New law lets flat-owners tackle rogue landlords

by Mira Bar-hillel, Property Correspondent

A SIX-YEAR campaign by the Evening Standard exposing widespread abuse of the leasehold system by rogue landlords has been praised by ministers as new measures to combat the problem become law today.

The Commonhold and Leasehold Bill, which will give millions of flat-owners additional rights and protection, receives the Royal Assent. Housing Minister Lord Falconer said: "The newspaper's efforts have ensured a better deal for millions of leaseholders, not only in London but throughout the country."

The new Act will:

  • Give leaseholders of flats the right to manage their blocks.
  • Make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to buy the freehold or extend leases on flats.
  • Give leaseholders protection against unreasonable service and improvement charges.
  • Require landlords to make a demand for ground rents before taking any action or imposing any penalties over late payment.
  • Require landlords to satisfy a court or tribunal that a lease has been breached before taking any action or imposing any penalties over an alleged breach.
  • Prevent landlords from forfeiting leases as a result of trivial debts.
  • Make it easier for leaseholders to vary their leases.
  • Introduce a new right for leaseholders to withhold service charges where certain information is not provided.
  • Introduce "Commonhold", a system whereby flats are bought outright, with common parts of the building, such as the roof and stairs, owned jointly by the residents.
  • Our campaign began when we discovered that freeholders of flat blocks could dictate what happened to buildings and service charges even if their share of the block was minute compared to the value of each flat.

Associated Newspapers Ltd., April/May 2002