All 5 Lord Gascoigne contributions to the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Act 2024

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Mon 22nd Apr 2024
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Wed 1st May 2024
Fri 24th May 2024

Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill

Lord Gascoigne Excerpts
Moved by
19: Schedule 3, page 151, line 13, at end insert—
“(ea) any combined county authority established under section 9(1) of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023;”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would reflect provision that has come into force since the Bill was introduced.
Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, before I start, I declare that my wife is an employee at the Crown Estate, as set out in the register of ministerial interests.

Government Amendments 19 to 22, in the name of my noble friend Lady Scott, are consequential on the repeal of the right for public authorities to block freehold acquisition and lease extension claims of houses for the purposes of redevelopment. This relates to Section 28 of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967. Removing this blocker will allow more leaseholders to enfranchise.

The power to block enfranchisement was given to authorities named on a list in the same section of the Act. The list of authorities is, however, used for wider purposes. For example, the list may be used by separate legislation when a lease has reached its end and expired. When this happens, the listed public authorities could apply to the courts to seek possession, for the purposes of redevelopment. These amendments preserve the list and its use for wider current law, as it is moved into Clauses 29 and 38 of the Bill.

Government Amendments 25, 30 to 40, and 49 are also in the name of my noble friend Lady Scott. Government Amendment 32 addresses the enfranchisement valuation procedure regarding “chained” leases—that is where successive long leases of a house are treated as one single long lease. The amendment makes it clear that the exception for market rack-rent leases will apply only where the leaseholder’s current lease is a market rack-rent lease. It will not matter whether a previous lease was a market rent lease. This will protect leaseholders and mean that in the case of chained leases, where a previous lease might have been granted for no, or low, premium, freeholders will be prevented from unfairly gaining through the new valuation scheme.

Government Amendment 39 clarifies the rules on which lease to consider when valuing a lease comprising a chain of leases—treated as one single lease—where one of them was granted for a high rent and low, or no, premium. The amendment states that it is the most recent lease that should be looked at. This will determine whether the ground rent cap should apply in the enfranchisement valuation. This will protect leaseholders and mean that in the case of chained leases, where a previous lease might have been granted for a high ground rent, but for little or no premium, freeholders will be prevented from unfairly gaining through the new valuation scheme.

Government Amendments 25, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 40 are minor amendments that will tidy up the Bill by aligning two different sets of terminology, used to mean the same thing, across the Bill. This will help to avoid any potential for confusion and has no material impact on the valuation provisions in the Bill.

Government Amendment 30 is a minor amendment to Schedule 4. As currently drafted, the Bill would incorrectly require a valuation of a freehold for a lease extension. We are fixing this to align with the new valuation scheme, so that a lease extension will require a valuation of a notional lease. This will ensure that the provision works for lease extensions as intended. This amendment does not change the scope or effect of Assumption 3 in Schedule 4; it simply makes sure that it is phrased correctly.

Government Amendment 49 is a minor correction of a grammatical error in Clause 41 so that it refers to the appropriate tribunal. In this case, the appropriate tribunal can make orders regarding the new right for intermediate landlords to commute—that is, reduce—the rent they pay following lease extensions and ground rent buyout claims by their tenants.

Turning to government Amendments 50, 51, 52, 53 and 56 in the name of my noble friend Lady Scott, as noble Lords are aware, whenever making new legislation, it is of the utmost importance that we review any consequential amendments required to be made, including to other Acts of Parliament. We have therefore conducted a thorough review of how the reforms brought forward in this Bill will require necessary changes. The following amendments focus specifically on consequential changes resulting from Part 2 of the Bill.

Government Amendment 52 is a minor and technical amendment which reflects the movement of material from Section 175 of the Housing Act 1985 into the new Section 7A of the 1967 Act. The amendment preserves a part of the current law which deals with a number of exemptions for the valuation of a freehold acquisition under Section 9(1) of the 1967 Act which will still be available under a “preserved law claim”. This will make sure that the Bill retains the current restrictions and will remove any potential for unintentionally expanding the number of tenants who qualify for a Section 9(1) valuation and consequently for a preserved law claim. Right-to-buy tenants who qualify for enfranchisement rights will be no worse off and benefit in the same way from the new valuation scheme as other leaseholders.

Government Amendment 53 inserts a new clause, which acts as a paving amendment to introduce a new schedule. This new schedule brings together the consequential amendments to other legislation. As a result of this new schedule, government Amendments 50 and 51 remove consequential amendments to the Housing and Planning Act 1986, which are currently contained in Schedule 8; these are now addressed in the new schedule.

Amendment 56 inserts the new schedule, entitled “Part 2: consequential amendments to other legislation”. This new schedule is extensive and brings together the consequential amendments across 19 other Acts into a single place. None of the amendments makes separate, substantive changes, but, rather, the new schedule allows this Bill to mesh with and integrate seamlessly with other legislation. These consequential amendments will: remove provisions which will become obsolete as a result of the changes made by the Bill; enable freehold acquisition claims of houses under Section 9(1) of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 to continue to operate as they do currently, while making sure that provisions in other legislation do not override our new valuation scheme; make clear how to treat the valuation of freehold acquisitions for right-to-buy tenants; preserve the current law so that non-litigation costs payable on enfranchisement do not attract stamp duty land tax, allowing the operations of stamp duty land tax to continue as intended; and make sure that provisions of other Acts governing shared ownership leases will still function properly following the repeal of some shared ownership provisions in the 1967 Act.

Government Amendments 88 and 89 are tidying-up amendments to align the terminology in Clause 77 with terminology used elsewhere in Part 5.

Finally, with sincere thanks to noble Lords for bearing with me and for their patience, I turn to government Amendment 90. This is a clarificatory amendment which seeks to deal with any potential confusion over the extent to which the Bill applies to event fees. As noble Lords may know, some leases require the leaseholder to pay a fee on certain events, such as the sale of the premises or a change of occupancy. These so-called event fees are common in specialist housing for older people. How event fee terms are drafted varies from one lease to the next, as does what the money is used for. This amendment is not concerned with the regulation of event fees; the Government have committed to making event fees fairer and more transparent and will implement agreed Law Commission recommendations when parliamentary time allows. There is a risk in the current drafting of the Bill that the specific nature and purpose of event fees may be regarded as an administration charge under Clause 81. That would, in turn, mean that they are subject to the test of reasonableness, which we do not consider appropriate for a fee of this nature. The amendment therefore sets out a definition of an event fee and makes it clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that any event fee is not to be regarded as an administration charge. I beg to move.

Lord Khan of Burnley Portrait Lord Khan of Burnley (Lab)
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I thank my fellow east Lancastrian, the Minister, for introducing these technical, tidying-up and clarificatory amendments.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I have spoken ad nauseam about many of these amendments. I too thank my long-lost brother from east Lancashire, the noble Lord, Lord Khan, and say what a pleasure it is to follow him.

Amendment 19 agreed.
Moved by
20: Schedule 3, page 152, line 17, leave out paragraph (f)
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would reflect that the Development Board for Rural Wales has been abolished.

Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill

Lord Gascoigne Excerpts
Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, and my noble—and actual—friend Lord Moylan for their valuable contributions at Second Reading, and for the amendments that they have put forward which seek to alter the Government’s current position on marriage value and hope value. I say on behalf of my noble friend the Minister that we are grateful for all the time and engagement with the right reverend Prelate on this issue, along with the Church Commissioners and the charities which she has spoken to today.

In addition, we are grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken on this group and on the somewhat excited group previously. As has been noted, a lot of the points that I will speak to were covered in the previous discussion. I also say to the right reverend Prelate that we are always happy to meet. In answer to the noble Baronesses, Lady Taylor and Lady Pinnock, the Minister is more than happy to engage with any noble Lord who is impacted by this, as well as charities, to discuss it further.

Amendments 28 and 46 would exempt freeholders who are charities at the time of the Bill receiving Royal Assent from the removal of the requirement for leaseholders to pay marriage value, and for hope value to be payable. Before I go into detail, I reiterate the Government’s wholehearted recognition of the vital role and work that charities provide in our communities up and down the land, as has been noted by my noble friend Lord Bailey.

However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, explained previously, we do not believe that leaseholders should pay marriage value. The leaseholder needs to enfranchise to prevent financial loss from the running down of their lease, and to prevent their losing possession when it ends. As has been said, we do not believe that their position, which concerns their security in their home, should be used as a basis for requiring them to pay more than a third party to enfranchise, nor that the freeholder should profit by way of windfall by selling to the leaseholder as compared to a third party. Under our valuation scheme, the freeholder is compensated as if the lease ran its course.

The good work of a charity is separable from its funding. Requiring leaseholders of charities, for no other reason than the coincidence of the nature of their freeholder, to pay marriage value when other leaseholders do not have to would be, I am afraid to say, unfair. Granting exemptions would also create an unbalanced two-tier system. By removing marriage value across the board, we will level the playing field and ensure that we are widening access to enfranchisement for all leaseholders, both now and in the future.

There have been a couple of references to the National Trust. Briefly—as I know it has been covered previously in this debate—it is a different scenario given that its land is inalienable and cannot be sold, yet it is not exempt from the removal of marriage value. I am not aware of the case that the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, mentioned, but I am certainly more than happy to look into it for him. I assume—and it is only my assumption—that it is because it is for the National Trust as an entity to decide, but I assure the noble Earl that I will look into it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, asked about other charities that may be impacted by this beyond those that we have discussed. Again, I am not aware of any, but I am sure that that work has been done by the department. I will certainly take it back and investigate. Further to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, it is something on which we will continue to engage with any noble Lord or any charity that is impacted, as we have done with the right reverend Prelate.

For these reasons, I respectfully hope that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and my noble friend Lord Moylan will understand and therefore not press their amendments.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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Before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I may address a point he made earlier which was made also by my noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook. The idea that the Government are peddling, that if a landowner sells a leasehold or freehold interest to a third party, they do not receive marriage value, is to assume gross inefficiency of markets and complete ignorance of market participants. It is of course true that the purchaser would not pay marriage value as a separate sum, but the purchaser is perfectly aware of the potential for marriage value and will pay a price that incorporates that. To assume anything else is to assume that all those clever and evil hedge fund managers are too dim to notice what is going on. It simply is not the case. The line the Government are peddling is simply unfounded in fact and reality.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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Obviously, I completely respect my noble friend, but I think I have answered that point.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, which has been somewhat less emotive than the previous one. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for his support, and for his description of the good work that is done by the Campden Charities for young people in Kensington. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bailey of Paddington, who spoke movingly of how that same charity has been part of what has enabled him to become the great asset he is to your Lordships’ House today, and to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for his helpful and insightful questions.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for asking whether other charities, including those outside London, are affected. While I cannot guarantee that my list is exhaustive, I am pretty sure that if there are any that we have missed, they would quickly come forward, but I do not think that there are many.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, both for her meeting yesterday and for her support for the matter being further considered. Can we find a workaround that does not disapply the whole principles of the Bill, but which deals with the problem that these particularly good causes are going to suffer as things stand? I am very happy to look at some tighter drafting, as she suggested. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gascoigne, for his response, and for his willingness, and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, to continue to engage with us on this matter.

In the previous debate, we were told that compensation for loss of marriage value would be too much of a strain on the taxpayer. We are talking about a very much smaller amount here, and I wonder whether that would be a course that we could continue to pursue in further conversations before Report. For now, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Baroness Thornhill Portrait Baroness Thornhill (LD)
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My Lords, when we started the debate today, I felt like I was wading in mud. I feel I am still in the mud—it has got thicker, and the fog has come down. This is a complex and complicated Bill. I have really enjoyed listening to the arguments and the debate; I have already learned a lot. Report will be a lot better—certainly for me.

I will try to keep my remarks short and my questions simple in order to seek clarification. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, has, in her own style, ably illustrated the issue and set out the case for her amendments in great detail. I will not repeat those—some paragraphs have already been knocked out of my speech.

The newly inserted Sections 19A and 89A set out the general rule that neither a current nor a former tenant is liable for any costs incurred by another person because of enfranchisement or a lease extension claim. However, new Sections 19C and 89C set out the exceptions to this rule. The debate is around whether these exceptions are justified. We are seeking the Government’s justification for this variance. Amendments 47 and 48 from the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, would delete these exceptions, so that leaseholders would not be liable to pay their landlord’s non-litigation costs under any circumstances. We agree. Each side should pay its own costs; we are unsure as to why this is not the case.

When this was debated in the Commons, the Government argued that, while the main aim of the changes to the costs regime was to address the imbalance of power that has existed between the landlord and tenant, they had a desire to ensure fairness on both sides. Sections 19C and 89C prevent the landlord incurring a net financial loss when leaseholders exercise their rights to enfranchisement and lease extension, thus acknowledging that this really is a balancing act. We look forward to the Minister’s comments as to how the Government have managed to keep the scales level.

I agree with the comments made in the debates on the last two groups. Some of the problems are because much too much is being left for later regulations, in either guidance or SIs. I believe that we should have had a clear government position on issues as important as landlord costs, deferment and capitalisation rates. This is still too vague. Such uncertainty is bad, not only for the leaseholders but for us parliamentarians who would hope to scrutinise and improve the legislation. However, I note the explanation from the Minister in the last group.

The Law Commission’s report highlights that the current law means that the landlord is overcompensated for these non-litigation costs. We support the Government in saying that costs should be balanced. It has to be said that these amendments raise important questions as to whether new Sections 19C and 89C undermine this aim. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, has made a good case to that effect.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, for her Amendments 47 and 48, which seek to remove the exception on costs arising from low-value lease extension or freehold acquisition claims. While the Bill includes a new general rule that each side will bear its own costs, we believe that there need to be exceptions in certain circumstances so that the regime is fair for both sides. The low-value cost exception entitles landlords to receive a portion of their process costs from leaseholders in low-value enfranchisement and lease extension claims for flats and houses respectively. We believe that these are necessary provisions that protect landlords from unfair costs.

Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill

Lord Gascoigne Excerpts
I will make one more comment on—
Earl of Lytton Portrait The Earl of Lytton (CB)
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I will be very brief. Some of the costs that have arisen are as a result of Fire Safety Act and Building Safety Act provisions set up by the Government. Some time ago, I asked the people I work with to set up an online resource, which I commend to noble Lords. It is www.buildingsafetyscheme.org. I hope that it will help a number of people to unpick what is a very complex situation.

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Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bailey, for his passion on this matter, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, said. It is appropriate to bring a probing amendment on this, to seek out some clarification from the Government about their intentions. It is clear that service charge accountability sits right at the heart of much of the Bill, and we would not want to do anything against that. It does seem a little odd that part of the Bill’s intention is to remove that right of private prosecution, so I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

The other point raised by the noble Lord was that we are going to have a hiatus when the Bill is passed, because it is not going to come into force until 2025-26. Can the Minister comment on what leaseholders can resort to in that interim period, in order to get matters justified if they have a persistent rogue landlord? Otherwise, we will have a gap where the original provisions are repealed and these ones have not yet come into force.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, about council leaseholders. There are other protections in force for council leaseholders. The health and safety Act and its provisions should sit there to protect council leaseholders from any poor landlord practice from councils—I know they have not always done so, but they should.

I am interested to hear the Minister’s response to this very good probing amendment.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I thank my noble friend Lord Bailey of Paddington for Amendment 76A, which seeks to retain the existing enforcement provisions concerning a landlord’s failure to provide information to leaseholders. I am grateful to other noble Lords who took part in this very brief discussion.

I fully agree with my noble friend that it is important to have effective enforcement measures in place where a landlord fails to provide relevant information to leaseholders. The existing measures, including the statutory offence under existing Section 25 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, have historically proven to be ineffective. Local housing authorities, as the enforcement body, are reluctant to bring prosecutions against landlords, and the cost and complexity of doing so are a significant barrier to leaseholders bringing a private prosecution. That is why we are omitting Section 25 and replacing it with the more effective and proportionate proposals set out in Clause 56 of the Bill. Therefore, I am afraid that we cannot accept the amendment. Not only does it require—

Lord Bailey of Paddington Portrait Lord Bailey of Paddington (Con)
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In regard to the cost of leaseholders bringing a case, people are now using modern technology, such as crowdsourcing, to raise the funds to take on a landlord. When you have a persistently rogue landlord, this could be your last roll of the dice. It is not an entirely strong argument to talk about leaseholders not having the means; that is often the case, and what most of the discussion has been based on. For leaseholders in these very extreme cases—and they are extreme—this is a last resort, and that is why the word “backstop” was used, but people can club together to deal with these situations.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I am very grateful to my noble friend. I will address the rest of the issues, and hopefully I will pick up some the points he made. Like others, I am grateful for the passion with which the noble Lord speaks about this issue and his own experience of it.

I am afraid we cannot accept this amendment. Not only does it require us to return to the previous arrangements; I would respectfully say that it is not workable. This is because a local housing authority cannot take action against itself; they are one body. That said, I can assure my noble friend and others in the Chamber that there are very strong merits in his argument about the appropriate tribunal not being able to make an order for damages where the landlord is a non-compliant local authority. As has been said, it is not right that local authorities should be exempt from the same standards expected of other landlords. Both the department and the Minister are carefully considering this issue.

I will respond to a couple of points raised by noble Lords, including my noble friend. He raised the issue of damages; we believe that £5,000 strikes the right balance between a deterrent and an effective incentive. I believe it is higher than the existing provisions that a court can award on a summary conviction. The noble Baronesses, Lady Taylor and Lady Thornhill, asked about the hiatus, or interim, period; I assure noble Lords that it will not change until the new regime is ready. Therefore, with these reassurances, I ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Bailey of Paddington Portrait Lord Bailey of Paddington (Con)
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I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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I look forward to the Minister’s response and, I hope, to some positive engagement in relation to these amendments.
Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friends Lord Bailey of Paddington and Lord Moylan, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Thornhill and Lady Taylor of Stevenage, for their amendments in this group. I will take them in turn.

Amendment 79, moved by my noble friend Lord Bailey, aims to ensure that insurance brokers’ remuneration is linked to market rates. It also aims to prevent wrongdoing. We share the intent of this amendment and are committed to introducing a fair, transparent and enforceable approach to insurance remuneration. We also recognise that insurance brokers are an important party in the provision of insurance. Given that, this amendment pre-empts the content of secondary legislation. Following Royal Assent, we will consult on what would constitute a permitted insurance payment, then lay the necessary secondary legislation before Parliament. This will clarify what remuneration will be permitted by those involved in the arranging and managing of insurance. My noble friend Lord Bailey spoke with his customary passion. We continue to welcome his views and the Minister remains keen to meet. I hope that, with that reassurance, my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

Amendment 80 was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill. I assure all noble Lords that this Government are committed to banning building insurance commissions for landlords and managing agents and replacing these with transparent handling fees, to address excessive and opaque commissions being charged to leaseholders. The amendment seeks that within one year of the day on which Clause 57 comes into force, the FCA conducts a report into the impact of this clause in reducing instances of unreasonable insurance costs being passed on to leaseholders.

We agree in principle with monitoring the impact of the clause and, more widely, that insurance costs must be reasonable. The FCA has been closely monitoring the multi-occupancy buildings insurance market in recent years, has strengthened its rules on fair value, and provides regular updates. The most recent update to the Secretary of State was published on 29 February. We will continue to work closely with the FCA and other stakeholders to develop our secondary legislation and in monitoring buildings insurance. Please be assured that this is an area on which we, and the FCA, are keeping a close eye. I hope that with this reassurance, the noble Baroness will not move this amendment.

Amendments 81 and 81A were tabled by my noble friend Lord Moylan; I will take them together. Amendment 81 seeks to exempt right-to-manage companies from the requirement for landlords to apply to the relevant court or tribunal to recover their litigation costs from leaseholders through the service charge. This amendment would apply where the right-to-manage company is exercising the functions of the landlord. Amendment 81A seeks to exempt “non-profit entities” from the requirement for landlords to apply to the relevant court or tribunal in order to recover their litigation costs from leaseholders through the service charge. The amendment provides examples of types of “non-profit entities”, including resident management companies and right-to-manage companies.

Clause 60 seeks to protect leaseholders from being charged unjust litigation costs from their landlord. It does this by requiring landlords to successfully apply to the relevant court or tribunal in order to recover their litigation costs, either through the service charge or as an administration charge. The court or tribunal will make an order that it considers just and equitable in the circumstances.

We understand the intention behind my noble friend’s amendments. The Government recognise the position of resident-led buildings. That is why the reforms also include provision to set out in regulations those matters which the relevant court or tribunal must consider when making an order on an application. The Government will carefully consider the detail of these matters with stakeholders and the tribunal, including where a building is resident-led. We would be concerned that the exemption provided by Amendments 81 and 81A would leave leaseholders with little protection from paying unjust litigation costs where a resident management company or a right-to-manage company is in place. I ask my noble friend not to move his amendments. However, it goes without saying that this is a complex area of reform and we are considering the issue carefully.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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It is unsatisfactory if this is to be left to secondary legislation. Bearing in mind that the directors of the right-to-manage company are elected by the leaseholders, and can be replaced by them, and that they are really one entity, what is to happen if the tribunal decides not to make an award of costs? How are the directors to recover that money and who would become a director in those circumstances if they did not have that assurance in advance?

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I will have to pick that up at a later date. There are a number of variables in that circumstance. I hope that my noble friend will forgive me for not having an answer to hand. I will certainly take this up with the department, rather than saying something that is incorrect at the Dispatch Box. My noble friend is absolutely right to raise it as an issue. It is under certain circumstances that those individuals find themselves in that situation, but I am more than happy to take that away and then write to my noble friend.

I turn to Amendments 81B to 81E, also in the name of my noble friend Lord Moylan. As I have previously said, Clause 60 seeks to protect leaseholders from unjustified litigation costs by requiring landlords to successfully apply to the court or tribunal to recover their litigation costs from leaseholders. This replaces the right that leaseholders currently have to apply to the courts to limit their liability for landlords’ litigation costs. The relevant court or tribunal will make an order on a landlord’s application that is just and equitable in the circumstances.

Amendments 81B and 81D seek to amend the provision that allows the court or tribunal to make a decision on the landlord’s application for their litigation costs that it considers

“just and equitable in the circumstances”.

Instead, the amendment stipulates that where a landlord is successful in relevant proceedings, the court or tribunal will allow the landlord to recover their litigation costs from leaseholders—unless the landlord has acted unreasonably. We understand the intention behind my noble friend’s amendments—to minimise the amount of court or tribunal hearings. However, the Government have a few concerns with the amendment.

The amendment would mean that the court or tribunal would always need to make an order that the landlord can recover their litigation costs from leaseholders where the landlord had been successful in proceedings in whole or in part. The only exception is where the landlord has acted unreasonably. Of course, where a landlord is successful in bringing or defending a claim, we would expect that the court or tribunal would allow them to recover their litigation costs from leaseholders. However, there may be a range of variables and nuances that occur in disputes which need consideration on a case-by-case basis.

The Government think the relevant court or tribunal is best placed to assess applications for costs, taking into account the circumstances of each case. In addition, the measures currently provide for regulations to set matters which the court or tribunal will consider when making a decision on costs applications, which we will consider carefully with stakeholders and the tribunal.

Amendments 81C and 81E seek to allow landlords to recover their litigation costs, where allowed under the lease, without needing to make an application to the relevant court or tribunal in certain circumstances. These circumstances include where proceedings before the county court are subject to a judgment in default, where litigation costs have been incurred in relation to forfeiture proceedings or where proceedings against a landlord have been struck out or are settled before the first hearing. Again, the Government have concerns about these amendments. For example, if a landlord is unsuccessful in proceedings of forfeiture against a leaseholder, this amendment would allow them to recover their litigation costs from a leaseholder regardless. These amendments would also make the provisions more complex, with different rules applying to different scenarios. We completely understand the intention behind my noble friend’s amendments. However, for these reasons, I ask that he does not press them.

Amendment 82, tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Taylor and Lady Pinnock, and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley, seeks to prohibit landlords from recovering their litigation costs from leaseholders apart from in excepted circumstances to be set out in regulations. Clauses 60 and 61 already seek to rebalance the litigation costs regime for leaseholders in an effective and proportionate way. As I have previously noted, Clause 60 will require a landlord to successfully apply to the relevant court or tribunal in order to recover their litigation costs from a leaseholder. This applies whether the landlord is seeking to recover their litigation costs as a service charge or an administration charge. I also note that Clause 61 gives leaseholders a new right to apply to the relevant court or tribunal to claim their litigation costs from their landlord. For both landlord and leaseholder applications, the relevant court or tribunal will make a decision on costs in the circumstances of each case. Taken together, these measures will rebalance the litigation costs regime and remove barriers to leaseholders challenging their landlord. We believe the Government’s approach strikes the balance of being robust but proportionate. Therefore, I respectfully ask that they do not press this amendment.

Finally, I turn to Amendments 82A and 82B from my noble friend Lord Moylan. Currently, in the tribunal and for particular court tracks, leaseholders can claim their litigation costs from their landlord only in very limited circumstances even when they win. This may deter leaseholders from being legally represented or from challenging their landlord in the first place. As I have previously said, Clause 61 gives leaseholders a new right to apply to the court or tribunal to claim their litigation costs from their landlord where appropriate. As with the landlord application for costs, the court or tribunal will make an order that it considers just and equitable in the circumstances.

Amendments 82A and 82B seek to amend the new leaseholder right so that it applies only to home owners rather than investor leaseholders. Amendment 82B provides the definition of a “homeowner lease” so that the leaseholder right applies only to a leaseholder of a dwelling which is their only or principal home. Exempting certain leaseholders from this right would restrict access to redress where we are seeking to remove barriers. For example, there may be instances where a leaseholder who privately lets their flat needs to take their landlord to court because they are failing to maintain the building, which is impacting their property. In these circumstances, we would want the leaseholder to feel able to hold their landlord to account. Providing leaseholders with rights, regardless of whether they are home owners or investors, is in line with the approach we have taken throughout the Bill. Such an exemption would be out of step and will add complexity to the measures. Therefore, I ask my noble friend not to press his amendments.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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May I ask the indulgence of the Committee? I should have declared when I spoke—as I did earlier in debate—that I live in a building which is run by a right-to-manage company of which I am a director, as is shown in the register of interests. I should have said that in my opening remarks, but I hope I will be forgiven for adding it now.

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Lord Khan of Burnley Portrait Lord Khan of Burnley (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise briefly to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, for introducing Amendment 84. The arguments that the noble Baroness made were the very reason why we should end leasehold and move towards commonhold. I hope the Minister can clarify some of the important concerns that she has raised.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, for her Amendment 84, which seeks to ensure that potential property purchasers understand the ongoing obligations of a leasehold property they are thinking of purchasing. I share the noble Baroness’s concern that purchasers should know about service charges and ground rent before they move into their home. Speaking personally, I completely understand the stress and frustration when you receive a bill that you knew nothing about.

The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team has developed guidance for property agents on what constitutes material information when marketing a property. This information should be included within property listings to meet their obligations under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The guidance specifies that tenure and the length of the lease are material and therefore should be included in the property listing. Ongoing charges, such as service charges and ground rent, are also considered material, as they will impact on the decision to purchase. This means that purchasers get information on the lease and expected level of ongoing financial obligations when they see the property particulars, so before they have even viewed the property, let alone made an offer. In addition, the measures that we are including in this Bill to require leasehold sales information to be provided to potential sellers mean that conveyancers acting on behalf of sellers will be able to quickly get the detailed information they need to provide to potential purchasers. This would include information about service charges and ground rent, as well as other information to help a purchaser make a decision, such as previous accounts.

The Government support significant provision of advice for leaseholders through the Leasehold Advisory Service, an arm’s-length body providing free, high-quality advice to leaseholders and other tenures by legally trained advisers. The Government have also published a How to Lease guide aimed at those thinking of purchasing a leasehold property, to help them to understand their rights and responsibilities, providing suggested questions to ask and suggesting how to get help if things go wrong. This guide will be updated to reflect the provisions in this Bill.

Lord Bailey of Paddington Portrait Lord Bailey of Paddington (Con)
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Is my noble friend the Minister comfortable that that information is freely distributed? It would take only a very cursory conversation with leaseholders to find out that they know nothing of most of leasehold law—anything from ground rent to the fact that your service charge can be changed from underneath you. That means that the information that is there has clearly not been absorbed. What attempt will be made to make that information universal? People are talking about changing what leasehold is called, but this is the first time that I have heard that. I think it is a good idea—but all that information is good for nought if people are not compulsorily seeing it before they sign to buy the property.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My noble friend asks for clarity. I can completely understand some of the circumstances that people face; that is something on which we share the concerns of the noble Baroness in what she is trying to do, and it is something that we will continue to look at—ways of ensuring that people are aware of the information when they are purchasing a property. We will continue to look forward to engaging with all noble Lords in this House. With that reassurance in mind, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, will agree with me that this proposed new clause is not necessary, and I respectfully ask that it is withdrawn.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the proposed new clause is totally necessary—I disagree with the Minister on that—but I understand the need to withdraw. The only thing that I would just clarify is that all the organisations that are run for leaseholders are no good to people who do not know what a leaseholder is when they buy their flat and then find out that they are leaseholders. You do not think of yourself as a leaseholder; you think that you are a home owner. The only people who call themselves leaseholders any more are activists who have discovered how awful it is to be a leaseholder, who then get a different identity. That is what I am getting at.

The Government’s information is very good, and they should make more of it. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Bailey, was saying—why do they not plaster it around a bit? It is not fair on first-time buyers, who are the people who are being sold out by this. I know that the Government do not want to do that, but they should do something about it. I beg leave to withdraw.

Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill

Lord Gascoigne Excerpts
Baroness Thornhill Portrait Baroness Thornhill (LD)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 92 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, and explained so well by the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley. The right to manage was first introduced in the leasehold reform Act of 2002. From the start, it was, as the noble Lord said, intended as a simple and cost-effective alternative to collective enfranchisement, but, despite the happy intentions of that Act, the reality was quite different. Take-up has not been what we would all have hoped for or expected, because the right to manage has proved incredibly problematic in practice.

These problems culminated in the Law Commission’s final report in 2020—time has marched on—on exercising the right to manage. It summarises the difficulties as follows:

“The ‘simple’ RTM process envisaged in the original consultation which led to the 2002 Act has not come to pass. The requirement for strict compliance with the statutory procedures, such as the service of certain notices on particular parties, can be unforgiving to leaseholders. In many cases, small mistakes made by the RTM company have afforded landlords opportunities to frustrate or delay otherwise valid claims. The Court of Appeal has noted that while the procedures ‘should be as simple as possible to reduce the potential for challenges by an obstructive landlord’, in fact they ‘contain traps for the unwary’”.


This is not a good advert for anyone seeking to exercise the right to manage, which we believe is fundamental to the change we need. The Law Commission subsequently made 101 recommendations, of which the then Government adopted two.

Whole swathes of actions could be happening to make this process simpler and to encourage residents to take this up. We have no doubt that the process is not an easy one and that the provisions in the Bill as it stands are actually quite limited. The uplift from 25% to 50% is welcome, as are the beneficial changes in cost provision, and minor changes to courts and tribunals. They are all positive but underwhelming—a far cry from the 101 recommendations.

In debates throughout the course of the Bill we have heard numerous instances of excessive charges and unfair practices, from both Houses. The Law Commission summed it up best when it said that

“the landlord and leaseholder have opposing financial interests—generally speaking, any financial gain for the landlord will be at the expense of the leaseholder, and vice versa …Their interests are diametrically opposed, and consensus will be impossible to achieve”.

This amendment is quite realistic: it is starting only with new build, but what it does is symbolic, in that it draws a line under the past and clearly points the way forward. Noble Lords will notice that I am not wearing rose-coloured spectacles, and we are not saying that the residents’ right to manage will be any easier—but it will be fairer. Those paying the bills control the bills and can remove any poorly performing providers. We believe that a leaseholder-controlled resident management company with an elected board, accountable to all leaseholders, is a far more democratic arrangement than one middleman freeholder controlling block management, spending leaseholders’ money freely and not involving them in the decision-making processes. It is fundamentally a better way to go, and there seems to be widespread support for it.

We support this amendment because we believe that it is a step in the right direction and could reinvigorate right to manage with the right support. It seems that the Government are finding reasons not to do something instead of working to enable something better to happen.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley, for speaking to Amendment 92 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, and I am grateful for both contributions in this brief discussion.

The amendment seeks to require the establishment of leaseholder-owned management companies for all leasehold flats. I understand the intention to ensure that, by default, all leaseholders of new flats would be responsible for the management of their buildings. The Government support the desire to give more home owners control over the management of their buildings. This Bill is intended to do just that, and will make it cheaper and easier for more leaseholders to own and manage their homes should they wish to.

In some cases, developers have voluntarily set up residents’ management companies to transfer management responsibility to leaseholders. We welcome this, and encourage the industry to adopt this model where appropriate. However, we believe that the best way in which to achieve resident-led management for new buildings is not for government to mandate change to leasehold but to reinvigorate and improve the uptake of commonhold. Commonhold does not require involvement from a third party.

We will reinvigorate commonhold so that it is a genuine alternative to leasehold for new flats. However, there are limitations in the current legal design of commonhold which can limit its use in some settings. We must get any changes right, and preparing the market for the widespread uptake of commonhold will take time. Existing leaseholders can already use the right to manage to take over management responsibility for their building. This is an established, no-fault right that allows leaseholders to take over management responsibility when a majority of leaseholders wish to do so.

There are some situations where the right to manage is not available because leaseholder-led management is not considered appropriate—for example, in largely commercial buildings or where there are social tenants. We believe that it would not be appropriate to apply a blanket provision requiring residents’ management companies for all new buildings without considering where equivalent protections should apply.

Further practical challenges include determining at what point during development and the sale of units management responsibility would be transferred; what position the freeholder would have in the management company if they retained non-residential units or those on short leases; and what protections would be required should leaseholders not wish to take up management responsibilities. Answering these questions would require significant additional consideration—consideration that is ultimately unnecessary because a reinvigorated commonhold is the answer for new buildings, and the right to manage for existing leaseholders makes sure that home owners can already control the management of their building.

Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate

Lord Gascoigne

Main Page: Lord Gascoigne (Conservative - Life peer)

Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill

Lord Gascoigne Excerpts
Report stage & 3rd reading
Friday 24th May 2024

(4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Leasehold and Freehold Reform Act 2024 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Amendment Paper: HL Bill 76-I Marshalled list for Report - (24 May 2024)
Moved by
1: Schedule 1, page 137, line 32, leave out sub-paragraph (2) and insert—
“(2) A lease is a retirement housing lease if— (a) it is a term of the lease that the house comprised in the lease may be occupied only by persons who have attained a minimum age,(b) that minimum age is not less than 55, and(c) the house comprised in the lease is part of a retirement development or scheme in which the leases of all the houses in that development or scheme meet the requirements set out in paragraphs (a) and (b).”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment changes the definition of a retirement housing lease so that the minimum age requirement applies to a person occupying the house, rather than to the tenant or assignee.
Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, before I start, I declare that my wife is an employee of the Crown Estate, as set out in my ministerial register of interests.

Government Amendments 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 59, 64 and 65 are clarificatory amendments of a minor and technical nature to ensure that the Bill operates as intended. Amendments 3 and 7 give effect to the Government’s announced exemption for accepted sites on Crown land. Amendments 54, 55, 56, 57 and 58 relate to legal costs; they introduce a power to set exemptions to Clause 61 and a power to suspend the application requirement until an event set out in regulation occurs. The amendments provide for flexibility to make sensible exemptions and to recognise the position of certain landlords—those in resident-led buildings, for example.

Amendments 10, 12, 14 and 27 are minor and technical amendments relating to the application of the Bill to leaseholders holding over. Amendments 38, 39 and 41 are also minor and technical to ensure that the new valuation scheme will operate in the way it was intended. Amendments 18, 28, 42 and 43 clarify the methodology for intermediate release. Amendment 26 would clarify that there is an order of priority to Part 4 of Schedule 4. Amendment 11 relates to lease extensions and clarifies that the notional lease is granted by the person granting the extended lease. Amendment 60 and 61 correct drafting errors in Clauses 80 and 91.

These amendments are essential for the effective functioning of the Bill. I hope that noble Lords will support them. I beg to move.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I rise briefly to press my noble friend on Amendment 1. The Bill bans new houses being sold on leasehold, which is something I entirely support. Schedule 1 provides a rather narrow range of exemptions and Amendment 1 refers to retirement housing.

I raised in Committee a product called Homes for Life, which looks as if it may be caught by this Bill. Basically, Homes for Life enables someone who is over 60 to sell their home on the open market, then Homes for Life buys the home they want to move to and gives them a lease on that home. That enables the person to downsize and releases a useful sum of money for them. However, that product is not at the moment exempted under Schedule 1. When the Government consulted on implementing reforms to the leasehold system they concluded:

“We will provide an exemption from the ban for these financial products”.—[Official Report, Commons, 22/4/24; col. 1271.]


That included this one. I was in correspondence with the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, about this. Can my noble friend give an assurance that that product, which is useful and non-controversial, will not be banned by the Bill when it becomes an Act?

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I first make a number of declarations: I am a non-executive director of MHS Homes; chair of the Heart of Medway housing association; and a vice-president of the Local Government Association. In addition to that, I am a leaseholder. My noble friend Lady Taylor of Stevenage cannot be here as she is attending a friend’s funeral. That is why noble Lords have to put up with me today on the Opposition Front Bench.

I am sure that, when the noble Lord, Lord Gascoigne, responds to the debate, he will explain this in detail. Obviously, I have only just picked this stuff up this morning; I am sure that buried away in the government amendments are all the promises and pledges that we have had from the Government over the past six or seven years. There are things that we have heard repeatedly from the Member for Surrey Heath in the other place, which have been repeated on Sky News, the BBC, ITV and in most national newspapers. I am sure that now, finally—at the last possible chance—all those pledges are here.

I am sure that the Minister will confirm to me the promise on ground rents. We heard of course that there would be peppercorn ground rents and there was a consultation. Then we heard it leaked that they would be £250 a year with a taper. Again, I am sure the Minister can point out whether that is here. It will be very frustrating if leaseholders and campaigners have been promised action and there is nothing here.

Because of the Renters (Reform) Bill biting the dust, as it were, we have not dealt with the assured shorthold tenancy trap, which will be kept. My noble friend Lady Twycross had a PMB that addressed that very issue. She was repeatedly assured by the Government that there was no need to bring forward her PMB because they would deal with the issue in the Renters (Reform) Bill; so she quite rightly withdrew it. She accepted the assurance from the Government that it would all be sorted out in the Renters (Reform) Bill and withdrew her Bill. She was right near the top of the ballot, so she would have got it through this House and we maybe could have been arguing at the other end about getting it through during the wash-up. But she accepted, in good faith, the Government’s assurance that there was no need as it was in the Renters (Reform) Bill, and now it is lost, so the issue remains.

There is also the whole issue of the Section 24 trap: namely, that leaseholders in high-rise buildings cannot ask the First-tier Tribunal to appoint a manager under Section 24 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987. Again, we were expecting amendments to deal with that here. Because the manager cannot be the accountable person under the Building Safety Act, there is a gap in the law which means that people are trapped. You get unscrupulous landlords who have been thrown out as managers of a building, but they can get back in again and take control of the service charge. That was going to be addressed, but it is not here—or maybe it is and I cannot spot it.

We are not going to oppose this Bill at all, and I hope it can pass today. There are some good things in it, but it is far, far short of what was promised. The Government should be quite ashamed of how they have behaved over the last few years in relation to this Bill—making promise after promise and delivering very little. That is no way to do politics. If you stand up in the House, or make a pledge in a newspaper, about the things that you are going to do, you should go and do them. Not to do them is very poor. I know that it is not the fault of the noble Lord, Lord Gascoigne, but I hope he can tell us where all these things have gone. Where is the progress on forfeiture? It is just not there and it is just wrong. This is not the way to operate.

The noble Lord, Lord Moylan, asked me a question. Obviously, I cannot answer that question. At the end of the day, the people will decide who the Government will be on 4 July. Whoever is in power, whether it is a Conservative or Labour Government, I hope that they will look at what happened with this Bill, look at the Law Commission recommendations that are sitting there, done and ready to be introduced, and bring them in.

What is in the King’s Speech is a matter for the Prime Minister of the day. I certainly hope that, whoever is in power, the necessary action is taken and the leaseholder problems are dealt with. They have not been dealt with by this Government—we have had year after year and promise after promise and nothing done. That is very poor. Maybe I am wrong, and the noble Lord will point out what I have missed in the points that I have made.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I am grateful for all the contributions in what has been a relatively brief group. I will go through the issues that were raised chronologically.

My noble friend Lord Young raised a specific case, and I have seen the correspondence he referred to. It is the Government’s policy to allow equity release in home finance products in houses, including home purchase plans and lifetime leases. We have a power in this Bill to add, remove or amend definitions for categories of permitted leases. On the specific product, the department is considering an appropriate definition for secondary legislation, and officials have met the main provider in question. I assure my noble friend that the measures in the Bill relating to the ban on leasehold houses will not be implemented immediately, should the Bill secure Royal Assent, as there are other important regulations that need to be provided for first before the ban becomes operational.

My noble friend Lord Moylan is right to say that this will come up later, and we can have the discussion then. In brief, on the right-to-manage companies, we have laid amendments to set regulations to suspend the requirement for certain landlords to apply to the relevant court or tribunal to recover their litigation costs until an event set out in regulation occurs. An example of when it might be appropriate to suspend the application requirement is for resident-led buildings or assetless landlords. As I say, I think we will come back to it later.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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Among noble Lords, my noble friend at least must have confidence that the Government will be returned to power and that he will be sitting on that Bench only a matter of weeks from now. On that assumption, could he give us a date for when these regulations will be brought forward, so we can at least know the Government’s position on the timing of this? There is the risk of people being left in limbo. Even if it is a matter of six weeks that is bad enough, but it could be longer, even if the Government are returned to power. On that assumption, is he able to help the House, and directors and members of right-to-manage companies, by indicating a date when the regulations will be brought before us under the affirmative procedure?

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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On the first question, it is with regret that I cannot give that date now. On his second question—whether I have confidence that we will win—that is up to the electorate, but I have every hope that we will. Obviously, I would not like to curse us in saying that—touch wood. Who knows? Let us see.

I was also asked what action could be taken to make sure that this does not fall foul of legislation. The Government will work closely with stakeholders to ensure that the application requirement is suspended only where appropriate. In addition, the power is subject to the affirmative procedure.

This is the first time I have had the honour to speak directly to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, from the Dispatch Box. I know he has raised this issue inside the Chamber and outside many times, and he is right to do so. Obviously, there have been many constraints on the legislative timetable and, as we are now in wash-up, those pressures have increased tenfold. This is a good Bill as it stands, and the Government want to see it through. The noble Lord mentioned that we are at the beginning of a general election campaign. Who knows what will come thereafter, but this Bill is very good as it stands, and I hope noble Lords will be able to support it today.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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Can the Minister confirm that there is nothing in this Bill on forfeiture or ground rents, as had been promised?

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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There are lots of good things in the Bill as it stands that we have only just begun to talk about. I hope the noble Lord will support it. If we have the opportunity to serve again, we will continue to do what we can.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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I am not looking to oppose the Bill; I support it as it is. I am just trying to be clear on the specific question of ground rents being reduced to peppercorn rents. We have spoken about £250 a year; as far as I can see, that is not here, and neither is the issue around forfeitures. Can the Minister confirm those facts?

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I can confirm those two points.

Amendment 1 agreed.
Moved by
2: Schedule 1, page 138, line 11, leave out paragraph 4 and insert—
“4 A lease of a house where the house comprised in the lease— (a) is a property or part of a property vested inalienably in the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (“the National Trust”) under section 21 of the National Trust Act 1907, or(b) is inalienable by the National Trust by virtue of section 8 of the National Trust Act 1939.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies the scope of the exemption for leases of certain National Trust property to ensure that it captures leases of houses which are a property, or part of a property, vested inalienably in the National Trust under section 21(1) or (2) of the National Trust Act 1907, or which are inalienable by the National Trust by virtue of section 8 of the National Trust Act 1939.
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Moved by
4: Clause 12, page 7, line 11, leave out “registration” and insert “completion by registration”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment ensures that the provision only applies to an application for completion by registration of a disposition which is a grant of a lease and not to an application for other entries on the register.
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Moved by
7: Before Clause 24, insert the following new Clause—
“Part 1: Crown applicationThis Part binds the Crown.”Member's explanatory statement
The amendment inserts a new clause into Part 1 of the Bill (leasehold houses) to make provision that the Part binds the Crown.
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Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, we have come to the last stages—the last rites—of this important Bill, which we on these Benches support, despite the fact that there are serious omissions to it. It is fascinating to me that it is Members of the Government’s own side who are raising all the issues at this late stage, and perhaps trying to delay the passage of this Bill.

On the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Bailey of Paddington, we on these Benches support the move to commonhold. It is one of the principles on which the leasehold reform Bill was to be based. It is most unfortunate that, because of the difficulty in overcoming some of the issues in reaching the ability to move to commonhold, this Bill does not include it. However, I am glad that both the Government Benches and the Labour Benches are saying that they support the Bill and want to make further changes, whoever comes into power on 5 July. We on this side are making lots of notes so that we know that, whoever it is, we will hold them to account, to bring these back so that we have a leasehold reform Bill that everyone across the House can support. It should include commonhold.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Bailey of Paddington for his amendment, and indeed all noble Lords who spoke in this relatively brief group. We appreciate the benefits that a share of freehold arrangements has over ordinary leasehold arrangements with third-party landlords. That is why we are making it simpler and cheaper for leaseholders of flats to collectively enfranchise and therefore achieve a share of freehold arrangements. Making a share of freehold arrangements compulsory would require us to construct a legal framework on the same scale and complexity as commonhold. That would include not only making the regulations that my noble friend is taking the power for, but much else as well. It is not a quick or easy fix.

The commonhold framework has already been designed as the optimal legal vehicle for the collective ownership of flats. By comparison to moving to commonhold, making share of freehold arrangements compulsory would be, I am afraid to say, an inferior but not an easier outcome. As such, the Government want to see the widespread take-up of commonhold and for it to be the future preferred tenure for the owners of flats, rather than a share of freehold.

We are sympathetic to the sentiments expressed mainly by my noble friend Lord Bailey and the noble Baroness, Lady Fox. I, too, would like to have gone much further in many areas—but I am afraid that wash-up means that we are where we are. With that, I hope that my noble friend Lord Bailey is able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Bailey of Paddington Portrait Lord Bailey of Paddington (Con)
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My Lords, the House knows two things about me—that I am new and procedure is not my thing and that I am prone to a belligerent outburst. My noble friend Lord Young kindly pointed out to me that forfeiture comes later on in this process so I would like to hear what the noble Lord has to say about that in response and I reverse my earlier comment.

A share of the freehold is the quickest, most elegant way to get to the halfway house before we go to commonhold, which is why I am so passionate about it. It goes to my theme on all of this Bill—where the small man or woman in the street is concerned, it is about control, and this would hand back control very quickly. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 9 in my name would ensure that, when a building has more than 25% of commercial floorspace, the right of collective enfranchisement will not apply unless at least 50% of the participating tenants are occupying home owners. At present, for leaseholders of flats to be able to compulsorily acquire the freehold interest in a building, the amount of commercial floor area must not exceed 25%. Increasing the threshold to 50% in conjunction with compulsory lease-backs and below-market compensation will have a number of unintended consequences. This change will lead to the increased fragmentation of high streets and city centres, eroding the ability of property owners—including charities and, importantly, local authorities providing essential public services—to actively manage places.

The loss of contiguous ownership will erode the incentive that property companies have to invest beyond the buildings themselves for the needs of communities, to create attractive neighbourhoods and support broad demographics. It will also discourage investment and lead to less residential in new buildings as landlords take defensive steps to limit the impact. More broadly, it must be recognised that mixed-use buildings pose a greater management challenge than purely residential ones. Freeholders ultimately need to be active and responsive property managers, not only managing issues such as fire and building safety but responding to requests for alterations and improvements and any redevelopment of the commercial elements of the building, its common parts and residential elements. For mixed-use buildings to operate effectively, property owners must balance the continued commercial attractiveness of the offices or retail within the building with the residential occupiers’ quiet enjoyment of their homes and the attractiveness of the wider neighbourhood.

From the perspective of a freeholder looking to actively manage the commercial units within enfranchised mixed-use buildings, the key issue that arises is that the enfranchised leaseholders are held in a corporate structure, such as an offshore entity, company or trust. As many leaseholders have encountered in seeking to hold freeholders to account for building remedial works, it can be incredibly challenging to identify the ultimate decision-maker and secure consent to even modest alterations. As part of the reform, the Bill should mitigate this by introducing an additional requirement that to be a qualifying leaseholder they should be required to satisfy a residential test.

As we know, a high proportion of leasehold properties are owned by investors, including from overseas. Where leaseholders who live in their properties are likely to have regard for their surrounding neighbourhood and what happens in their building—as we have seen from other matters relevant to building management—this is not always true of investors. It is not just a case of ensuring the effective management of individual buildings but of protecting high streets of significant economic importance from being fragmented, particularly in London’s central activity zone, where we know that a high proportion of residential properties are held by investors.

The amendment would seek to pre-empt these challenges by requiring a resident test to ensure that leaseholders seeking to acquire a freehold live in the building as their main residence. It would give some assurance that they will be contactable and responsive, avoiding the negative impacts of zombie freeholders. I beg to move.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I thank my noble friend Lord Howard of Rising for Amendment 9 on enfranchisement claims in mixed-use buildings. Establishing residency and occupation is, as I understand, difficult. It can change quickly over time and can easily be manipulated. That could lead to the validity of claims being challenged successfully, years after they have been acquired. A residency test would remove the existing rights of some leaseholders and complicate the system overall, counter to the Bill’s aims, and lead to an uptick in disputes and litigation. Attempting to restrict one leaseholder in another building may well disfranchise the others. Therefore, I am afraid that we oppose the introduction of new residency tests. With the greatest respect, I kindly ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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I am not sure that what the Minister said would not apply even if my amendment did not pass. Does he have a comment on that?

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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With respect to my noble friend, I thought I addressed the points. Introducing this measure would introduce a huge number of complications to the Bill.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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Yes, but complications exist now, and therefore it is unnecessary to go as far as the new Bill does. That having being said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
10: Schedule 4, page 159, line 6, leave out from “continue” to end of line 8 and insert “on the terms on which it is granted, and therefore will not be substituted by the statutory lease;
(aa) the current lease will continue (on those terms) until its term date;”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would restructure paragraph 3(2) in connection with the new sub-paragraph (2A) that would be inserted by another amendment in my name.
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Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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It is very fashionable to say “I am not a lawyer”, but lots of lawyers who work in property and housing support this Bill but think it does not go far enough. It is not just all bluster and passion. That is misleading.

My final retort to come back is that I am defending people who buy a property to live in. People who buy a property that they then rent out are, as far as I know, not the devil incarnate. I am surprised that people on the Conservative Benches have decided that, if you happen to buy a leasehold property and you want to rent it out, you are doing something malign and malicious. This is not about poor people versus rich people. It is about impoverishing people who buy a house, thinking they are buying a house, only to find out that they have no control or autonomy and that somebody else from a rentier class that has become lazy about innovation in terms of construction, building and housing, is living off easy gains by ripping off leaseholders.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I thank my noble friends Lord Howard of Rising and Lord Moylan for their amendments, and all who have spoken in this group. As we have already discussed on the previous group, residency is difficult to establish, can change quickly over time and could be manipulated, as previous residency requirements have been. The fact remains that a residency test would complicate the system overall, contrary to the aims of the Bill, leading to an uptick in disputes and litigation. Therefore, we oppose the introduction of any form of residency test which would treat leaseholders differently under these reforms. I assure my noble friends that I completely understand and hear what their aim is, here and in the previous group, but it would complicate the system and create a two-tier system.

A number of points were raised which I will seek to address. First, I shall cover the points raised by my noble friends Lord Howard and Lord Moylan about analysis, impact studies and foreign investment as a group. My noble friend Lord Howard asked about analysis. While it might be the case that marriage-value savings are concentrated in London and the south-east, this is because of the large number of flats in London, the region where leasehold property prices are highest.

Further to that, my noble friend asked about our analysis. I assure him that it is robust, as is demonstrated by our impact assessment being noted as fit for purpose and green-rated by the Regulatory Policy Committee—RPC.

My noble friend Lord Moylan raised a point about foreign investors. The Bill will fulfil the Government’s aims to make it cheaper and easier for leaseholders to extend their lease or buy their freehold. It will apply to leaseholders whether they live in their property or elsewhere. Attempting to limit the rights of non-resident leaseholders would complicate the system that we aim to simplify and restrict access where we wish to improve it.

My noble friend also talked about a lack of proper scrutiny. This has had proper scrutiny. In 2018, the Law Commission’s legal experts began their report into enfranchisement. In 2019, the Law Commission reported, including options on marriage values, which we accepted. In 2021, the Government confirmed that these recommendations were policy. In 2023, the King’s Speech set out the Bill, which has had scrutiny in both Houses.

That leads me neatly on to my noble friend Lord Robathan and the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, who raised the impact of wash-up. The noble Baroness, Lady Fox—maybe I should say my noble friend on this occasion—got this right, but I appreciate the point about the impact of wash-up. The suggestion is that the Bill has not been scrutinised but, in my brief time as a Government Minister, I have sat through many debates on this and it has been through both Houses of Parliament. We are talking about it today; it is being scrutinised. Many noble Lords and others have had to tolerate sitting in meetings with me, alongside my noble friend the Minister, to talk about it. We have engaged. I appreciate the point being made that this is not the way to do it, but it is because of wash-up. The Chief Whip raised this earlier today and the Leader addressed it yesterday.

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan (Con)
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Could the Minister just respond to what my noble friend Lord Howard of Rising said? Supposing I am a foreign investor and I buy 100 flats. After the marriage value is put down, I get, say, £100,000 for each flat as a bonus. I think that is an underestimate. Would he defend that?

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I would certainly be happy to defend this Bill and what it does. I therefore ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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I thank all those who were kind enough to support this amendment. The Minister talked about adequate examination. I have great respect for the Minister and especially for his integrity: when he borrowed my house, I got the key back. It took some months, but it came and it is a very special key, because they stopped making them 50 years ago. I had to have them specially made, so I thought, “Oh, no, I have to go through that expense again, because I could not possibly stick a poor young politician with the cost of a key like that”. Suddenly, like magic, it flopped through the door one day.

But what credence can we give to the legal advice the Minister has had, which he referred to earlier, when the Government’s own advisers have said that the legality of this is a very fine argument? The truth of the matter is, as has already been mentioned today, that one of the main planks of the Human Rights Act is the right of property. The Government are gaily switching around bits of property at a Minister’s whim. I cannot believe that that can have been passed as solid by so many august legal entities unless they themselves had an axe to grind. Of course, there is also, as has been mentioned, the retrospective angle of the legislation.

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Moved by
14: Schedule 4, page 160, line 23, leave out from “if” to end of line 24 and insert “—
(a) the tenant is holding over under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 at the valuation date, or(b) the term date of the current lease is within the period of five years beginning at the valuation date.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would stop the standard valuation method from being compulsory if the current lease has passed its term date (and so the tenant is holding over by virtue of Schedule 10 to the Local Government and Housing Act 1989).
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Lord Jackson of Peterborough Portrait Lord Jackson of Peterborough (Con)
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My Lords, briefly, I support my noble friend Lord Howard of Rising’s amendment. It is important to put on record some of the concerns about the marriage value and grandfathering issues that the Bill has thrown up, and the problem of significant ramifications and externalities, and unintended consequences, that may fall as a result of this Bill becoming an Act later today. It is important to also put on record, as the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, said, that it is an unsatisfactory position that such a complex and potentially difficult and litigious Bill should be debated in the final stages of the last day before Prorogation.

I should say at the outset that I am very grateful to David Elvin KC of Landmark Chambers for the legal work that he has done on this Bill. Freeholders, many of them individuals who rely on income from ground rents and marriage values, should not be penalised. Government figures show that, of the 5.2 million leaseholders in the UK, only 400,000 will benefit. This issue is one of fairness and equity. Four-fifths of those leaseholders are in London and the south-east, and two-thirds are not owner-occupiers. Just 240,000 owner-occupier leaseholders stand to gain.

The Residential Freehold Association describes the reforms as

“a totally unjustified interference in the legitimate property rights of freeholders”.

It claims that the Government may need to pay out £31 billion in compensation for erasing the value of these investments. Mick Platt, director of the RFA, said, very pertinently:

“Given the UK’s proud history of protecting legitimate property rights and respecting contract law, it would ordinarily be unthinkable for investors to have to rely on the courts to protect their interests, but this is inevitable if Mr Gove pushes these proposals through”.


Marriage value currently forms part of the property value and is shared equally between freeholders and leaseholders where leases are under 80 years. The original social justification for enfranchisement allowed the recovery of market value and an equitable share of marriage value. This reform takes that away and, subject to any transitional provisions, removes a whole element of the value from the freeholder without compensation, so that any assessments of, or reliance on, existing market values will be frustrated. As has been said by my noble friend, it will be, in many cases, a retrospective deprivation of value in that it applies to existing interest.

I want to specifically address the point made by my friend the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley—with whom I very rarely disagree because she is eminently sensible on pretty much everything she opines on in this House—about lawyers casting their eyes on this legislation. In Lindheim v Norway, before the European Court of Human Rights, the state sought to manipulate market value in mandatory lease extensions by fixing the rent at historic, rather than current, value, and the Strasbourg court held that this violated Article 1 of the first protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights. You do not often get me citing the European Convention on Human Rights, but I will make an exception today because this is an important issue.

Although the social measures pursued a legitimate aim in the public interest, none the less the measure did not strike a fair balance, given the burden placed on property owners. The proposed abolition of marriage value in this Bill represents a significant departure from established property practices. The unilateral transfer of value from freeholders to leaseholders without compensation raises legal, ethical and practical concerns.

As I finish, I make the point that the Government should look benevolently on Amendments 20 and 21 on grandfathering, because they provide an interesting way forward. It would adjust the balance in applying assumptions which remove marriage value only to those leases with more than 80 years remaining at the time of commencement of the relevant provisions.

The Minister has done an excellent job defending a very sticky wicket against some quite awkward googlies. I know that we all have had very little time to prepare for this, but this needs to be put on the record because this legislation has the potential to give rise to very serious division, litigation and difficulties, and unintended impacts in the property market, which will mean fewer people have the benefit of owning their own homes or having leases. With that, I conclude my remarks.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I thank my noble friends Lord Howard of Rising and Lord Moylan for these amendments. They lay some of the groundwork for the grandfathering amendments to marriage value, which will be discussed later—in group 7, I think—and we will debate the substantial matters then.

One thing I would like to say now, so that I am not accused of ignoring it, is that the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill is considered by the Government to be A1P1 ECHR-compliant as introduced to both Houses. Indeed, the valuation scheme itself and constituent parts are A1P1-compliant. We will come back to that in a couple of groups.

It is worth pointing out that Amendment 16 would not only grandfather marriage value but remove such leaseholders left owing marriage value from the standard valuation method altogether. The consequences of this would be that they would not only be left owing marriage value but would not benefit from any valuation reforms, including to the treatment of ground rent rates and so on. Moreover, since there would be no specific provisions for valuing their properties outside of the standard valuation period, leaseholders and freeholders would be left to negotiate all aspects of the valuation. This would result in much greater costs, delays and litigation. I therefore kindly ask my noble friends not to press their amendments.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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I thank the Minister. We touched on this before. The Minister said that this is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights, but the advice given to the Government was that it was a very marginal case.

I also point out to the Minister that, if you had some ground rents coming in and you had them removed by force, you would simply fight as long as you wanted, because you would continue to get them while you were fighting in the court. I envisage that the legal complications would last for several years. There are huge sums of money involved, with £7.1 billion of assets being transferred, and people will try to protect that.

If I was the Minister, I would go back and ask my legal advisers to check what was happening. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
18: Schedule 4, page 163, line 28, leave out from “that” to end of line 34 and insert “the following occurred immediately before the valuation date—
(a) in the case of the transfer of a freehold house under the LRA 1967—(i) the merger with the freehold of any lease which the claimant will acquire as part of the statutory transfer;(ii) the surrender of any lease of the currently leased premises that belongs to the qualifying tenant and is superior to the current lease;(b) in the case of the grant of an extended lease of a house under the LRA 1967—(i) the merger with the interest of the person granting the statutory lease of any lease which will be deemed to be surrendered and regranted as part of the statutory grant;(ii) the surrender of any lease that will be surrendered under paragraph 11(1) of Schedule 1 to the LRA 1967 as part of the statutory grant;(c) in the case of the collective enfranchisement of a building under the LRHUDA 1993, the merger with the freehold of any lease which the claimant will acquire as part of the enfranchisement;(d) in the case of the grant of a new lease of a flat under the LRHUDA 1993—(i) the merger with the interest of the person granting the statutory lease of any lease which will be deemed to be surrendered and regranted as part of the statutory grant;(ii) the surrender of any lease that will be surrendered under paragraph 10(3) of Schedule 11 to the LRHUDA 1993 as part of the statutory grant.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would restructure paragraph 17(2) and add new material in paragraph (a)(ii), (b)(ii) and (d)(ii) to require it to be assumed that certain leases have been surrendered.
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Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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My Lords, I listened with great interest to the right reverend Prelate. Worthy though charities are, it should not just be charities which benefit from this. Although I would like to see them exempted, the same should happen to everybody. Under the law, all should be equal. I find it difficult sometimes to support the Church as a charity if it can bung away £100 million. Then it wanted to bung away £1 billion—it is quite difficult to keep up with the Church’s generous donations. It is hard enough supporting my wife in her endeavours with the village fête to raise £2,000 and I sometimes wonder why we do it when the Church can give away as much as it does.

The Church does fantastic work and I would like to see it getting a larger income but I think this should apply not just to specific charities but to everyone who has made an investment and is expecting something in the long term. Pension funds invest in this form of investment because they have obligations that stretch 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ahead. How do you pay for that in the days of inflation? If you buy a freehold which you expect to fall in, you are covering your future liability. If that can be suddenly taken away, maybe we should include pension funds as a special category. I come back to the thing that it should be the same for everybody. I do not know how the Government intend to work it out for pension funds. If the total sum, as I said before, is £7 billion, that is a big hole in pension funds even if they own only a percentage of that.

I look forward to hearing what the Minister says about charities and, in particular, the Church’s exemption.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham for these amendments and for his very kind comments about the Minister, which I will ensure she is aware of.

The Government fully appreciate the essential work done by the charity sector and I completely understand the sector’s concerns about the deferment rate. I also understand the importance of prescribing the rates for both leaseholders and freeholders, and recognise the right reverend Prelate’s concerns. We have committed to prescribing the rates at market value and the Secretary of State will carefully take into consideration and review all the information and views shared ahead of setting the rates. We have welcomed and appreciate the contributions the Church Commissioners and charities have provided and will welcome continued engagement before the rates are set.

As I have said, we recognise the positive contributions many charities make to our society, yet attempting to create carve-outs for specific groups of landlords, including charities, would complicate a system we aim to simplify. With that and with respect, I ask the right reverend Prelate to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham Portrait The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham
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I thank the Minister for his answer. I will keep this brief. I thank the charities concerned and their staff for the support they have given to these amendments. I am also grateful to noble Lords for their valuable contributions not only to these amendments but to this debate more generally, expressing concerns about this Bill.

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Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friends Lord Howard of Rising and Lord Moylan for their amendments. These amendments would leave some leaseholders with wasting assets from which there is no escape. We have been unequivocally clear that the Government’s stated objective is to make it cheaper and easier for leaseholders to extend their lease or acquire their freehold. We do not believe that the leaseholder should have to pay marriage value. I know my noble friends have concerns that the removal of the requirement to pay marriage value, as I have heard previously, is expropriation. But the Government believe marriage value is a windfall that leaseholders should not have to continue to pay because of their need to enfranchise. The new valuation scheme without marriage value will provide sufficient compensation to freeholders and it is, as I have said before, the Government’s view that it is A1P1-compliant. I therefore kindly ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Lord Howard of Rising Portrait Lord Howard of Rising (Con)
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Well, I would say to the Minister that people who have leases of under 80 years bought them. They purchased them and they got a discount on what they were buying because of the shorter period. Now you are suddenly saying, “Actually, they paid a perfectly fair price at the time, because it was cheaper than a longer lease or a freehold, but actually that is not good enough, so let them have a bit more.” So they are very lucky, but it is very unfair on those, such as the Church and pension funds, which invested for the longer term and have sold leases to people who wanted to buy leases. It was not compulsory; nobody from the Government went along and said, “Hang on, old boy, you’ve got to buy this lease whether you like it or not”. They bought them voluntarily and, as I have already said, most of these leases are in central London, where it was very much a voluntary act. If you had bought a 10-year lease in one of the more fashionable areas, it would have cost you many millions of pounds and you would have bought it knowing you could use it for 10 years. To suddenly find you can increase it to 80 years, making profits of tens of millions of pounds, seems to me absolutely absurd. It is a case of Robin Hood in reverse—robbing the poor, namely the pension fund holders and the charities, in order to give to the rich. I would be very interested to hear the Minister’s comments on that before he sits down.

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Moved by
26: Schedule 4, page 166, line 30, at end insert—
“(4A) But, as this paragraph has effect subject to any assumptions that must be made in accordance with other provisions of this Schedule, the effect of those assumptions must form part of the determination of what, if any, specified matters arise.” Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would make clear that the assumptions made under Schedule 4 govern paragraph 20 (so that, for example, an intermediate lease which is assumed to have been surrendered, or merged with a superior title, would not be a “specified matter”).
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Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, there has been a number of groups concerning marriage value and I have not spoken in them, because I thought I would save my remarks for now. It is quite clear that what the Government are proposing is simply expropriation—there is no other word for it—and it is one of the two most objectionable features of this Bill. The second is the one I come to now, as the subject of these amendments, which relate to the setting of a cap on ground rents for valuation purposes.

It will perhaps help some noble Lords if I say that, when I have mentioned this amendment, some people have asked me, “Why are you talking about ground rent when the Bill doesn’t introduce the expected cap on ground rents?” It is the cap on ground rents payable that is not introduced. However, in Schedule 4, there are provisions whereby the Government determine what the ground rent should be treated as for the purpose of valuations in the event of a leasehold enfranchisement or a lease extension. These two amendments would simply remove that cap.

What is happening, put very simply, is another form of expropriation. Quite simply, the ground rent that the tenant has signed up for and which the freeholder has a legitimate expectation of should be ignored in the assessment of valuations for the purposes I mentioned a moment ago and should be set at 0.1% of the property’s market value as a cap. As I say, this is simply another unwarranted interference with property rights, with almost no understanding or explanation on the part of the Government of what the practical effects will be on the interests of legitimate freeholders, which include pension funds, charities and other parties.

With that, I shall sit down since I do not expect my noble friend to give way on the matter, but I think it is very important that the point is made: this is another of the two most odious provisions in the Bill.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend—if I can still call him that—Lord Moylan for these amendments. As I made clear in Committee, the Government have made their intention to make enfranchisement cheaper and easier for leaseholders explicitly clear.

There has been much discussion of ground rents and the incidences where they cause difficulties for leaseholders. The provision in the Bill to cap ground rent in enfranchisement calculation at 0.1% of the freehold vacant possession value is an important measure to ensure that leaseholders with relatively high ground rents do not find the cost of enfranchisement prohibitively expensive. These amendments would be counter to that objective so, with respect, I ask my noble friend Lord Moylan to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friends Lord Moylan and Lord Howard of Rising for their amendments, and the right reverend Prelate for his comments.

At the moment, it is difficult for a leaseholder to understand how much they must pay to the landlord when they enfranchise. Different rates are used across the country and across the industry on a case-by-case basis. It can therefore be costly and time-consuming for both parties to agree, especially where there may be a dispute, which can lead to inefficiencies in the system.

We are reforming the enfranchisement valuation landscape and rebalancing the inequity of arms between leaseholders and freeholders. For the first time, we can put an end to uncertainty, inefficiency and the wasted costs and time that leaseholders and freeholders endure through the current enfranchisement valuation process. We will do this through these reforms, by allowing the Secretary of State to prescribe the capitalisation and deferment rates for enfranchisement valuation calculations.

I know that there has been concern that the Bill includes a requirement to review the rate at least every 10 years, as has been mentioned. However, this is simply a backstop. It does not preclude the Secretary of State reviewing them more frequently, as suggested by these amendments. Nor will the power preclude the Secretary of State from setting different rates for different situations, which is also suggested by these amendments. I am fully aware of the importance of prescribing the rates for both leaseholders and freeholders, and recognise the concerns, including those of the right reverend Prelate. The rates will be prescribed at market value, as we have committed to and as suggested by the amendments. I ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I omitted to say what I should have said: of course, my noble friend, who has been a friend for a very long time indeed, may continue to regard me as his noble friend and I will regard him as my noble friend, whatever strange and paradoxical circumstances we may find ourselves in in the course of debate in this Chamber. With that remark, and with a great sense of dissatisfaction at his response, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Moved by
38: Schedule 6, page 179, line 26, before first “Schedule” insert (1)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would be consequential on the amendment in my name that would insert a new sub-paragraph (2) into paragraph 1.
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Moved by
41: Schedule 6, page 180, line 37, leave out from “date”” to end of line 42 and insert “is to be read subject to paragraph 1(2);”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would be consequential on the amendment in my name that would insert a new sub-paragraph (2) into paragraph 1.
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Moved by
42: Schedule 8, page 196, line 10, at end insert—
“(3A) But any lease that must be surrendered under paragraph 11(1) is to be treated for the purposes of this paragraph as if it had been surrendered immediately before the relevant time.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would ensure that a lease which must be surrendered is assumed to have been surrendered.
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, these are very welcome amendments that try to address two of the problems I referred to in my remarks on group 1. I still hope that the noble Lord, Lord Gascoigne, will jump up in a moment and say that the Government accept Amendments 44 and 45—that it was an error that the Government did not put their name to them—because they are exactly the things that the Member for Surrey Heath has been promising for months. I cannot remember the number of times I have heard in TV studios and the newspapers that he wants to do both these things. Here we are now with the mechanism to do it. All the Government need to do is accept the amendments and we can move forward.

As the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, said, anyone who is owed a debt should be able to recover it, but the threat of taking all the property away is completely wrong. Even on that one, I do not understand why the Government have not come forward with an amendment on it. It is absolutely bizarre. I think nobody in this House would oppose it, and it would be accepted. We want people to be able to recover their money, but this threat is totally over the top. We all agree on that.

What is even more frustrating is that, when I leave the Chamber and walk around the building, many Members actually agree with us, and say: “You’re absolutely right, Roy. This should happen”. I have even had Members of the Government Front Bench—not in the House at the moment—say to me: “The problem is, Roy, we agree with you, but Michael just goes off and makes these claims and pledges and promises without them being signed off”. It is no way to do business. We need to get these things done properly. This needs to be done. I do not understand why it cannot be done if everyone supports it. It is beyond me, really, that we operate like this. That is the whole frustration about this Bill. Promises and pledges and articles to say that we are going to do this and we are going to do that—I am sick of hearing it. And then when they get the chance, they do absolutely nothing.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions in this group. I thank my noble friends Lord Young and Lord Bailey of Paddington, and the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, for their amendments regarding forfeiture and service charge enforcement.

The upkeep and safety of buildings is paramount. Landlords, be they private companies or resident management companies, need an effective mechanism to recover unpaid debts, lest their costs fall to other leaseholders or to the detriment of the building’s upkeep. It is important to consider resident management companies in particular, which often have very limited access to other funds to cover any shortfall in the service charge fund. Having a robust and efficient way to enforce unpaid charges is therefore critical to ensure the efficiency and solvency of these resident-led companies. Equally, there are other breaches—unauthorised alterations, anti-social behaviour and use of a property for immoral purposes—that can be difficult and even impossible to remediate. In such cases, forfeiture may be the only effective way of putting a stop to the breaching behaviour. While well-intended, we do not believe that the abolition of forfeiture without a suitable replacement would ultimately serve the best interests of leaseholders, and in particular resident management companies.

My noble friend asked about progress in drafting. I hope he appreciates—it is with respect that I say this—that I do not think I am able to comment on what may happen or where that is, simply because I do not know who will be lucky enough to serve in the Government and answer that question after the election.

I turn to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Truscott. Unfortunately, we believe that this amendment does not achieve its stated aim of protecting leaseholders, crucially against forfeiture over non-payment of service charges. The Government recognise that those home owners who pay rentcharges face the threat of forfeiture. Part 7 of the Bill already removes the risk of forfeiture for unpaid arrears of income-supporting rentcharges, since the remedy is so disproportionate to the sums owed. The Bill also contains a robust package of protections for home owners who pay estate rentcharges.

I now move to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. Noble Lords will be aware that the Government do not believe that it is appropriate that many leaseholders face unregulated ground rents for no clear service in return. The Government have already legislated to put an end to ground rents for most new residential properties in England and Wales through the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022. We have also encouraged work led by the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate abuses of the system, such as the mis-sold doubling ground rent leases, securing commitments from freeholders to remove these costly terms, benefitting more than 20,000 leaseholders. Given where we are in the parliamentary timetable, I hope noble Lords will understand that we cannot accept an amendment on complex new policy at this stage.

I turn to Amendments 51 and 52 in the name of my noble friend Lord Bailey. I fully agree that it is important to have effective enforcement measures in place. Amendment 51 seeks to retain criminal sanctions for failure to provide information to leaseholders in a timely manner. The existing measures, including the statutory offence under the existing Section 25 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, have historically proven to be ineffective. Local housing authorities, as the enforcement body, were reluctant to bring prosecutions against landlords, and the cost and complexity of doing so were a significant barrier to leaseholders bringing a private prosecution. That is why we are replacing it with a more effective and proportionate proposal, set out in Clause 57.

Amendment 52 would require landlords to account to all leaseholders where costs were found to be unreasonable and would impose a two-month limit on repayments to leaseholders. It would introduce a power to enable the appropriate tribunal to award interest on any determination in favour of the leaseholder, where a leaseholder has made an application. While I agree that there must be a robust regime in place to challenge service charges, we do not think that this is the right approach.

Landlords may wish to compensate leaseholders by offering a credit against future service charges rather than returning money, and a leaseholder may prefer this. In addition, the Court of Appeal held in 2022 that a tribunal decision of the type to which my noble friend refers is a determination of whether the service charge is payable and not of whether it is due. Therefore, although the amendment is well-intentioned, it would not be possible to implement in the form drafted.

As I have said, I would have liked to go further, and indeed that was the intention, but we are in wash-up. With that, I hope my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend for responding to the debate and to all those who took part, particularly my noble friends Lord Bailey and Lord Moylan for supporting my amendment on forfeiture, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. Interestingly, we have had a debate on protecting the interests of leaseholders wedged between a series of debates on protecting the interests of freeholders.

I was a little disappointed by my noble friend’s reply, because Ministers have conceded that we have an inequity here. It is my view that, had we had a normal Report stage at the beginning of next month, the Government would have come forward with their own amendment to deal with what they conceded was an inequity. I was gently trying to find out what progress had been made with drafting a clause to deal with this, and whether sufficient progress had been made for a Private Member’s Bill to be brought forward in the next Parliament. I understand that my noble friend can make no commitments about who will be at the Dispatch Box, but it would be in the general interest, given that there is unanimity that this is a bad law and should be repealed, if we could be told that good progress had been made in government and that legislation was available. Having grumbled about that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Bailey of Paddington Portrait Lord Bailey of Paddington (Con)
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My Amendment 50 seeks to bring down the onerous 50% participation threshold to 35%, so that many more leaseholders can take back control of their homes, their money and their lives. As my noble friend Lord Moylan said, it would remove much of the suspicion around whether your freeholder is fleecing you, for want of a better word. I believe the Government support a revolution in the right to manage, so I will be interested in the comments from my noble friend the Minister as to why this cannot be supported. This would be a great step for people in many communities where buying property is a lifelong dream that they could then achieve. It leaves that footprint firmly in their community, and gives them more control of the investment they have actually made.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I thank my noble friend Lord Moylan for Amendment 49 on the right to manage and local authorities. In taking forward this Bill, we have prioritised the most impactful of the Law Commission’s recommendations on enfranchisement and the right to manage. That includes allowing more leaseholders in mixed-use buildings to collectively acquire the freehold of their building, or to exercise their right to manage their building, by increasing the non-residential limit from 25% to 50% non-residential floorspace. The Law Commission did not make any recommendations on local authority householders, but we recognise that the right to manage is not available to leaseholders with local authority landlords where there are no secure tenants in the block. We will continue to review changes to improve the right to manage. I hope that, following these reassurances, my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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If I may interrupt, I simply asked my noble friend for clarity. Is he now saying that the class of persons I referred to does not have access to the right to manage—he seems to have said those words—even by way of the Housing Act 1985, contrary to what was said in Committee, or would he maintain that that route is still available to them? Is it or is it not the Government’s position that the Housing Act 1985 is available?

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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As ever, I am grateful for the points my noble friend has made. I think it is as I have described previously: namely, that the Law Commission did not make any recommendations on local authority leaseholders. We recognise that the right to manage is not available for leaseholders with local authority landlords, where there are no secure tenants in the block. It is not available where there are only leaseholders.

I now turn to Amendment 50, tabled by my noble friend Lord Bailey of Paddington. We recognise that the participation requirement can cause difficulties if leaseholders cannot reach the threshold. But a participation requirement of one-half of the residential units is proportionate, ensuring that a minority of leaseholders are prevented from exercising the right to manage, which may be against the wishes of the majority of leaseholders in a building.

Reducing the participation requirement to 35% is disproportionate and could lead to undesirable outcomes, such as an increase in disputes. It would risk a situation where competing groups of minority leaseholders could make repeated claims against each other. The Government accept the Law Commission’s recommendation to keep the participation threshold as it is. For these reasons, I ask that my noble friend does not press his amendment.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, there is no better illustration of the sheer folly of trying to deal with this complex issue in wash-up. We have discussed a point that was raised and discussed in Committee, during which one answer was given by a Minister. It was discussed in a meeting at which officials were present. I have not tabled my amendments late; some of my amendments have been down for some time. It is a point that Minsters knew was likely to come up on Report, but they have not been able to give clarity.

There are two possible routes. Is one of them available? Is what the Minister said in Committee correct or not? I am still really no clearer about the whole subject unless I construe the Minister’s words, as opposed to having them stated plainly for me. It is simply an illustration of why we should not be progressing this Bill in this fashion and in this way. With that comment, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, this amendment relates to the question of the ability of right-to-manage companies and similar bodies to recover their legal costs. I made remarks in the debate on the first group which largely addressed this. This issue has also been raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell.

I see no reason, given the pressure of time, to add further to my arguments or comments on this amendment. I will simply have to accept, with a degree of gratitude—I suppose I have to be fair—that Amendments 54 to 58 proposed by the Government go some modest way towards addressing my concern. We will leave ourselves in the hands of the Secretary of State and hope that, whoever that is, they will be kind to us—but who knows? I beg to move.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Moylan for his amendment to Clause 61. The Government have laid Amendments 54 to 58, which will in part introduce a power to set regulations to suspend the requirement for certain landlords to apply to the relevant court or tribunal to recover their litigation costs until an event set out in regulations occurs.

This will mean that the Secretary of State or Welsh Ministers will have the power to allow certain landlords to demand money from leaseholders to fund litigation ahead of proceedings without the need to apply to the court or tribunal for permission to do so. Importantly, it would still require the same landlords to apply to the court or tribunal for their costs after “a specified event” in regulations occurs, ensuring that leaseholders are still protected.

The Government will work closely with stakeholders to ensure the application requirement is suspended only where appropriate. An example might be for resident-led buildings or assetless landlords. In addition, the power is subject to the affirmative procedure, meaning it will be scrutinised in both Houses. I hope this reassures my noble friend and that, on that basis, he will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Moved by
54: Clause 61, page 79, line 20, at end insert—
“(6A) See section 20CB for powers of the appropriate authority to provide for other exceptions to subsection (1).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would signpost the new section 20CB.
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Moved by
59: Clause 84, page 104, line 4, at end insert—
“(5) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to the negative procedure.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would ensure that a statutory instrument containing regulations under clause 83 is subject to the negative procedure.
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Moved by
60: Clause 88, page 106, line 5, leave out “by the Secretary of State”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would correct an error, given that Welsh Ministers may approve a code of practice under section 87 of the LRHUDA 1993.
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Moved by
61: Clause 91, page 108, line 39, leave out “by the Secretary of State”
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would correct an error, given that Welsh Ministers may approve a code of practice under section 87 of the LRHUDA 1993.
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I will, very briefly, just add our support for Amendments 62, 63 and 67. The noble Lord, Lord Bailey, presents a way forward for addressing those issues as well. I wish we could be doing them, and I think it is disappointing we are not, but I will leave it there.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Best, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and my noble friends Lord Bailey of Paddington and Lord Young for their amendments, and all who have spoken in the final group of this Bill.

I will start with the amendments regarding the regulation of property agents. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Best—I appreciate he is not here—for raising the issue with the Minister recently; I know that it is something which he is passionate about, and I hope that he continues to engage extensively with the noble Baroness, Lady Scott. The Government are committed to driving up professionalism and standards among property agents. Leaseholders deserve a good service for the money they pay, whether that is from from their landlord or their managing agent, where one is in place. Industry plays an important role in driving up standards, and we welcome the ongoing work it is undertaking to support this. This includes industry-backed qualifications, as well as the preparations of codes of practice. Furthermore, the measures in the Bill, alongside existing protections in place and work being undertaken by industry, seek to make managing agents more accountable to those who pay for their services. That includes making it easier for leaseholders to take on management of their buildings themselves, where they can directly appoint or replace agents. The measures above will, I believe, contribute substantially to that objective.

In addition, we need to consider the question of standards for all property agents in the round rather than in a piecemeal fashion. That was the original purpose behind the idea of a regulator for property agents. While I recognise the intentions and desired outcomes of these amendments, I do not consider that now is the right time to introduce them.

I turn to Amendment 87. I trust that your Lordships will understand that the Government cannot accept these proposed amendments. Defining a Section 24 manager as “an accountable person” would move financial and criminal liabilities away from the existing accountable person to the Section 24 manager. It was the intent of the Building Safety Act that financial and criminal responsibility for certain aspects of maintaining the building should always remain with the accountable person and accountable persons cannot delegate this responsibility to a third party. Given these assurances, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment and that other noble Lords will not press their amendments.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all those who took part in this decade. I want to pick up a point raised by my noble friend Lord Bailey when he moved his amendment to the Building Safety Act, a point also picked up by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. Had this Bill proceeded in the normal way, there would have been a whole series of amendments to the Building Safety Act to deal with some of the problems mentioned by the noble Baroness but also to address the distinction between qualifying and non-qualifying leaseholders. I think there would have been a very good chance that we would have asked the other place to think again on a number of those issues—but that is for another day.

Yesterday, I think I had the last Oral Question and, unless something goes seriously wrong in another place, I may be the last speaker in this Parliament in this House. I take this opportunity to congratulate my noble friend Lord Gascoigne on the Front Bench. We have had a number of cricketing analogies about how he has coped with the googlies, but I prefer a footballing one. He is like the reserve goalkeeper who is summoned on to the pitch after full time and asked to save a large number of penalty kicks from some professional strikers. It is to his credit that he managed to tip most of the shots over the bar, although I think one or two may have got past him into the back of the net.

If the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, was watching his performance she will be well proud of what he did and, in thanking him, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, whose patience I nearly exhausted with a number of meetings. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Moved by
64: Clause 110, page 124, leave out line 23 and insert—
“(c) a county council in England,(ca) a district council,(cb) a London borough council,(cc) the Common Council of the City of London (in its capacity as a local authority),(cd) the Council of the Isles of Scilly, or”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment and the other Government amendment to this clause would replace the use of the defined term “local housing authority” (which is not used elsewhere in Part 6) with the specific authorities which are to be “enforcement authorities”, and add county councils in England as enforcement authorities.
65: Clause 110, page 124, leave out lines 29 to 34
Member's explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement to the other Government amendment to this clause.
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Moved by
Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne
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That the Bill be read a third time.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I have it on command from His Majesty the King and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, have consented to place their interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

I will also take this opportunity to notify the House of the Crown undertaking for the Bill. The Crown authorities have confirmed that the Crown would act by analogy with the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill and the statutes that the Bill amends, subject to specific specified conditions. The Crown authorities have also confirmed that the Crown would as landlord and subject to specified conditions agree to enfranchisement or extension of residential long leases under the same qualifications and terms to lessees who hold from other landlords, and the Crown will not sell or grant new leases of houses subject to specified circumstances.

If the House will bear with me, I must now relay the exact wording of the Crown undertaking before the House.

The Crown as landlord, will, subject to the conditions described below, agree to the enfranchisement or extension of residential long leases or to the grant of new residential long leases under the same qualifications and terms which will apply by virtue of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 and the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993, to lessees who hold from other landlords.

Enfranchisement will be refused where property stands on land which is held inalienably; where there are particular security considerations, on the advice of the appropriate security agency; where properties are in, or intimately connected with, the curtilage of historic Royal Parks and palaces; or where properties, or the areas in which they are situated, have a long historic or particular association with the Crown. The properties include old land revenue and the reverter properties and grace and favour properties. The areas include the off islands within the Isles of Scilly—which are St Agnes, Bryher, St Martin’s and Tresco—and the garrison on St Mary’s.

Where enfranchisement is refused on the grounds set out in paragraph 2(a) but the tenant would otherwise qualify for enfranchisement, lease extension or the grant of a new lease by analogy within the statutes, the Crown will be prepared to negotiate new leases. Where enfranchisement is refused on the grounds set out in paragraphs 2(b) or (c) but the tenant would otherwise qualify for enfranchisement, lease extension or the grant of a new lease by analogy with the statutes, the Crown will be prepared to negotiate new leases for a term of 990 years at a peppercorn rent.

Where a lease has been extended in the circumstances under paragraph 4, the Crown will be entitled to insert a buy-back term, which gives the Crown the right to buy the whole or part of the extended leases, equivalent to that granted to the National Trust. The Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall and the Crown Estate will publish their lease extension policies under the grounds set out in paragraphs 2(b) and (c). These policies will set out that each party is responsible for its own legal and valuation costs.

The Crown will follow the valuation bases set out in the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 and the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993. The Crown will agree to be bound by arbitration where there is dispute over valuation or other terms. The relevant tribunal will be empowered to act as the arbitration body, except in cases under paragraph 2, and will hear such disputes on voluntary reference. The Crown will not grant residential long leases of houses unless the property or the areas in which they are situated fall within one of the categories set out in paragraph 2(a), (b) or (c).

As this is probably my last outing of this Parliament at the Dispatch Box, I pay tribute to all noble Lords I have worked with in this House as Chief Whip, particularly the noble Lords opposite—the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy and Lord Coaker. At this time, I also remember Lord Rosser, with whom I worked for many years. He was a very dear man, and I will remember him fondly. I also thank my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, who is not in the Chamber, and my absolutely wonderful Front Bench, who work so hard. Whether or not we agree with each other in this House, I think we can agree that we all work so professionally and constructively together, and I could not do it without the brilliant Ministers and Whips that we are so fortunate to have.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I will first make a statement on the legislative consent process in relation to the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill.

The provisions in the Bill deliver a substantial package of reforms that will significantly increase leaseholders’ rights as consumers and home owners. To deliver these benefits to all leaseholders across England and Wales, we have sought support for legislative consent from the Welsh Government. We have engaged extensively with Welsh Government officials throughout the preparation and passage of the Bill, and I pay tribute to them for their constructive engagement.

Unfortunately, given the exceptional circumstances and the shortened timeline of passage, regrettably, we must proceed without a legislative consent Motion from the Senedd. However, I take this opportunity to reassure noble Lords that these measures were well received by the Welsh Government, and it is unfortunate that we were not able to conclude our discussions. We remain committed to ensuring that the Bill operates effectively across England and Wales, and we will continue to engage closely with the Welsh Government during the Bill’s implementation.

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Moved by
Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, in moving that the Bill do now pass, I recognise that we are now, finally, reaching the juddering climax of this Bill and this Parliament. As is only right and proper, there have been at times strongly held views about measures in the Bill. I am acutely aware that not everyone will be entirely satisfied with everything, but I remain encouraged and inspired by the passion that is felt across the House and by what has been evident yet again: the breadth, knowledge and experience of this House.

I am particularly grateful to all noble Lords across the House who have taken the time to engage directly with me and my noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook. I thank both Opposition Benches for their sustained interest and engagement. In particular, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Truscott and Lord Best, the noble Baronesses, Lady Andrews, Lady Thornhill and Lady Fox of Buckley, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. On our Benches, I thank my noble friends Lord Moylan, Lord Young of Cookham, Lord Bailey of Paddington and Lord Howard of Rising for their sustained engagement and helpful contributions during the debate. While we may not have been able to reach total agreement, I appreciate the concerns they are representing. Their careful examination of these measures has enabled the Government further to consider our policy and reinforce that our approach is correct. I am for ever grateful for their constructive scrutiny.

Speaking of my own Bench, I am sure it will not come as a surprise that today I feel a bit like Debbie McGee as there is one notable absence. I pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lady Scott. It has been a privilege to watch her work throughout the passage of the Bill and to work closely alongside her on much else. I am inspired by her impressive capacity to pick up technical issues and to work at pace and for her dedication to public service. My noble friend has done all of this and tolerated me with good humour.

I thank His Majesty’s loyal Opposition and the Front Benches opposite. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Taylor of Stevenage and Lady Pinnock, and the noble Lords, Lord Khan of Burnley and Lord Kennedy of Southwark, for their constructive interest in and engagement with these measures. I have been grateful for their willingness to work with this side on any matters of disagreement. It is both the first time and the last time in this Parliament when I am speaking to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, across this Dispatch Box. I would like to say something specific about him, if I may. While this may not necessarily be career-enhancing for both of us, in all the exchanges outside this Chamber, both formal and otherwise, he has been characteristically robust while courteous, approachable and friendly. As the new kid on the block, it has been appreciated.

I conclude by mentioning all the expert and extraordinarily comprehensive work that has gone into this legislation by the Law Commission, the Bill team and the officials behind the Bill, many of whom have been working on this legislation for many years, not to mention the extraordinary amount of work I imagine they have done over the past 24 hours due to wash-up. I spoke to the Minister first thing this morning, and on behalf of the Minister and myself, I thank them for their tireless support and professionalism.

Finally, as this is my last time in this Parliament to speak at the Dispatch Box, I say that my family were not political at all, so being a Member of your Lordships’ House alone is the honour of a lifetime, yet to be in His Majesty’s Government and to have played a small part in this Parliament has been beyond a privilege. I am grateful to everyone who has helped and supported me over the recent months in this Chamber, across the House and beyond. With that, I beg to move.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I thank the government team that worked on this Bill, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, and the noble Lord, Lord Gascoigne. I appreciate their generous remarks very much. I thank all the government officials for their work on the Bill, and noble Lords across the House who worked on it at every point. I thank the staff of the Opposition Whips’ Office. I pay particular tribute to my noble friends Lord Khan of Burnley and Lady Taylor of Stevenage. They took over doing the local government brief when I became the Opposition Chief Whip and did a far better job than I did. Sometimes I sit in my office in awe at how excellent they are—and how much better than I was.

I pay tribute to Lord Rosser and Lord McAvoy, who are missed by the whole House. They were always very kind to me when I arrived here. Lord McAvoy knew me for many years beforehand, and knew my mum very well as well; he always spoke very fondly of the time she was in the Members’ Tea Room in the House of Commons.

I thank the Labour Front Bench and the Labour Whips. They have done a fantastic job, and it has been an absolute privilege to serve as part of the Labour Front Bench over the last 14 years, and as one of the Labour Whips. I was privileged to arrive in the House 14 years ago. I am a kid from a council estate in Elephant and Castle, and I never thought I would end up here. To get here was a great thing, but to be the Opposition Chief Whip is something I have been immensely proud of, and I have tried to do my best in the last three years.

I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford. We have followed each other around the House—when she was the Local Government Minister, I was the same over here, and then I went to the Home Office, and now we are against each other—or working with each other—in the usual channels. It is an absolute pleasure working with her in the usual channels: sometimes we agree and sometimes we do not agree, but it is all done in good humour, and usually over some chocolate in the noble Baroness’s office.