Leasehold reform expected this year should reap benefits for a sizeable number of householders. According to Government statistics there are approximately 4.98 million leasehold dwellings in England, the majority of which are in London and the North-East. Although this number in most part is made up of flats or apartments (70%), it does include a smaller percentage of houses (30%).
In response to growing pressure over several years, the Government introduced legislation in 2022 by way of The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act to help leaseholders struggling with burdensome lease terms and to tackle the issues of a resultant decline in the saleability of leasehold properties in general.
The Act put an end to ground rents for most new long residential leasehold properties in England and Wales and prevented freeholders from introducing ground rent when leases are extended. This was in response to some leaseholders unfairly being asked to pay an extortionate ground rent because the terms of the lease provided for an uncapped annual increase – sometimes as much as 10%.
The Government is planning further reform in 2024 to give more rights to leaseholders as part of its long term plan for housing. Legislation will make it easier and more affordable for leaseholders to buy their freehold, increase standard lease extension terms from 90 to 990 years for houses and flats, and create more transparency around service charges. The Bill will also make it simpler and less expensive for leaseholders to bring cases against freeholders and for them to take over the management of their buildings where, for example, maintenance has been neglected.
How Conveyancers can prepare for the new leasehold reforms
The conveyancing process can be longer and more complex for leasehold properties due to there being more parties involved so the Government is hoping that its reforms will make buying or selling a leasehold property quicker and easier by setting a maximum time and fee for home buying and selling information.
So how can conveyancers prepare for these changes and meet the challenges?
By automating some of the processes, such as document signing, form completion and identity verification, repetitive administrative tasks can be reduced and errors avoided. With the right technology, client engagement forms and LPE1 and LPE2 forms can be converted into dynamic HTML fillable forms, optimised for completion on a smart device and the data returned to a conveyancer’s case or document management system. Remotely identifying freeholders or leaseholders can help to eliminate the risk of fraud and speed up the whole process and documents and deeds can now be witnessed virtually where a Government approved Identity Service Provider is used, removing the need for a physical witness in most cases.
VirtualSignature-ID are the experts in digital onboarding that know the legal sector inside out. Our niche solutions can be mixed and matched to tailor a workflow that fits perfectly with your firm’s existing processes and integrates with your DMS or CMS. If you would like to know more about Advanced or Qualified eSignatures, eWitnessing, electronic deed sealing, Conveyancer’s certificates or how to share information with third parties whilst retaining privacy controls and setting signer sequencing with delayed completion dates, then please get in touch on 0333 335 5176 or email us [email protected].