December 8, 2022

‘Some of the worst spivs in property are in leasehold,’ O’Kelly tells The Times

Ahead of tonight’s Channel Four Dispatches documentary on leasehold, ‘Property Nightmare: The Truth About Leasehold’ (C4 8pm), The Times today quotes Sebastian O’Kelly, of Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation and the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, saying that there is “industry-wide fiddling” in the sector.

“Leasehold gives some of the worst spivs in property the opportunity to make money by making the lives of ordinary homeowners utterly miserable,” he says.

It was a shame the newspaper did not have space to report his precis of how the scams operate: “Buy a freehold at auction – say of a retirement development – make a 100% commission on placing the building insurance, appoint yourself as managing agent and then provide a plethora of needless and costly additional services that the residents then have to pay. Only when they finally twig what’s happening and act collectively by going to the LVT does the landlord face the risk of having his knuckles gently rapped.

“Thousands of people are living in frustrated misery because of these disgraceful practices. They must be exposed and stopped. We need regulation of this sector as the trade bodies involved have proved so utterly complacent – one could use a stronger term – in the face of industry-wide fiddling.”

The Times report previews the report by CentreForum, the influential all-party think tank, report into leasehold, which is published tomorrow.

It recommends setting up an independent regulator for the sector, entirely separate from trade bodies such as ARMA and RICS.

The report has cross-party backing from Sir Peter Bottomley, Tory MP for Worthing West, and Simon Hughes, Lib Dem MP for Southwark and Bermondsey.

The Times also features a short article on Janet Entwistle, the MD of Peverel, whose management of Madison Heights in Hounslow is understood to feature in tonight’s TV documentary.

The programme also interviews Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister who is blocking regulation of leasehold.

To divert attention from the criticism he faces in the Dispatches programme, he has chosen today to talk about councils selling of expensive council properties. For almost all councils other than those in the big cities this is a complete non issue.

It might have been better if the Housing Minister had spent more time trying to understand leasehold problems faced by residents across the whole country.