Amendment 12

Part of Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 22 April 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness Scott of Bybrook Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 4:30, 22 April 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, and my noble friend Lord Bailey of Paddington for their amendments.

Amendment 12 would require the Secretary of State to publish a report, within three months of the commencement of the Act, into the legislative options for mandating that new-build flats be sold to leaseholders with a proportionate share of the freehold. We appreciate the benefits that share-of-freehold arrangements have over ordinary leasehold arrangements with third-party landlords, which is why we are making it simpler and cheaper for leaseholders of flats to enfranchise collectively and, therefore, achieve share-of-freehold arrangements. However, the commonhold framework has already been designed as the optimal legal vehicle for the collective ownership of flats. As such, the Government want to see the widespread take-up of commonhold, and for it to be the future preferred tenure for owners of flats, rather than share of freehold.

The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, asked why the legal framework was so complex. We need to determine precisely what property the mandate is applied to, exemptions, the processes for phased developments, the enforcement of developer liabilities for remedial works and so on. We would also need to prescribe the constitution for resident management companies—since they are presently unregulated—and to consider how the management functions are to be exercised by such companies, resident participation in decision-making, and the procedures and jurisdictions for dispute resolution. It is a complex issue, but one that we are working on—the Law Commission has worked on it for us for a number of years—and we feel that it is important that we continue with moving to commonhold rather than mandate share of freehold.

We understand the desire to offer leaseholders a share of freehold in the interim between leasehold and commonhold while the Government consider the Law Commission report and work on commonhold. However, we do not believe that mandating share-of-freehold sales would be a simple and quick undertaking. We also have concerns about using share of freehold across the whole housing market. It is not an optimum product for managing all types of shared properties, such as large and complex buildings—as we have heard—or buildings with extensive shared spaces. That is why the Government are committed to commonhold instead. We would prefer to work on one widespread take-up of a new tenure, and for that new tenure to be commonhold.