"Developing a stronger and more transparent Land Register is vitally important, as is the focus on leasehold costs and delays"
The Conveyancing Association has announced its support for a number of measures announced in last week’s Housing White Paper from the Government.
In particular, the CA is supportive of measures to improve land registration and to promote fairness and transparency within the leasehold process.
Firstly, the White Paper appears to show strong support for the Land Registry’s overall aim to complete the Land Register – the Housing White Paper says it is ‘committed to becoming the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity, and an open approach to data and will aim to achieve comprehensive land registration by 2030’.
The CA is fully supportive of this as it will create a clear line of sight of ownership and beneficial interests generally. The CA provided a considerable response to a consultation on the Land Registration Rules 2017, proposing both a registration of options and the beneficial interests in restrictive covenants as a means to provide oversight, and to complete the Land Register. It is pleased that both these suggestions appear as measures in the Housing White Paper.
With regard to the various issues around the leasehold process, and the costs and delays within it, the CA is encouraged by the focus on leasehold in the Housing White Paper. It refers to developing greater fairness and transparency in leasehold generally and tackling buyer’s lack of awareness of associated costs. It also refers to its plans to tackle all unfair and unreasonable abuses of leasehold.
The Government plans to consider further reforms to improve consumer choice and fairness in leasehold, including working ‘with the Law Commission to identify opportunities to incorporate additional leasehold reforms as part of their 13th Programme of Law Reform, and will take account of the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold’.
The CA has provided significant input into the 13th Programme of Law Reform and continues to liaise, and work closely, with the All-Party Parliamentary Group in order to develop solutions to these issues.
Also, in order to improve education, the CA is putting together a consumer guide on leasehold costs that will cover off many of the questions raised in purchasing a leasehold property and the charges that come with it.
Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association, commented: “There are many measures within the Government’s Housing White Paper that we are fully supportive of, indeed, we have advocated and pushed for many of them, alongside other industry stakeholders, so it is very positive to see these will be adopted. Clearly, developing a stronger and more transparent Land Register is vitally important, as is the focus on leasehold costs and delays.
The CA’s leasehold campaign has particularly focused on Lease Administrators’ charges and the delays that can hold up the leasehold process and we will continue to offer our views on how these can be overcome including measures for the adoption of a charging structure, a register of Lease Administrators, plus a redress scheme for consumers and a commitment from those companies to respond within a required timescale. We will certainly be contributing to forthcoming consultations in this area.”
Lloyd Davies, Operations Director at the Conveyancing Association, said: “Overall, the Paper seems to adopt a sensible approach to righting the wrongs of the housing market however we must all acknowledge that these changes won’t be implemented overnight and the road is likely to be a long in terms of upping supply and ensuring we are building enough affordable homes in the areas where people want to live.
The focus on ‘tenure neutrality’ is also a step forward however there does appear to be a confused approach to the private rental sector (PRS) – on the one hand supporting new-build for rental purposes, but then penalising private landlords with the additional stamp duty charge, plus looking at extending HMO licensing requirements and bringing in electrical safety certificates. Not forgetting the ban on letting agent fees, the costs of which will be put on the landlord who will most likely pass them on to the tenant.
The Housing White Paper, on the whole, does present some much-needed joined-up thinking however in the case of the PRS this seems to be lacking. The CA has long advocated a u-turn on the additional stamp duty charge for landlords because we feel it negatively impacts on the UK housing market and overall transaction numbers. It appears at present that the Government only wants institutional investment in the PRS and is actively looking to discourage individual landlords – the lifeblood of the sector – from adding to portfolios, or even continuing in this sector.
When the need for rental property supply is great indeed, and the Government acknowledges its importance, it seems utterly self-defeating to do this. We would urge the Government to change its mind on this and make the market far less difficult for individual landlords to deliver much-required supply of properties.”