Last week saw the government pledge a clampdown on the ‘leasehold housing scandal’ and the Sunday Times reported how the answer could lie in the beautiful Yorkshire market town of Pickering.

Pickering provides the setting for Spire View, a development of 16 houses and flats.

The Sunday Times reports that the scheme is ‘well-constructed and nicely designed, with the properties set around communal gardens and a pool.’

You may well be thinking how does this development provide the answer? The key is how the properties upon the development are owned, they are neither freehold or leasehold, they are in fact Commonhold.

Commonhold is a form of land ownership in England and Wales where the owner of the property has full security of tenure with membership of a company limited by guarantee that owns and manages the common parts of the development. Thus, property owners are afforded control of the development without a landlord or another third party able to make decision about how the development is run.

Land being held in this way is not uncommon in other parts of the world. In 1987, the Law Commission recommended that Commonhold be adopted in England and Wales. Their recommendation was based on similar systems of land ownership operating successfully in Australia, the US and other jurisdictions.

There are a number of benefits of Commonhold. As the term of a long lease reduces, so does its value. This does not happen with Commonhold.

The quality of management of a leasehold property depends on the landlord and any managing agents appointed by the landlord. With Commonhold, the Commonhold Association comprises the property owners and so the Commonhold would be managed in accordance with their needs and wishes.

Commonhold documentation is largely standardised, thereby reducing the risk of drafting errors. There is also only one set of Commonhold documents for each Commonhold property which makes management easier.

Despite success overseas, take up of Commonhold in England and Wales has been low since its introduction in 2004 by the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002. The Sunday Times reported that Spire View is just one of 15 Commonhold developments. This could be largely due to a fear of the unknown, the slightly cumbersome approach to creating a Commonhold and an unwillingness by some lenders to offer mortgages on Commonhold titles.

However, it would seem that the tide could be set to turn. With residential leasehold being under the microscope more than ever, the Spire development in the quiet Yorkshire market town could lead the way in an overhaul of the way in which we own our land.

Our Residential Property Team her at Lupton Fawcett is happy to advise you on all aspects of your sale and purchase. Please contact Richard Baum, or a member of the Residential Property Team.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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