In reality, the essence is not who owns the freehold but rather how the building is run, how the personalities get on, and how differing expectations are managed… we are dealing as much with social interaction as the legal process.
I have had the pleasure of undertaking a day and a half on the phones at the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE).
I undertook this to ensure I had a clear understanding of the nature of calls received, and who our callers were. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the phones and found it enlightening and fascinating in equal measure.
I am left with the perspective that while leasehold law is not perfect, there is a lot that can be solved with awareness of rights and responsibilities, along with an appreciation of community living.
Owning a home in a block of flats comes with an essence of give and take, and needs everyone to be even-handed and fair.
However, from the phone sessions I discovered that a number of the callers were leaseholders who owned their freeholds. This was interesting because I had long thought that owning the freehold as a leaseholder was the panacea that would give the controls and access that is the holy grail.
In reality, of course, the essence is not who owns the freehold but rather how the building is run, how the leaseholder personalities get on, and how differing expectations are managed.
Basically we are dealing as much with social interaction and community spirit as we are the legal process of leasehold. For some of the queries, all the reforms under the sun would not solve the problems.
If someone does not understand their responsibility to pay for repairs and maintenance, or makes excessive noise, then the only solution is to educate and enlighten.
This in no way diminishes the need for those who face situations for which legal reforms would be a solution. Rather, it is trying to highlight that leasehold is not all bad – there is a human element that needs to be taken into consideration, – to be appreciated and managed.
The industry really has to do a lot more to ensure that anyone entering the leasehold market is aware of their rights and their responsibilities – to ensure they are equipped to know where to go for advice, as well as appreciating there are a lot of good managers and freeholders.
They must be able to recognise the difference between something that is wrong versus something they don’t like.
It is a long process and it will take a long time, but it is incumbent on everyone to play their part in seeking fairness and openness in leasehold management and service delivery.
Roger Southam is Chair of the Leasehold Advisory Service