Government plans to scrap leasehold system dropped

Plans to abolish the system of leaseholds across England and Wales have been dropped after a battle between Michael Gove, the housing secretary, and  Number 10.

Gove is expected next month to announce a range of measures to protect the 10 million or so Britons who own their homes in a leasehold.

The measures are expected to include a cap on ground rents, more powers for tenants to choose their own property management firm and a ban on building owners forcing leaseholders to pay any legal costs incurred as part of a dispute.

But The Guardian reported last night that Gove will stop short of abolishing leaseholds altogether, despite a pledge made in January to end it this year.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, commented: “We are determined to better protect and empower leaseholders to challenge unreasonable costs.

“We have already made significant improvements to the market – ending ground rents for most new residential leases and announcing plans to make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to extend their lease or buy their freehold.

“In line with our manifesto commitment, we will bring forward further leasehold reforms later in this parliament.”

Gove has promised for a long time to scrap the system, telling the Sunday Times earlier in the year he wanted to do so this year.

“I don’t believe leasehold is fair in any way,” he said. “It is an outdated feudal system that needs to go. And we need to move to a better system and to liberate people from it.”

Gove told government colleagues that ending leaseholds would be a vote-winner and could help the party recover its reputation among younger urban voters, who are more likely to own flats.

Gove wanted to replace leaseholds for flats with a “commonhold” system, which is used in other countries and would allow owners to make joint decisions about what should happen in shared areas of the building.

Several government sources have told the Guardian that Downing Street pushed back on Gove’s plan, however, with the prime minister’s officials arguing there would not be enough time before next year’s election to enact such major reforms.

One said: “Gove wanted to be a maximalist on leaseholder reform, but we simply haven’t got time to be maximalist right now.”

Gove has had to Nor is it the first time he has had to water down his housing plans because of opposition from within his own party.

Last year he abolished a mandatory target for local councils to build 300,000 new homes a year after pushback from Tory backbenchers, making it voluntary instead.

Gove’s latest climbdown will disappoint campaigners who have argued for years for an end to leaseholding altogether.

Harry Scoffin, cofounder of Commonhold Now, an anti-leasehold campaign group, told the press: “Michael Gove has been clear that leasehold – which has its roots in serfdom and manorialism – has no place in a civilised society and must be abolished.

“There are up to 10 million votes in this agenda. The Conservative party would be well advised to be bold here and phase out the toxic landlord-controlled leasehold regime.”



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  1. CountryLass

    I understand a ban on a house being leasehold, but what about flats that have communal areas? I don’t see a way for them to not be leasehold, unless it is just swapped to a management company, but that would require a level of oversight or it would lead to all of the issues that the USA has with Home-Owners Associations, and the ridiculous rules and fines involved there. The solution is simple in theory, until you add in people…

  2. Richard Copus

    Houses are freehold because they are are vertically divided and flats are leaseholds because they are horizontally divided.  Under English law it is difficult to enforce covenants on freehold properties where someone else owns above or below, hence the fact that many high street lenders will not lend where there is a flying freehold.  If a bath leaks in the flat above and soaks your living room below, it is much easier to enforce the covenant if the properties are leasehold.

  3. Rob Hailstone

    As far as I am aware there is still a Government led Commonhold Team, looking into the viability of Commonhold generally.

  4. amit1

    If the Conservative party don’t see how abolishing leasehold will win them the next election they must be extremely short sighted.

    All leaseholders want the leaseholders system abolished and there are enough leaseholders in this country to deliver a massive landslide to any party.

    Lisa Nandy, Labours’ shadow equivalent of Gove knows this and she’s ready to pick this low hanging fruit.

    It’s simple, whoever abolishes leasehold or genuinely pledges to abolish leasehold (in Labours case) will be the party in power.


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