Hours before the Law Commission published a Call for Evidence on the subject of Commonhold Law, over 150 professionals from the leasehold enfranchisement sector debated the issue at a lecture held by the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners (ALEP) in central London.
The recent government consultation on 'tackling unfair practices in the leasehold market' raised many questions concerning the future of leasehold as a form of residential land tenure in the 21st Century. It has also indicated that Commonhold should be reviewed as an alternative to the residential leasehold system. Commonhold has been on the statute books since 2004, when the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 came into force.
One of the lecture’s speakers was Peter Haler from Leasehold Forum and former chair of the Commonhold Working Party, who questioned why we are unable to find a workable and fair system of flat ownership when every other country can, and he illustrated this with examples from Australia and the US.
Author and solicitor, Professor James Driscoll, outlined his views that Commonhold could work and stated that it would need active government support to make it easier for leaseholders to convert to Commonhold and to make leasehold development less attractive: “To have a chance of working, the Government needs to deal with lenders’ concerns and sort out shared ownership”.
Philip Rainey QC outlined what is wrong with Commonhold in its current form and why, in his view, it should be replaced entirely. "The Commonhold brand is seemingly a dead duck. We need a new alternative – it is not good enough just to amend the current commonhold legislation. The Government needs to kick-start the concept of commonhold, put a serious effort into marketing the concept and public-sector land must lead."
Following a lively panel debate and Q&A session, host Damian Greenish (Pemberton Greenish), concluded: "There seems to be real intent this time to bring forward Commonhold in some form. The Government must get it right and I'm delighted that the Law Commission is looking into it. I sense a real desire to do something to reform the current leasehold tenure, and its vitally important for all professionals in the sector to make our views known."
Anna Bailey, Director of ALEP, said: "This was our first annual lecture and the subject of Commonhold could not be more timely. Leasehold has received a lot of attention recently, in planning this lecture we felt it important that ALEP highlighted Commonhold and begin discussions on its likely and inevitable implications on the sector and wider property industry.
"Many professionals are relatively new to the profession and it was opportune to present a lecture and debate on this subject for those of us who might not have been involved in shaping the existing legislation”.