The Committee Stage of the Leasehold & Freehold Reform Bill has now been completed. As a campaigner for reform in this area, Richard was asked to sit on the Bill Committee.
As well as taking evidence and giving line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill, Richard tabled his own amendments to the Bill.
Speaking at the end of the Committee stage, Richard Fuller MP said:
Good progress made overall, although I was disappointed that the amendments I proposed were not adopted at this stage.
I will continue to push for the mandated adoption of new estates by local authorities and try to ensure that the Bill outlaws the charging of items that are ordinarily covered by Council Tax.
A video with Richard's thoughts can be watched at https://youtu.be/PpqiDWxgBmE
Richard's amendments were seeking to address the following issues:
- Looking at when homeowners are not given information or when services are not provided, the Bill suggests fines of £1,000 and £5,000 respectively. But these are maximum fines and Richard did not think they provided sufficient protection. So he proposed to increase both these fine levels tenfold to £10,000 and £50,000 respectively.
- Another amendment looked to get to one of the root causes of the problem: the inclination of local authorities to allow services they usually provide as part of their council tax responsibilities to be paid for by estate management charges. Some people are paying twice for certain council services and this is wrong. Richard's amendment 145 would have prohibited such charges being paid via estate management fees. This could have spurred quite considerable change in how the adoption process occurs which is currently flawed. Adoption in this context is the formal handover of responsibility to the local authority of the public areas e.g. roads, play areas, grass verges etc., in new housing areas.
- When homeowners receive a poor service or one that creates harm or damages, the Bill does not currently enable damages to be determined by the Tribunal that will investigate the problem. Richard wanted to strengthen the hand of homeowners by enabling them to be able to claim damages for poor service and his amendment 139 would have introduced this to the Bill.
- And finally, many constituents have told Richard that when they bought their home they did not know what they were getting into regarding estate management charges. So he proposed an amendment that requires that there is an explicit requirement to notify of this liability at the point of purchase and to provide the latest accounts so buyers can be clear before they buy.
Richard was not successful in getting these amendments through in Committee but the Bill now goes to Report Stage in a few weeks and Richard will see if he can gain further support for his amendments.
He has recorded a summary video which can be watched at https://youtu.be/PpqiDWxgBmE