I write on behalf of The Society of Licensed Conveyancers in respect of the current crisis in high rise flats affected by safety issues following the Grenfell tragedy.
The Government must take action now:
Thousands of leaseholders are facing eviction and bankruptcy (many contemplating suicide).
The Government must step in and pay for all remedial costs to rectify the failures of past administrations to protect owners and leaseholders of high rise apartments. The Government of the day failed to take action after having been warned when fire tests carried out for them in 2004 predicted a disaster. This warning came 13 years before the Grenfell tragedy (and again when a similar fatal fire broke out at Lakanal House in 2009). The London Fire Brigade also warned the Government in 2012 and 2013 in a series of letters to Brandon Lewis about the fire danger in high rise blocks, but he declined to introduce new legislation which may have prevented 72 unnecessary deaths.
The remedial costs from Government intervention, should it step in, could be claimed back from the developers who are responsible for the current mess.
At least 500,000 flats are considered too dangerous to live in and are unsaleable. Yet it is deemed acceptable to leave, what are often vulnerable people, to carry on living under these conditions.
The Government has committed to building 300,000 new homes every year - surely the priority must be to make existing homes safe? I attach a more detailed analysis for your consideration, and there are many aspects to consider.
The Society’s input is intended to be constructive and to find a way to provide a fair solution to those caught in a nightmare not of their making.
The Society would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further. It is a very complicated situation which we would suggest your department has not previously taken seriously enough in so far as those directly affected do not have any choice but to continue to live in apartments. Many of which have no value whatsoever.
John Clay Soc.L.C.
Board member and past chairman
The Society of Licensed Conveyancers
Hundreds attend ALEP virtual conference
Elsewhere, ground rents, commonhold and human rights were on the menu as hundreds attended the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners’ Virtual Conference
Barristers, solicitors and valuers were among those joining the ALEP Annual Conference, which returned with a fully virtual format for the second year running.
The four-day conference featured a number of different online seminars, talks and panel sessions all aimed at tackling issues impacting the leasehold enfranchisement sector.
Throughout 2021, leasehold issues have continued to generate headlines throughout 2021, including the recent decision by a number of leading housing developers to take action on unfair ground rents, along with continued consideration of commonhold as an alternative option to leasehold.
This year’s conference covered these topics, with sessions focussing on ground rents, commonhold and the role of human rights in leasehold reform.
ALEP Conference Week, which was split into morning sessions for junior practitioners and afternoon sessions for all delegates, and was sponsored by insurance firm Kerry London Ltd, was attended by more than 200 delegates over the four days.
The sessions were introduced by ALEP director Mark Chick, who said of the event: “Conference Week has provided our delegates with interesting content, and fostered discussion and debate about the issues and challenges they face in their respective professions. This year we were treated to an outstanding line-up of speakers who provided insights on the key topics and trend, not only in leasehold enfranchisement, but also the wider property sector.”
The comprehensive programme for delegates began with a panel discussion on the impact of proposed changes to ground rents, where Mark Chick, Mark Wilson and Clive Scrivener were joined on the panel by Fiona Haggett RICS, Head of Valuation and Mortgages at Barclays, who outlined what constitutes an ‘onerous ground rent’ and what the Council of Mortgage Lenders guidance says about this, as well as providing insight into how lenders are responding to it.
The second session, meanwhile, featured a number of industry experts who discussed their personal views on the progress of commonhold and the items that need to be addressed to make it a workable solution for the future of flat ownership in the 21st century.
The third session was led by Zoe Leventhal from Matrix Chambers, who explored the potential for human rights legislation to affect the potential scope for reform.
The final conference session featured Anthony Radevsky and Tamsin Cox from Falcon Chambers who provided an overview of cases that have made headlines in 2021, as well as updating delegates on the steps being considered to reform leasehold legislation.
“We are delighted that this year’s virtual conference was so well attended once again and prompted some lively discussions and debates watched by over 200 delegates online,” Chick added.
“The online format allows us to present a more conversational feel to our sessions, but we plan to hold our spring lecture ‘in person’ which will provide much needed opportunities to network and socialise.”