”.

The professionals involved are not employed by nor are accountable to the leaseholders. They work for the freeholder.

All the professional bodies involved in this sector believe that statutory intervention is necessary: this is the view of RICS, ARMA (Association of Residential Managing Agents and even the British Property Federation, which represents freeholders.

It is to be hoped that the three part-time civil servants who deal with residential leasehold did not advise Foster on this letter. They are well aware of serious problems in retirement and general leasehold.

Foster’s suggestion that the constituents could contact LEASE, the Leasehold Advisory Service, was the cherry on the cake of a tokenistic, idle letter.

Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation urges Foster to get on top of this subject, otherwise the leaseholders in Bath really ought to vote in a better informed representative.

Comments

  1. There’s not much good news from the world of leasehold: MPs burying heads in the sand, leaseholders fighting endless battles for justice. I have just heard from an ex-park home resident, that the new laws have come in at his ex-site.

    The residents will continue to pay service charges and ground rent to their freeholder. However, if he fails to get the work done reported to him within two week period, residents can go to the council and they can authorize the work to be done directly. The council will charge the freeholder.

    He also says that next year a new law will come in, no freeholder will be allowed to run park home site if he has a criminal record.

  2. Don Foster holds a B.Sc in Physics and Psychology from Keele University and was science teacher in early party of his life –
    ( below is an extract from Wikipedia –
    Foster was born in Preston, Lancashire, and educated at the Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Keele University where he was awarded a BSc degree in Physics and Psychology in 1969 and also received the CertEd the same year. He studied later for his MEd in Education at the University of Bath in 1981. He became a science teacher at the Sevenoaks School in Kent in 1969, before becoming a science project director with the Avon Education Authority in 1975. He became a lecturer in education at the University of Bristol in 1980, becoming a management consultant with Pannell Kerr Forster from 1989 until his election to the House of Commons.)

    Holding a qualification in Psychology, Don Foster should be the first to agree that residential property leases are always drafted by builder’s solicitors on terms more favourable to the builder/lessor and this means all leases ( subject to forfeiture under existing statutory law ) are unfair contracts.

    What is he going to do with those “solicitor professionals” to make the leasehold system fair for 21st Century consumers ?

    Holding a qualification in Physics, Don Foster , a man trained in science, must know that to solve any problem to make improvement requires (1) collection of evidence and facts from site (2) analysing the data and (3) drawing conclusions on how to solve the problems ( 4) how to implement the new method.and generate the improvements.

    With management consultant background experience, Don Foster really has to get the Housing Dept civil servants organised to get started with the first step : collection of evidence and data : He should make the senior civil servants sit on the LVT Tribunals for alternate whole months for next 12 months and then to analyse the LVT decision process.

    With past teaching experience, Don Foster must be able to teach the Housing department civil servants how write letters that really address the leasehold problems raised by MPs and their constituents.

  3. This is from “Susan”

    “Who is writing these letters on behalf of MPs? I’ve just received one, including some identical wording as that used by Don Foster – this time from Mark Prisk himself. My letter includes the following: “We continue to welcome suggestions about improving residential leasehold”. But do they? Honestly? It really isn’t good enough.

    Mark Prisk goes on to say he is: “ ….. Taking a close interest in the Office of Fair Trading’s investigation into so-called ‘exit fees’ in retirement leasehold ….”
    Let’s hope he is not as disappointed as we are likely to be when the investigation is eventually concluded.”

  4. I have just realised that Don Foster is the FIRST Liberal MP and Coalition Minister to hold an executive position in the Housing Dept since 1924 .
    He should be reminded that he holds this position as representing the ” countrywide constituents interests of England & Wales” and (1) he is NOT there to guard or protect the interests of the unscrupulous freehold companies or their “nominated professionals” and (2) he was NOT voted into office by them. Unscrupulous “freehold companies” are created by unscrupulous business men to exploit the unfair terms of the residential leases ( which were drafted by expert legal professionals for the Builders ).

    Can Don Foster a liberal MP in the Housing Dept ( first one since 1924) make any difference to the mess we have now ?

  5. Hi Susan,
    I think that that you should reply to Mark Prisk ‘s letter and ( copy to your local MP and Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation ) :
    1. Point out that “taking a close interest” in OFT’s Investigation into exit fees is NOT ENOUGH.

    The OFT operates under legislation which does not cover matters coming under the L&T Act . Since a Public Regulator need to be more powerful than the parties subject to regulation and must have the legal status to declare a particular lease is an unfair contract , it needs the Housing Minister to legally appoint the OFT as the Housing Minister’s official managing agent into investigating all areas of residential property tenure and administration of service charge accounts and duties under the lease .

    2. Request Mark Prisk to appoint and instruct the OFT to investigate the M & S leases especially in
    (a ) exit fees
    ( b) revision of annual rent charge for house manager ‘s flat
    ( c) the holding of service charge funds by managing agents appointed by unscrupulous freeholder companies and
    (d) to recommend changes to existing legislation that are required to make the lease terms fair for the leaseholders ( as consumers living in E&W and going forward in the 21st Century ).