The original campaigner against residential leasehold, Nigel Wilkins has sadly died at the tragically young age of 66. An active campaigner for the abolishment of leasehold, he was often seen at conferences with a quip or comment aimed to highlight issues and abuses. I first met him a decade ago when I spoke at the CARL conference in 2007. I was the first managing agent to be asked to address the conference.
Whilst Nigel and I may not have always seen eye to eye, I always respected his determination and perseverance. Incredibly principled, his outspoken whistleblowing on GCHQ whilst an employee typified his approach. Of course this is the interesting thing about the leasehold campaign from CARL. Passion comes a plenty but generally it is better to engage and work with people than merely running headlong in to them. It was not enough to merely tackle something, it had to be laid on with a trowel. I always thought Nigel would have had more success if he had worked with all sides than ploughing a lonely furrow.
Surely it is better to highlight how buildings should be managed; what is reasonable and more importantly what is not; educating leaseholders to know their rights and responsibilities and to work to ensure all managers are working to professional standards. In the absence of retrospective acting legislation to quash all leasehold property titles (not likely given all the wider ramifications to the commercial leasehold market) then we have to work together to seek ways that best protect the leaseholder and delivers consistent and fair management in the running of service charges and property management.
The element for conflict will always exist in any property matters. Whether it be boundary disputes, neighbourly disputes, noise issues or third party conflict issues; they can arise in all properties not just leasehold. Of course there are abuses or issues that should be flagged and addressed industry wide, and thorough engagement can assist this. Working to simplify and deliver a fairer leasehold market place should be the desire of all in the sector. Especially the ground rent owners. This would mitigate claims and legal costs which is the easiest way for investors to maximise their ground rent income. Good transparent professional management avoids disputes and service charge claims which can end up as a cost to the owner. So in reality all the market place should be working to improve leasehold fairness and delivery.
As a final thought, given the pioneering role Nigel played in the campaigns on leasehold perhaps we should look at ways to mark his tenacity and ensure the longevity of his name. It is certainly something the LEASE board will be considering in planning forward. As we work out the detail of LEASE’s new remit with DCLG, it gives a perfect opportunity to seek a memorial for the original leasehold campaigner.
Roger Southam, Non Exec Chair, Leasehold Advisory Service