A healthy future for the UK’s expanding leasehold property sector is at serious risk from a breakdown in relationships and poor communication between leaseholders and managing agents, according to the initial findings of the country’s first-ever independent national leasehold survey.
A lack of detailed knowledge about their lease and confusion over the options available to replace a poorly performing managing agent are amongst the biggest challenges facing owners of leasehold properties so far sharing their views in the survey since it went live in January.
The survey is the UK’s first ever independent national survey of the UK’s leaseholders. Designed to identify the levels of satisfaction amongst the UK’s leaseholders and RMC directors, it has been developed by LEASE, the Government’s arms’ length body for the leasehold property sector, and property law firm Brady Solicitors.
“The survey is live until the 29th April,” explains Brady Solicitors’ MD Clare Brady, “and has been developed to provide unprecedented clarity of the real experiences, challenges and trends of owning and living in a leasehold property in England and Wales.
“We are now half way into the survey’s ‘live period’, and already the number of responses has significantly exceeded expectations, as well as revealing a number of trends, both good and bad. In particular it has uncovered a number of clear examples of good relationships between managing agents and leaseholders, and that these deliver a successful and mutual level of understanding and operation.
“However, the findings also signpost potential problems for the future of the leasehold property sector; the vast majority of leaseholders have admitted they don’t understand the detail of the dos and don’ts of their lease, which is leading to escalating problems and widespread dissatisfaction.
“The leasehold sector knows of the worrying shortage of specialist conveyancers who are experienced in and knowledgeable about the idiosyncrasies of leases on leasehold properties, so the lack of good advice right from the off is inevitably adding to this issue.
‘The leasehold system is broken’
“Leaseholders are feeling trapped and several respondents refer to a sense that the ‘system is broken’. Indeed, a worrying number of responders have said they are so fed up of their managing agent, they will never again purchase a leasehold property.”
A lack of clarity as to how their service charge contributions are spent, together with poor levels of responsiveness to maintenance concerns, also feature heavily in the responses.
“Many managing agents are in a difficult position,” added Clare. “There has been a persistent downward pressure on service charges and management fees and this inevitably begins to be reflected in the level of service that can be provided.
RMC director feedback
“Just under a quarter of respondents so far are RMC directors,” she says. “Whilst many clearly enjoy their role, for the majority of RMC directors it has been more stressful and more time consuming than expected, with many admitting that, with hindsight, it is not a role that they would have taken on.”
Roger Southam, Non-Exec Chairman of LEASE, adds: “Leasehold properties are being built at a rapid rate, yet there is no definitive understanding of what is desired – both in terms of the build of the property nor the management services that are subsequently provided.
“Only with feedback and the survey completed can the market look to meet the aims and aspirations of the lease owners. It is too easy to make assumptions and the service providers need to know what is being asked for.”
‘A unique opportunity for leaseholders to have their views heard’
The survey is open until 29 April 2016 and can be accessed at www.bradysolicitors.com/survey2016. The full findings will be presented by 31 May 2016. All responses are encrypted and will be strictly confidential and anonymised when received, to produce a report reflecting satisfaction levels and challenges faced by RMC directors and leaseholders.