Amendment 41

Part of Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 6:15 pm ar 24 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Pinnock Baroness Pinnock Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Communities and Local Government) 6:15, 24 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, for me, this is a very technical set of amendments, but they are very important. As we have heard, this issue can have significant implications.

I always go back to first principles. One of the aims of the Bill is to make enfranchisement cheaper than it is currently, and so more readily available. However, as we have heard, that will entirely depend on the deferment rate and how it is set. My understanding was that the current deferment rate was set by the Court of Appeal in 2007, as the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, said. The debate is around whether it is right for that to continue; whether another process should be used, such as that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, in his amendment about using the bank rate as a base for setting a deferment rate; or whether, as in the Bill, the responsibility is passed to the Secretary of State to determine the deferment rate. I have to agree with the noble Lords, Lord Moylan and Lord Young of Cookham, that the latter does not seem right.

When I was investigating the deferment rate issue, I noticed that Homehold Services Ltd gave evidence to the Commons Public Bill Committee that was very telling. It criticised the fact that the “applicable deferment rate” was referenced throughout the Bill

“without specifying what this will be”.

It provided an example of what effect a change in the deferment rate could have on the cost of enfranchisement. It said:

“A lease extension … on a £200k flat with 80 years unexpired and no ground rent would be c. £4,000”.

That is the example given by Homehold Services Ltd; as it is one of the experts, I thought it might be right. It continues:

“If the deferment rate was reduced from 5% to 4%, the premium would increase to c. £8,500. At 3.5% it would be … £12,000”.

Those small changes in percentages have very high consequences for the leaseholders. This is important—that is what the evidence told me when I read it.

The argument from Homehold Services Ltd was that the deferment rate must be set no lower than that set by the appeal judgment in 2007. Otherwise, the consequence is that the rate can escalate considerably, as the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, pointed out. The cost of enfranchisement would increase, removing the ability of many leaseholders to continue with the process—contrary to one of the objectives of the Bill. Can the Minister say what consideration the Government have given to the deferment rate?

The noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, said that the Chancellor’s department has had a consultation on this and come up with some figures. Why are those not being adopted in this instance to set the rate in the Bill? As we have heard, it is very important to know exactly what the deferment rate will be. I do not believe that it is satisfactory to leave the applicable deferment rate to be set by a statutory instrument some time in the future. Surely, if the Government’s intentions are as they are set out in the Bill—to make it cheaper for leaseholders to enfranchise—one of the key rates must be this one. Therefore, I would have thought that we would want to see it set during the course of this Bill, rather than wait for a statutory instrument.

I have a lot of sympathy with the arguments that have been made by the mover of the amendment and others about the need for certainty here, rather than a principle and uncertainty as to the exact figure at which the deferment rate will be set.