Parliament: Property: Leaseholders to get extra freehold rights

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PROPERTY OWNERS who have only a leasehold interest in their home will find it easier to acquire the freehold, under a housing shake-up announced by the Government yesterday.

A series of measures is proposed to give all homeowners the same degree of security and control over their homes.

In a written answer to a Parliamentary Question, the Housing minister, Nick Raynsford, said the reforms were likely to be included in a draft Bill on leasehold reform and commonhold.

Mr Raynsford said one of the principal proposals was to simplify the existing rules for those flat owners who want to buy, collectively, the freehold of the building in which they live.

The existing residence test, whereby half the leaseholders who take part must have lived in their flats for the previous 12 months, or for periods totalling three years in the previous 10, should be abolished, he said.

The Government said the minimum proportion of leaseholders who must take part should go down from two-thirds to a half. But the group must own at least half of the flats in the block.

Mr Raynsford said leaseholders regarded the residence test as a major barrier to enfranchisement. The Government said that in a compulsory purchase, leaseholders should have to pay "a fair market price for their freehold". Another proposal would give leaseholders a new right to manage their building.

Leaseholders who meet the new qualifying rulest, but do not want to buy the freehold, would be able to take over management without having to prove fault by the landlord and without paying compensation.