Experts and campaigners giving evidence to the Commons committee on the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill have pressed the government to introduce a commonhold system.
The Bill should make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to buy their freehold, increase standard lease extension terms to 990 years for houses and flats (up from 50 years in houses and 90 years in flats), and provide greater transparency over service charges. It would also scrap and ban the sale of new leasehold houses.
Professor Tim Leunig, director of Public First, said leasehold was, on occasion, “an absolute magnet for sharks and other wretched creatures who disgrace our society”. He told MPs: “A move to commonhold would be a better step forward to a nice, clean system, where everybody knows exactly what they are buying and nobody is left wondering, ‘What sort of freeholder is this? Are they an exploitative one? Are they a reasonable one?’”
Martin Boyd, chair of the government’s Leasehold Advisory Service, agreed that there was no reason for not moving to a mandatory commonhold system quite quickly. He added: “If the enfranchisement process goes through and we get to an online calculator system, where you simply feed in your data and it produces the answer, that will make that whole system much easier.”
Harry Scoffin, founder of Free Leaseholders, said buyers had “woken up to the toxicity of leasehold”. He told MPs: “One thing we can do…is to say that all new leasehold flats come with a share of the freehold. I think it is obscene that, after this Bill comes in, people can buy a brand-new flat from one of these developers and be hit with a 99 or 125-year lease - they need to be able to get a 990-year lease from the beginning.”