THE Government has announced that all newbuild houses for sale will be sold freehold as part of a package of reforms intended to foster a “fairer” housing market.
In a wide-ranging speech on the closing day of the Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) conference and exhibition in Manchester, communities secretary James Brokenshire MP announced a raft of reforms intended, he says, to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to ensuring the provision of decent and fair housing for everyone.
As well as confirming the abolition of the sale of new leasehold properties, Brokenshire also told the conference that ground rents for new leases will be reduced to zero.
“We have long recognised that we have a responsibility to confront unfairness in the leasehold market. Last year we consulted on proposals including the leasehold house ban and ground rent reduction,” Brokenshire said in his speech.
“Today I can confirm we will go ahead with our original plan to reduce ground rents on future leases to zero, as opposed to a cap of £10 per year.
“And we will legislate to ensure that in the future – save for the most exceptional circumstances – all new house will be sold on a freehold basis.
“We are committed to taking bold action to reform the sector and will be pressing ahead as soon as parliamentary time allows – helping us delivery our promise to make the home buying and selling process quicker, cheaper and easier.”
Furthermore, to stop freeholders and managing agents taking as long as they want – and charging what they want – to provide leaseholders with the information they need to sell their home, ministers will introduce a new time limit of 15 working days and a maximum fee of £200 to make the home buying process quicker, easier and cheaper.
The secretary of state said he has instructed Homes England to renegotiate Help to Buy contracts to explicitly rule out the selling of new leasehold houses, other than in exceptional circumstances. Where buyers are “incorrectly” sold a leasehold home – saddling them with a property that could ultimately prove difficult to sell – consumers will be able to get their freehold outright at no extra cost, he added.
In other proposals announced today, Brokenshire unveiled new measures to make it easier for renters to transfer deposits directly between landlords when moving; extra funding for 19 new garden villages; and new measures to speed up planning applications.
Brokenshire also announced a consultation on a proposed new homes ombudsman to protect the rights of homebuyers and hold developers to account. The consultation seeks views on the detail of the proposed legislation and how a new homes ombudsman can be delivered and will run until August 22.
Ministers are also exploring the options to appoint a new homes ombudsman in shadow form – someone to work closely with industry, consumer groups and government to ensure improvements and standards are delivered quickly and help shape the future scheme, he added.
Meanwhile, Brokenshire opened the bidding process for £2 billion in long term strategic partnerships to deliver additional “affordable” homes with funding available until March 2029.
He said this marks the first time any government has invested such long-term funding in new affordable homes through housing associations, supporting the development of more ambitious long-term plans to build homes.
These new bids will continue to build on the over 430,000 “affordable” homes delivered since 2010, he added.