UK’s Commonhold Council on home ownership laws has not met ‘for over a year’


An expert committee set up to advise ministers on how to change Britain’s archaic home ownership laws has not met for over a year, the Guardian can reveal, as campaigners warn the issue is slipping down the government’s agenda.

The Commonhold Council – a panel of 11 people from the property industry, the legal profession and academia – was convened in 2021 as ministers promised sweeping reforms to the leasehold system.

Last week Rachel Maclean, the housing minister, reassured MPs during a Commons debate that the council met “regularly” and was working closely with ministers. Information released to the campaigner Martin Keegan under the Freedom of Information Act however shows it has not met since last April – something one member of the panel blamed on successive changes in government.

Harry Scoffin, the co-founder of the anti-leasehold campaign group Commonhold Now, said: “At a time when the Tories’ electoral offering to millennial voters is coming under immense scrutiny, it is disappointing to learn that the government’s flagship home ownership body, the Commonhold Council, hasn’t met in over a year.

“The Conservative party urgently needs to revisit its commonhold policy programme as part of its wider housing package for voters under the age of 40.”

Martin Boyd, the chair of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership and one of the members of the council, said: “A number of meetings have been cancelled due to many changes of housing ministers, but members of the Commonhold Council continue to work with officials on different aspects of the proposals”.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, did not comment.

About 10 million Britons own their homes through leasehold, a system which is almost unique in the world and can leave homeowners facing steep bills for building maintenance, service charges and lease extensions.

A poll by the centre-right thinktank Onward this weekend showed nearly two-thirds of millennials believe the Conservatives deserve to lose the next election.

Gove has repeatedly criticised the leasehold system, and told the Sunday Times in January he would announce its abolition by the end of the year.

The housing secretary is due to make a major speech in the coming weeks where he will outline a package of leasehold reforms to be included in the King’s Speech later this year.

Government sources have told the Guardian those reforms will include capping ground rents, banning excessive legal charges and giving leaseholders more power over who manages their buildings. They will not however include the outright abolition of the system, even for new buildings, after Number 10 warned it could not be achieved in time for the next election.

Those close to Gove say the plan amounts to a “path towards” outright abolition, though Labour has accused the government of abandoning its previous commitments.