Westminster Legal Policy Forum

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Next steps for property law reform in England and Wales - leasehold and commonhold, consumer rights, and market impact

Morning, Thursday, 27th May 2021


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference focuses on the reform of property law in England and Wales - including wide-ranging proposed changes to leasehold and commonhold.


The discussion takes place at a key stage for policy in this area, and follows the publication of the Government’s proposed reforms to leasehold, which are intended to give the right to extend leases, and to minimise costs when extending them by cutting ground rent to zero.


It also comes with:

  • the establishment of a Commonhold Council, announced by the government, which will aim to support homeowners and the market for the intended widespread take-up of commonhold
  • the CMA investigation into the leasehold market and the protection of consumers
  • Law Commission initiatives, including the publication of three reports on leasehold enfranchisement, and the right to manage and commonhold

There will be a keynote session with Professor Nick Hopkins, who led the Law Commission’s work in this area - as well as keynote contribution from Judge Siobhan McGrath, President, First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.


Overall discussion will focus on:

  • the findings of the Law Commission - discussing the results and reccommendations of their report on leasehold ownership, as well as other underway reviews
  • the Government’s proposed reforms to leasehold - including changes to the enfranchisement process and the protection of leaseholders rights
  • the future of commonhold - including how to encourage a widespread take-up, and how to make the process more efficient and accessible, while protecting vulnerable consumers

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who are due to attend from the Cabinet Office; MHCLG; HM Land Registry; the DIT; the DfT; and the Welsh Government; as well as parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons.


The agenda

  • Residential leasehold and commonhold - key findings from the Law Commission and progress in carrying the recommendations forward
  • Next steps following proposed government reforms to leasehold - enfranchisement and protecting the rights of leaseholders
  • Protecting the consumer in the residential leasehold sector
  • The future of commonhold - consumer choice and understanding, simplifying converting to commonhold, and developing a culture change in England and Wales to encourage widespread take up
  • Property law in England and Wales - key priorities for policy

Areas for discussion:

  • leasehold - implementation of proposed government reforms, and their likely impact on individuals and the sector, ahead of the anticipated introduction of two-part legislation which will:
    • set all future ground rents to zero:
      • with leaseholders who wish to extend the lease or become the freeholder no longer having to pay any ground rent
      • with the ability to extend the lease for 990 years
    • reform the process of enfranchisement valuation used to calculate the cost of extending a lease or buying a freehold
    • abolish marriage value
  • commonhold and improving information for consumers - how to prepare both homeowners and the market for the wider adoption of commonhold as intended by government, with discussion on:
    • the likely impact of the Commonhold Council - a partnership of leasehold groups, industry and government that is currently being established
    • how to establish a culture change - including awareness that would lead to a growth in commonhold ownership in England and Wales
    • implementation - designing policy so as to ensure that regulations can be enforced, and looking at how the process of forming residents associations and buying out the freeholder can be made more efficient
    • communication - looking at whether the information currently available to consumers is sufficient in explaining rights, the difference between leasehold and freehold, and helping meet the aim of ensuring that leaseholders are not exploited
    • protecting consumers who live in specialist housing - how to ensure that residents not wanting to take on the responsibilities attached to commonhold ownership have their wishes taken into account

A scan of relevant developments:

  • Government reforms to make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to buy their homes - announced in January, and expected to be followed by two-part legislation
  • the publication of the Law Commission’s work on leasehold, which made recommendations for Government and included:
    • Leasehold homeownership: buying your freehold or extending your lease - the final report, which covered all aspects of leasehold enfranchisement
    • further reviews including:
      • Leasehold home ownership: exercising the right to manage
      • Reinvigorating commonhold: the alternative to leasehold ownership
  • the CMA’s investigation into potential breaches of consumer law in the leasehold housing market - which led to them opening cases following concerns over instances of misselling, and the potential unfairness of some leasehold contract terms, following the launch of the initial investigation in 2019

Policy officials attending:

Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons and officials from the Cabinet Office; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Transport; HM Land Registry; the MHCLG and the Welsh Government.


Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, and other relevant departments, senior representatives from law firms, property agents, housing associations, finance providers, charities and campaign groups, and local government, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



Keynote Speaker

Professor Nicholas Hopkins

Commissioner, Property, Family and Trust Law, Law Commission

Keynote Speakers

Professor Nicholas Hopkins

Commissioner, Property, Family and Trust Law, Law Commission

Judge Siobhan McGrath

President, First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), Courts and Tribunals Judiciary

Chairs

Lord Berkeley

Officer, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Infrastructure

Sir Peter Bottomley MP

Co-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform

Speakers

Michael Voges

Executive Director, Associated Retirement Community Operators

David Tunney

Chair, Residents Association, Shenley Wood Retirement Village

Katie Cohen

Consultant Solicitor, Keystone Law

Sebastian O'Kelly

Chief Executive Officer, Leasehold Knowledge Partnership

Charles Roe

Director, Mortgages, UK Finance

Bob Smytherman

Chairman, Federation of Private Residents Association

Piers Harrison

Barrister, Tanfield Chambers

Jonathan Achampong

Partner, Residential Property, Wedlake Bell