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New leasehold reform sees end of charges excessive

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The end of toxic leaseholds has been announced by the Government – much to the delight of long-suffering homeowners.

Housing minister Robert Jenrick said the new laws are being introduced to banish the ‘scandalous pitfalls of leasehold’ and ‘put fairness back at the heart of the housing system’.

The changes have been widely welcomed as good news for leaseholders, who have long endured issues such as doubling ground rent and extortionate costs to extend their leases.

New legislation: The end of toxic leasehold homes has been announced by the Government

New legislation: The end of toxic leasehold homes has been announced by the Government

WHAT IS A LEASEHOLD PROPERTY?

A leasehold property has some key differences compared to a freehold home.

If you buy a leasehold property, you will need to know about things such as ground rents and lease extensions.

Here we explain some of the terms you need to know:

1. Leasehold

Unlike a freeholder, as a leaseholder you do not own the land the property is built on. A leaseholder essentially rents the property on a lease for a number of years, often between 90 and 120 years but it can be as high as 999 years.  

2. Ground rents

Ground rent is the rent paid under the terms of a lease by the owner of a building to the owner of the land on which it is built. The amount paid depends on the terms of the lease.

3. Lease extensions

A lease extension refers to a legal agreement that extends the term of an existing lease.

4. Buying the freehold  

If you buy a freehold property, it means you owns it outright, including the land it is built on. You are responsible for maintaining your property and land, so you’ll need to budget for these costs.

If you’re a leaseholder, you may want to consider buying your freehold. There are pros and cons of doing this, as while you may end up having more control, there will also be more effort involved. More information on buying your freehold can be found here.

The changes being introduced by the Government will enable homeowners to extend their leases up to 990 years at zero ground rent.

Miles Robinson, of mortgage broker Trussle, said: ‘We welcome the news that homeowners will be given further rights, enabling them to extend leases up to 990 years at zero ground rent.

‘It’s a significant change which will put a stop to unnecessary charges, and will make owning and selling a home easier and fairer for millions of people.’

Katie Kendrick, of the National Leasehold Campaign, said: ‘For far too long leaseholders have been told that it is their own fault for signing these toxic agreements, but this announcement proves how flawed this system is and is the start of the end for leasehold. 

‘We are delighted that Government has committed to delivering these reforms in this Parliament and urge them to strongly reject the fierce lobbying and delaying tactics they will get from the sector determined to keep the leasehold gravy train running.’

In recent years, the pitfalls of leasehold have left many of those who own this type of property unable to sell their homes.

This is because lenders have been increasingly nervous about lending on leasehold homes due to the increasing costs associated with them and buyers have been put off too.

We take a look at the Government’s announcement and what it could ultimately mean for leaseholders.

Why has the Government decided to take action?

The Government said reform of the leasehold system was required to ‘end some of the worst practices faced by homeowners’.

It claims that the changes are part of the biggest reforms to English property law for 40 years, and will lead to a new system altogether.

It follows a Law Commission report last year that claimed the ‘medieval’ leasehold system was not working. It followed years of campaigning for change, particularly after the scandal of new-build houses sold as leasehold rather than freehold emerged.

Announcing the changes, the Government said: ‘Under the current law many people face high ground rents, which combined with a mortgage, can make it feel like they are paying rent on a property they own.’

The changes will aim to reduce this financial burden currently placed on many leaseholders.

How much will ground rents be under the new law?

The Government says any leaseholder who extends their lease will ‘no longer pay any ground rent’ to a freeholder.

Ground rents can currently run into hundreds if not thousands of pounds a year, and can increase sharply over time depending on the clause in the lease.

The Government has said it will reduce ground rents to zero because this will allow those who want to own their own home to do so ‘without cumbersome bureaucracy and additional unnecessary and unfair expenses’.

How much could this save leaseholders?

The changes could save leaseholders ‘thousands, to tens of thousands of pounds’, the Government has claimed.

Exactly how much has yet to be revealed but the housing minister has said that he wants to reduce the expense of being a leaseholder.

Mr Jenrick said: ‘We want to reinforce the security that home ownership brings by changing forever the way we own homes and end some of the worst practices faced by homeowners.’

Do the changes mean a longer lease extension?

Under the current rules, leaseholders of houses can only extend their lease once for 50 years with a ground rent.

At the same time, leaseholders of flats can extend as often as they wish at a zero ‘peppercorn’ ground rent for 90 years.

The changes mean leaseholders will be able to extend their lease to a new standard 990 years with a ground rent at zero.

What will be the cost of extending the lease or buying the freehold?

Many leaseholders seek to extend their lease or buy the freehold. 

This can be for a number of reasons, not least to gain more control of the management of the property or to make it more attractive to potential buyers (as lenders will not lend on shorter leases). 

Extending the lease is also a condition of reducing the ground rent to zero under the Government’s reforms.

However, extending the lease is something that leaseholders will have to pay to do.

You may decide to buy the freehold first before then extending the lease to take the freeholder out of the equation altogether in the future. You do not have to buy the freehold to extend your lease.

The Government has said that it will ‘cost less’ to extend the lease or buy the freehold than previously – and the cost will be calculated via a new online calculator.

Where can I find the online calculator to work out these costs?

The online calculator will help leaseholders work out how much it will cost to buy their freehold or extend their lease.

However, it will not be introduced until the changes become law, and so leaseholders will need to wait until then to find out the cost.

The current calculation includes elements such as the ‘marriage value’, which increases the cost.

The marriage value is the increase in the value of the property following the completion of the lease extension, reflecting the additional market value of the longer lease.

This element is being abolished as the Government has described it as a ‘prohibitive cost’ and wants to ensure that the calculation is ‘fairer, cheaper and more transparent’.

Is commonhold still an option?

The housing minister wants to increase the number of commonhold agreements, a little-known form of ownership that allows residents of apartment blocks to maintain it themselves or employ a maintenance firm to do it.

It would mean that if the company fails to do the job properly, the residents could sack them.

The Government is establishing a Commonhold Council to help encourage homeowners and the market to take up commonhold. 

When will the new law be introduced?

Leaseholders welcomed the news and called for the changes to be passed into law immediately.

Leaseholder Jim Iillingworth said: ‘I welcome the announcement. The Government has proved with Covid and Brexit that it can pass legislation in hours and days. Why should leasehold reforms take any longer?’

In reality, the timetable is likely to take months and could possibly run into next year.

Mr Hayward, of Propertymark, explained: ‘Laws will be introduced when the parliamentary timetable will allow. But they will want to move soon on this ahead of the next General Election to appeal to the electorate.’  

Leasehold expert Bernie Wales, of BW Residential, said: ‘The changes are good news for leaseholders. Leaseholders have waited a long time for them and let’s hope the Government will bring them into law sooner rather than later.’

The Government has confirmed that legislation will be brought forward in the upcoming session of Parliament to set future ground rents to zero. This is the first part of seminal two-part reforming legislation in this Parliament.

How many people will be affected by the new law?

Nearly 4.5million leaseholders could be ‘tens of thousands of pounds’ better off, according to the Government.

Will ground rents also be reduced on retirement homes?

The changes will include measures to protect those living in retirement leasehold properties, which are specifically built for older people.

The Government says buyers of these homes will now have the same rights as other homeowners.

However, Mr Hayward added: ‘While we welcome the Government’s initiative to reduce ground rents to zero for all new retirement properties, we would argue this needs to be extended to all retirement properties to create a level playing field.’

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Foley to bring school reopening plan to Cabinet on Tuesday

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Minister for Education Norma Foley says she has every confidence schools will reopen fully from late August and early September.

Ms Foley said there was ongoing engagement between her department and public health officials on the matter but all schools were set to reopen.

Strong mitigation measures would be in place in schools to ensure that they would continue to be controlled environments, she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show on Monday.

Covid-19 infection rates among children were at their highest when children were not at school and public health experts had pointed out “on a consistent basis to schools being a very significantly controlled environment”.

The safe operation of the Leaving Certificate exams and enhanced summer camps indicated that the safe operation of education could be maintained, she said.

A plan would be put in place to allow schools to “draw down” CO2 monitors and the Minister said she was confident there would be enough monitors for all schools by the start of the new school year.

In relation to Covid-19 vaccines for children, Ms Foley said the “expertise” lay with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) from which her department would take guidance.

“I have received confirmation that the 16 to 18-year-old cohort should be in a position for online registration in the coming days, and I have been advised that the 15-year-olds cohort are still being considered by NIAC and there has been no definitive timeline given,” she added.

Ms Foley will bring a plan to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining enhanced public information campaigns, the outcome of antigen testing pilots, and the purchase of C02 monitors to assist in ventilating classrooms.

Capacity limits on school transport services will also remain in place.

Government sources were adamant on Sunday that second-level education would resume in the autumn, despite concerns among public-health officials that the wave could grow following the reopening of indoor dining today, before peaking in September.

“Schools will reopen,” a senior Coalition source said.

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Over 40 complaints made about ‘unsuitable’ books on English curriculum

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Some books being studied by Junior Cert and Leaving Cert English students feature “disturbing and sick content” and material that is “clearly unsuitable for minors”, complainants have told the Department of Education.

The department has received more than 40 complaints on the issue in recent months, with one email to Minister Norma Foley describing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as “nothing but sadistic, upsetting and of no moral learning or value to students”.

The acclaimed dystopian novel is based in a patriarchal totalitarian state where women, or handmaids, are forced to produce children for commanders.

One “concerned parent” said they were “perturbed” that their teenager was studying the novel Room by Irish author Emma Donoghue.

‘Questionable’

They said many of the topics in the book were “questionable” and that greater consideration should have been given before the book was “forced upon sensitive people in this day and age”. The Booker-shortlisted story is told from the perspective of a young boy held captive in a small room with his mother.

The emails, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, were from parents, one of whom said they were “appealing to and begging” the department to change the curriculum.

One parent expressed “shock and concern” about the prescribed reading lists, citing a perceived “lack of vigilance regarding the age appropriateness” of some books. “The material is offensive, abhorrent and clearly unsuitable for minors,” they said.

The curriculum could “only be described as the sexualisation and desensitising of our children… there needs to be an investigation into this whole sordid affair”, another complaint said.

‘Enslaving’

One person said the book list was “enslaving” students to “abominable ungodly content”, while another sarcastically suggested there was “nothing to stop” Fifty Shades of Grey, the bestselling explicit erotic romance novel, being added.

Some emails were directed towards Ms Foley personally, and called for her to be fired and “held directly responsible”. The department’s response stated that the curriculum at all levels was considered to be for all learners “regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic background, gender or orientation”.

It said it was important that each book was viewed “in its entirety rather than being reduced to particular sections which may be especially controversial”, and that the texts had “strong literary pedigrees” and featured on curricula internationally.

There were also several emails sent to the department in defence of the curriculum, predominantly from students.

The text-list working groups for each subject, convened by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, are comprised of teachers, third-level lecturers, staff from relevant support agencies and experts in children’s and young adult literature. The curriculum did not change this year though the Minister said it would be reviewed in the coming months.


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EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: A new £10m home sweet home in the Cotswolds for Nick Candy and Holly Valance 

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You might have thought having a Chelsea pad worth more than £75 million would be enough for most property tycoons, but not for Nick Candy.

I can disclose that Candy and his pop star wife, Holly Valance, have splashed out well over £10 million on a Grade II‑listed mansion in Oxfordshire.

They will be a short drive from trendy private members’ club Soho Farmhouse, where Prince Harry courted Meghan.

That's sweet: Nick Candy and his pop star wife, Holly Valance, have splashed out well over £10 million on a Grade II‑listed mansion in Oxfordshire (pictured)

That’s sweet: Nick Candy and his pop star wife, Holly Valance, have splashed out well over £10 million on a Grade II‑listed mansion in Oxfordshire (pictured)

Holly Valance and Nick Candy attend Lisa Tchenguiz's 50th birthday party at the Troxy in 2015

Holly Valance and Nick Candy attend Lisa Tchenguiz’s 50th birthday party at the Troxy in 2015

The seven-bedroom property has a pool, stables, tennis and squash courts and its own chapel

The seven-bedroom property has a pool, stables, tennis and squash courts and its own chapel

While it is unknown how much the couple paid, records show it was bought for £8m in 2012

While it is unknown how much the couple paid, records show it was bought for £8m in 2012

The house is a short drive from trendy private members' club Soho Farmhouse

The house is a short drive from trendy private members’ club Soho Farmhouse

Candy and his pop star wife, Holly Valance, have splashed out well over £10 million on the property

Candy and his pop star wife, Holly Valance, have splashed out well over £10 million on the property

The seven-bedroom property has a pool, stables, tennis and squash courts

The seven-bedroom property has a pool, stables, tennis and squash courts

Candy, 48, declines to say how much they paid, but the house was bought by the previous owners for £8 million in 2012

Candy, 48, declines to say how much they paid, but the house was bought by the previous owners for £8 million in 2012

Prices have rocketed in the area, where locals include Kate Moss and JCB tycoon Lord Bamford and his wife Carole

Prices have rocketed in the area, where locals include Kate Moss and JCB tycoon Lord Bamford and his wife Carole

Candy, who has two daughters with his wife, adds: 'We're very immersed in our quiet country life at weekends'

Candy, who has two daughters with his wife, adds: ‘We’re very immersed in our quiet country life at weekends’

‘We have been looking for years to get something in the Cotswolds for the family, and finally, a year ago, we found a gorgeous family home in a wonderful village,’ Candy tells me.

The seven-bedroom property has a pool, stables, tennis and squash courts and its own chapel.

Candy, 48, declines to say how much they paid, but the house was bought by the previous owners for £8 million in 2012.

Since then, prices have rocketed in the area, where locals include Kate Moss and JCB tycoon Lord Bamford and his wife Carole, who started the Daylesford organic empire.

Candy, who has two daughters with his wife, adds: ‘We’re very immersed in our quiet country life at weekends and adore the friendly and welcoming village.’

Candy's luxury two-storey penthouse in Hyde Park has gone on sale for £175million

Candy’s luxury two-storey penthouse in Hyde Park has gone on sale for £175million

The stunning apartment is split over two levels, boasts five bedrooms, a 21m swimming pool, and measures around 18,000 sq ft - the equivalent of almost 18 average homes in England.

The stunning apartment is split over two levels, boasts five bedrooms, a 21m swimming pool, and measures around 18,000 sq ft – the equivalent of almost 18 average homes in England. 

Prolific author Alexander McCall Smith, creator of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has been promised great things – but only after his death.

He says: ‘I was on tour in the United States and this woman came up to me with a book for signature, and she looked at me and said: ‘You know something, you’re going to be much more successful posthumously.’ ‘

The writer, 72, who has written 21 novels in the series, says. ‘She wasn’t being rude, but it was rather an odd thing to say to somebody.’

How guitar guru Beck gave Depp a silver lining 

Pictured: Johnny Depp is planning his comeback

Pictured: Johnny Depp is planning his comeback

With his acrimonious divorce from actress Amber Heard, and their bitter court room showdown in London last summer, Hollywood star Johnny Depp suffered the biggest setback of his glittering career.

Now, however, I hear he’s quietly planning his comeback — right here in Britain.

The 58-year-old star of Fantastic Beasts and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory has been taken under the wing of British rock legend Jeff Beck.

The Hi Ho Silver Lining guitarist, 77, who’s so talented he had each of his fingers insured for £700,000 in 2010, has secretly been hosting Depp at his Riverhall country estate in Wadhurst, East Sussex, where they’ve been writing and recording together in Beck’s studio. Depp is an accomplished guitarist himself.

‘They’ve been collaborating on material for Jeff’s next album,’ reveals a source close to Depp. ‘It’s been great for Johnny to get back to his first true love, which is music.

‘Jeff has been a great friend to Johnny during a very difficult time, and being away from Hollywood has been exactly what Johnny needed.

‘He wants to take a step back from everything and focus on a comeback through music.’

Eight-time Grammy Award winner Jeff, who has been called ‘one of the most influential lead guitarists in rock’ by Rolling Stone magazine, recorded a cover of John Lennon’s Isolation with Depp last year, intended to help people cope with life in lockdown.

Johnny Depp of Hollywood Vampires performs on stage at Celebrity Theatre in 2018 in Arizona

Johnny Depp of Hollywood Vampires performs on stage at Celebrity Theatre in 2018 in Arizona

In 2019 they played together at the Crossroads Music Festival in Dallas, Texas, for Eric Clapton’s charity, then did a short tour of the U.S.

Depp has previously featured on songs by Oasis, Iggy Pop, and Aerosmith, as well as on records by his ex-girlfriend, singer Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two children. In 2015, he formed the super group, Hollywood Vampires, with Alice Cooper and Joe Perry.

‘Johnny hopes to return to films eventually,’ adds the source, ‘but it’s music first.’

Boogie-woogie pianist Jools Holland is learning to sing lullabies. The Later . . . with Jools Holland host has become a grandfather at the age of 63.

‘I am very pleased that I now have a wonderful grandson, Gabriel,’ he says. His musician daughter, Mabel Ray, 30, is the proud mum.

‘We seem to have identical hair,’ he adds of the baby. ‘He is a delightful little fellow. All thanks to the fantastic staff at Homerton University Hospital for delivering him to us.’

Queen’s Windsor gong show for late Duke’s loyal page

The Queen is making sure Prince Philip’s most steadfast former aides feel rewarded.

I hear that she invited the Duke of Edinburgh’s loyal page, William Henderson, to Windsor Castle this week to collect his gong.

His appointment as a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order was announced on what would have been Philip’s 100th birthday.

Henderson was among those who took part in the funeral procession, walking behind the coffin.

Known for his sarcastic quips when required to report on the love lives of the Royal Family, waggish news anchor Simon McCoy seems to be secretly obsessed with the Windsors.

‘If I were invisible, I would go into Highgrove and stand by the phone to listen to any conversation Prince Charles might have with Harry,’ admits McCoy, who recently moved from the BBC to its new rival channel, GB News.

‘I feel desperately sorry for Charles — I really do. Family difficulties are bad enough without one of you bleating about it to the Press all the time.’

Creating a buzz with Angelina the Queen Bee 

There’s a buzz about Angelina Jolie, but it’s nothing to do with her film career.

The actress brought a touch of Hollywood glamour to the new French Apidology Observatory, in Sainte-Baume, where she presented its first graduates with their diplomas.

Angelina Jolie with children Pax, Zahara and Shiloh seen shopping at trendy KITH's in Paris, France

Angelina Jolie with children Pax, Zahara and Shiloh seen shopping at trendy KITH's in Paris, France

Angelina Jolie (pictured shopping Paris) brought a touch of Hollywood glamour to the new French Apidology Observatory where she presented its first graduates with their diplomas

Jolie, 46, who’s recently been seen out with her British ex-husband Jonny Lee Miller, was there because she’s involved in the Women for Bees project, which aims to encourage women to become beekeepers.

Clearly, there’s only one Queen Bee.

Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt, who starred on TV diving show Splash, will be demonstrating her water skills at the local pool rather than heading off to the Med this summer.

‘I’ll be staying in my constituency and spending time at my local lido,’ the MP for Portsmouth North tells me at the Westminster launch party for her book, Greater: Britain After The Storm, which she’s co-written with Chris Lewis. ‘I’ve earned that — I went to great lengths to save it.’

The forecast is hotting up with Carol’s exotic secret 

This could liven up those dull BBC meteorological reports: weather presenter Carol Kirkwood has revealed a secret skill.

‘I can belly-dance,’ whispers the former Strictly contestant.

‘It is actually quite hard, but I learned to do it when I was a student travelling in Turkey and Greece.’

The Scottish hotelier’s daughter, 59, adds: I can’t claim to be very good at it — but I do at least have the belly for it these days.’

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