Ruth Cadbury raises leaseholder woes in House of Commons

Image above: Ruth Cadbury MP speaking in the House of Commons

Urgent overhaul needed, says Brentford and Isleworth MP

Ruth Cadbury, the MP for Brentford & Isleworth, has highlighted longstanding issues plaguing leaseholders within her constituency during a House of Commons debate on new legislation governing leasehold. On Monday 11 December, Ms. Cadbury spoke about the many challenges faced by leaseholders in a debate on the Government’s Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, and said an urgent and comprehensive overhaul of the leasehold system was needed.

In a pointed exchange with Secretary of State Michael Gove, Ms. Cadbury condemned the government’s failure to address the “outdated” leasehold structure, branding it as an “antiquated” system.

She cited numerous local examples exposing the inherent flaws, specifically highlighting grievances against building managers whose inadequate service to leaseholders, coupled with failures to rectify issues surrounding service charge bills and building safety measures, were among the key concerns raised.

Ruth described the unique predicaments confronting individuals in shared ownership properties owned by companies such as L&Q and Peabody. Addressing the House, she said:

“For years, leaseholders, campaigners, and groups such as the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership have sounded alarms about the immense harm inflicted by our antiquated and feudal leasehold system.”

The MP stressed that leasehold-related issues rank among the foremost concerns voiced by constituents. She invited the Minister to witness first hand the multifaceted problems afflicting residents in various blocks of flats across her constituency, such as Great West Quarter in Brentford, Grove House in Isleworth, and Wheatstone House in Chiswick, emblematic of the widespread challenges stemming from the leasehold framework.

Householders are able to hold the freehold of their properties, but those who live in flats are constrained to lease ownership. The MP says she sees endless issues to do with service charges, insurance costs, and management problems which hamper the ability of property owners to manage or sell their properties effectively.

Ruth highlighted the ways in which this “rip-off” system inflicted substantial financial burdens on residents, a problem compounded by ongoing concerns about building safety, which made it impossible to sell flats.

MP says she will continue to be “strong voice” for leaseholders locally

She continued:

“The residents of Wheatstone House in Chiswick, which is managed by L&Q, face an example of poor repairs services. Leaseholders and tenants in that block have known their hot water and heating not to work for days on end. That started last winter and is back again this winter.

“Each time, residents get a lacklustre and slow response from L&Q. We saw a repeat of such poor service when Peabody-Catalyst dragged its feet for months in fixing the lift at Aplin Way in Isleworth, trapping some residents upstairs. The developer then tried to leave leaseholders with a huge bill.

“Others have district heating systems that run at 35% efficiency but cost a lot of money. What does the legislation do to address those issues?”

Speaking in full after her speech she said:

‘‘I know from listening to constituents from Chiswick to Hounslow, that they are frankly being ripped off by our outdated, antique and unfair leasehold system.

“I’ve heard about so many different issues from local residents, whether it’s the failure to repair lifts, to tackle anti-social behaviour or crime or the spiralling insurance costs. So many residents locally have seen huge hikes in their service charges, while the ‘services’ provided only ever get worse.

“I know that those living in so-called ‘shared ownership’, who are generally on fixed salary levels, are facing an extremely hard time with their rent, mortgage payments and service charge all increasing, while many are unable to sell their properties when they want to move on.

“This increase in costs during a cost of living crisis is having a huge impact on so many people locally, including many working for the NHS, police and local schools.

“While the Government’s new legislation introduces some much-needed changes it fails to go far enough and fails to end the injustice facing leaseholders in flats. That’s why I’ll continue to be a strong voice in Parliament for leaseholders locally and ensure the Government listen and address their concerns. ’’

Responding to criticism of the bill from Ms Cadbury and other MPs, including Conservatives, Lee Rowley, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety said:

“Our focus in the bill is on being able to make practical progress—to make the bill as practically useful as it can be—and then to have the greatest impact that it can have. Some, including Hon. Members tonight, have said that it does not go far enough; others have said that we should return to first principles and seek to build the whole system again.

“I am sure that those Hon. Members will make their case in Committee if they are part of it, and on Report and in subsequent stages. The Government seek to have a proposition on which can be built; one that is practical, achievable and makes a difference. The art of politics is about being able to make progress, and we think that the bill will make a significant difference to people’s lives.”