New Clause 3 - Service charges

Part of Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:00 pm ar 9 Rhagfyr 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 12:00, 9 Rhagfyr 2021

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This final new clause addresses a point made to me by a number of stakeholders and members of the Committee over the past few weeks. It would ensure that the Secretary of State published an assessment of the impact of the Act on the level of service charges and other costs charged to leaseholders.

Ground rents have been a convenient way of pushing up the costs of leasehold, and an easy way of making more money off leaseholders, but they are not the only way. As we have said, new ground rents are tapering off in number, but other charges have begun to crop up and are starting to take their place—ground rents for parking spaces, rather than residential units, is one example. We are already beginning to see a number of these charges emerge. The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership gives several examples on its website. I encourage Members to look at them.

In an earlier debate, I raised the point that service charges are increasing as freeholders exploit other income streams. Those freeholders do not seem to care about the financial pressure they are putting on leaseholders, or that these are people’s homes, where they deserve to live without being exploited by whatever organisation has bought the freehold or chosen to manage their property.

The clause would require details of charges to be published within two years of Royal Assent. That, frankly, is because we face greater reform, and so I expect that we might see these trends emerging before the Government introduce more legislation. Developers looking to explore other avenues of income will bide their time until they feel the coast is clear.

I tabled the new clause in the hope of raising with the Minister again that we risk playing Whac-a-Mole with leaseholder costs; we could ban one stream of income only to find that freeholders have discovered another. I ask the Minister to outline exactly how he expects to prevent that.