It has been a long time coming but it seems that at last leaseholds on new houses are to be banned. And ground rent on leasehold flats will apparently be able to be set only at peppercorn levels.
But there are still not any definite plans to help those already affected by the blatant rent extraction of selling what would and should be newly built freehold homes as leasehold.
As many of the freehold land owners seem to reside in tax havens, perhaps a start could be made by mandating that any rent payable to a company incorporated anywhere except the UK or the EU would not have the force of English law. And their agents – because they always have agents – should be required to disclose the details and addresses of landowners. So the shady companies of which, anecdotally, it seems there are quite a few, might just fade away. The others would have to declare themselves.
Indeed Property ownership in tax havens seems so widespread that even articles in the ‘Sunday Times’ earlier this month were highlighting how tenants resented exporting their rents and calling for realistic taxation of commercial property companies.
Once company names are revealed then it is surely up to the builders who sold on these streams of rents to the professional rent extractors, to themselves unwind the deal.
If the builders do not find they have the moral fibre to do so then, although retrospective laws are not usually to be encouraged, arbitrary doubling of ground rents and spurious fees for alterations are so completely contrary to natural justice, that I think a retrospective law would be justified. Such leasehold trickery certainly brings the law into disrepute and has no right to expect the legal system to be available for its enforcement.
Indeed it is at least arguable whether the agreements were freely and knowingly entered into in the first place and some conveyancing solicitors will surely end up being sued.
This deviousness only goes to further demonstrate the perversity in UK jurisdictions of treating the tenant and landlord relationship as equal.
On the Continent, whilst it is true that the codified Napoleonic legal system was based on Roman church law, at least it was modified by the French Revolution. They didn’t want the Bourbons back and ensured that the rent extractors did not get it all their own way. Consequently Continental laws have clear tenants rights and obligations for landlords and recognise that the landowners cannot be allowed the untrammelled power that is their natural advantage.
That revolution is long overdue for English law.