Lisa Nandy has denounced the UK’s leasehold laws as “feudal” and “archaic” and urged the government to reform the system in a debate marking the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Addressing the Commons this afternoon, the Shadow Levelling Up Secretary argued that ending the “arcane rules” for leaseholders could “give power and a voice back to people in their homes and their own communities”.
Nandy declared that it would “wrong” to say the “problems facing leaseholders began and end with Grenfell”, and that the UK’s leasehold laws are based on a “feudal, archaic model” that almost every country has “either reformed or abolished”.
“We could end these arcane rules, we could give power and a voice back to people in their own homes and their own communities. Isn’t this what ‘levelling up’ was intended to answer? This clamour for more control and agency. People who have a stake in the outcome having greater decisions about their own lives,” Nandy said.
“This is the legacy we should be seeking to build in honour of those who lost their lives in Grenfell. That everybody, everywhere in the UK, regardless of the type of tenure they happen to end up with, has the right to a decent, secure, safe home full stop, and we will make sure that that is delivered.”
She stressed that, “five full years” after Grenfell, thousands of people are still “stranded in homes that are covered in similar cladding, facing ruinous costs”, adding: “It isn’t just the huge costs that are causing such damage to people. It’s the uncertainty and the anxiety that they have to live with every single day.
“And anything that the government can do to alleviate that anxiety, to send a signal to those leaseholders trapped in their homes right now that they are not on their own, would be extremely welcome.”
The Labour frontbencher said MPs should be “scandalised” that so many homes across the country are “not up to a fit standard” as a result of poor fire safety, cold, damp, general disrepair or other factors.
Nandy added: “The Secretary of State is right that we should take a zero-tolerance approach to social landlords who don’t live up to those obligations, who don’t do everything within their power to make sure that those issues are dealt with.
“But I would also gently say to him, and in a constructive tone, given the gravity of what we’re dealing with today that the government have to do their bit as well.
“And that means reversing some of the cuts that have been made to councils and housing associations in recent years that mean that those repairs budgets are virtually non-existent in many parts of the country.”
She said the renters’ reform bill must deal with the “appalling standards” seen in many private rented homes and added that some of the issues tenants are currently facing have been “caused by government policies like the bedroom tax”.
Eddie Hughes told MPs this afternoon that they must “continue to honour and respect the memory” of those who were died in the Grenfell fire by ensuring the UK has “one of the most rigorous and robust building safety regimes in the world”.
But the rough sleeping minister admitted that the government “still have a long way to go” but is “doubling down” on its efforts. He said the “legacy of Grenfell” should be making sure that “everyone in our society lives somewhere which is safe, secure and which they are truly proud to call home”.
Labour is urging the government to bring forward a leaseholder reform bill to scrap the “outdated rules that deny too many people sufficient security and control over their homes”. The opposition party is proposing:
- An end to the sale of new private leasehold houses with immediate effect after the bill receives royal assent, and a workable system to replace private leasehold flats with commonhold;
- In the interim, greater powers for residents over the management of their homes, with new rights for flat owners to form residents’ associations and a simplification of the Right to Manage;
- The right to extend a lease to 990 years with zero ground rent at any time; or a cap on ground rents when extending a lease to 0.1% of the freehold value, up to a maximum of £250 a year;
- Bringing forward of law commission proposals to reform the process of enfranchisement valuation for leaseholders, including on marriage value and prescribing rates for the calculations of the premium; and
- A crackdown on unfair fees and contract terms by publishing a reference list of reasonable charges, requiring transparency on service charges and giving leaseholders a right to challenge rip-off fees and conditions or poor performance from service companies.