Communities Secretary Eric Pickles today (7 October 2013) announced plans to crack down on councils that sting private leaseholders with huge bills for their share of the ‘repairs’ to the building and communal areas.
Mr Pickles said he was outraged that some councils had targeted hard-working leaseholders, often those who have bought through Right Buy, with extortionate bills of nearly £50,000 for the upkeep of their building.
Today’s proposals, which will be subject to consultation, would ensure that councils that get government funding to help maintain their tenants’ homes could in future only charge leaseholders a maximum of £10,000 over a 5 year period for repairs, or £15,000 for those in London.
The minister said it was reasonable for those purchasing under Right to Buy or on the open market to pay their fair share towards maintenance, but they should not be used as a cash cow by their local council.
Under the current rules there is no universal mandatory limit to the amount that councils can charge leaseholders for improvement works. While the vast majority of councils have behaved reasonably, ministers believe a number have abused their position, leaving leaseholders with huge bills which they are unable to pay and feel powerless to resist.
Protecting hard-working homeowners
Mr Pickles said the government was on the side of people who work hard, and was determined to protect those that have taken advantage of their Right to Buy. The new cap would provide homeowners with protection against excessive charges, which place a huge burden on families.
He added that councils had no excuse to present homeowners with huge bills when the government has set aside considerable funding to help them ensure their tenants live in decent and properly maintained homes.
Eric Pickles said:
There is absolutely no excuse for councils to terrify hard-working homeowners with ridiculous and excessive charges for repairs to their building.
While the vast majority of councils behave responsibly, there are some who have utterly failed to maintain standards alongside a common sense approach to charges, leaving their leaseholders crushed by outrageous bills.
This is not fair, and where government funding is used we won’t stand by and let leaseholders get pushed around by their council. That’s why we are proposing a cap on leaseholder charges of £10,000 and £15,000 over a 5 year period, depending on where you live.
This government is on the side of those who work hard and want to get on, and these proposals will ensure they don’t get stung by unexpected and unnecessary charges.
The proposals would ensure that any council using future government funding to improve homes will be limited to charging leaseholders a maximum £10,000 outside London, and £15,000 in the capital over a 5 year period.
This includes the use of future Decent Homes backlog funding and all similar future government funding used for works of repair, maintenance or improvement.
The consultation on Protecting local authority leaseholders from unreasonable charges was published today.