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

I reiterate that the Government remain absolutely committed to widespread take-up of commonhold for flats. We have reviewed the Law Commissioners’ recommendations to reinvigorate commonhold as a workable alternative to leasehold, and I can assure noble Lords that we will set out next steps in due course.

Amendment 15B from my noble friend Lord Bailey of Paddington would require mandatory share-of-freehold arrangements to be made for block of flats in instances where flats are subject to long leases or collective enfranchisement. I thank him for this amendment and for his interest in this specific instance. We are aware of the interest in this and appreciate the desire to ensure that more leaseholders can obtain control or ownership of their building. Although we understand the benefits that share-of-freehold arrangements can have over ordinary leasehold arrangements with third-party landlords, we are also conscious that mandating share-of-freehold sales on new builds would require a complex legal framework to be constructed and to accommodate the mandate. As I have said, we do not believe that mandating share of freehold would be a quick or easy fix for leaseholders. The Government consider that the best option, as I have also said before, is to continue to work towards the widespread use of commonhold in future, rather than mandating share of freehold.

My noble friend Lord Bailey of Paddington was particularly keen on service charges. The Government will bring forward, through this Bill, a number of measures to require landlords to provide further information to leaseholders on a very proactive basis and to increase the transparency of their service charges and administration charges, as well as providing more information to leaseholders on a reactive basis. Those measures include the introduction of a standardised service charge demand form to standardise the information that freeholders are required to provide to leaseholders. We will mandate the provision of an annual report that sets out key information of importance to leaseholders. We will compel landlords to provide more relevant information to leaseholders on request. We will ensure that service charge accounts are provided within six months of the end of the previous accounting period that they cover, regardless of the lease terms, and this will be subject to a number of exemptions. We will require freeholders to proactively disclose—