Did you know that when you buy a flat in England (or Wales) you never actually own any of the bricks and mortar of your flat; you just rent a space in the building? Your building, the land it sits on, the air rights above and the ground rights below are owned by a faceless freeholder (unless your flat has a share of freehold already).
When you buy a flat, you just rent a space in the freeholder’s building by way of a lease and that lease has a number of years left to run. Once the years left on your lease fall below 80 you will have to pay a considerable amount of money (and a considerable chunk of legal fees) to your freeholder to be granted an extension of your lease.
If you don’t extend your lease and the years on it fall to zero, you will no longer own your flat (even if you had bought it outright and didn’t have a penny mortgage on it) and your freeholder will take possession of it, kick you (or whoever inherited your flat) on the street, sell the flat and keep all the money. You will get nothing.
The freeholder decides what work needs to be done each year on your building, how much to spend and who will do the work but YOU will pay for it. If you are unhappy with the standard of work being done you can’t complain to the contractors because they don’t work for you, they work for the freeholder. There is a very good chance the freeholder is getting a backhander for this work or he owns the company doing the work.
YOU have to pay whatever the freeholder says is the cost of insuring your building. This will be a poor quality building insurance and your freeholder will probably get a 70% ‘finders fee’ from the insurance company. This is legal.
You have to pay a ‘license fee’ to your freeholder for anything you want to do to your flat of between £50 to £1,000. Like painting or replacing your windows, getting Sky TV, renting your flat out or turning over in bed.
In fact, to drive home further how the law sees your legal rights if you buy a flat under this feudal system, in the lease of your flat you are not called the flat owner, you are called ‘the tenant’ and your freeholder is called ‘the landlord’.
How does this ridiculously unjust and outdated property owning system still exist today? Where does it come from?This system is a feudal system with its roots in the 11th century and it still benefits lots of multi-millionaires and ‘royal’ families to this very day.
In fact, this feudal system can be traced right back to the Norman conquest of 1066. The new king, William II, had already popped a cap in poor Harold’s ass (or eye actually) and decided that he and his new royal family now owned all the land in England, Scotland and Wales outright and why not? You have to say that was a profitable days work for William!
William then hung around for another 36 years (finally being killed by an anonymous arrow on a hunting party, karma’s a bitch eh?) Once he had died, the royal family from then on decided that, instead of changing this clearly unjust decree, they quite liked owning all the land in the kingdom and our feudal system was born and carries on today.
This feudal land owning system became a constant battle between royalty and noble land owners for centuries to come (which became the driving force for all legislative land law reforms in this country) the subsequent changes however, made little difference to leasehold reform which deals with flat ownership.
When the industrial revolution was born there was a sudden driving need to build flats to accommodate the populous that were now flocking to cities to find work. As the Crown and the other strands of the royal family had already been gifted all the land (for free, thank you very much), they stood to make hundreds of millions for this property boom and that’s exactly what they did.
The Crown, The Church of England, The Grosvenor Estate, Cadogan Estate, the Portman Estate and the Howard de Walden Estate et al, all made more money than they could ever spend building castles, buying swans or just blowing it on syphilitic courtesans.
Then came the rush of non-royal freeholders who realized how much money there is to be legally made from the misery of the flat owners they feed off. The Regis Group, Freshwater/Daegan, Peverel, Proxima, The Wellcome Trust, The Matteys Group, Sinclair Gardens etc etc. Many of them immoral, lying cheats who’s sole aim in life is to wring as much money as they possibly can from those hard working people who have the misfortune of buying flats in buildings owned by these crooks.
Today and 5.1 million flats are still trapped in this unfair ridiculous feudal system. Owning freeholds is one of the most profitable investments you can ever make (as long as you don’t own any morals at the same time that is). They make money from flat owners lots of ways, for example:
The ground rent they collect (and strive to increase the cost of each year).
Rip off fees extending your lease (they can rip you off, royally)
Rip off inflated prices for building works.
Rip off service charges you have no choice but to pay.
Rip off building insurance they don’t have to declare.
Rip off management fees from managing agents they have a hand in.
Rip off licensing fees for just about anything.
Although parliament has changed legislation over the past 30 years or so to give flat owners more legal rights, make no mistake, this system still massively favours the freeholder. The law now says that if you are unhappy with anything your freeholder does you can make him appear before the First tier Tribunal (FtT) to answer for himself.
This seems like a decent and fair thing to be able to do. The problem comes when you realize the costs involved in doing this. Chances are, your freeholder will be a multi-millionaire and chances are, you’re not. He will have a solicitor, valuer and probably a barrister representing him on the day at the FtT hearing. If you go into court without representation, you will be eaten alive! Therefore the cost of you having your own representation when you go to FtT will be several thousands per day. Chances are your freeholder will be able to claim all his legal costs as a tax-deductible expense; chances are you won’t be able to.
Do you think that this is fair? I think not. Even if you were to win your claim against your freeholder, he could carry out the very same misdemeanor the very next day and you would have to start the whole process of taking him to FtT all over again.
The inequities of the leasehold system are much deeper and more engrained than I have outlined here but I will be expanding on this in later blogs. Suffice to say right now though, it is a system that should not exist.
Freeholders, who contributed nothing to the buying of the land, the building of the flats nor the purchase of those flats, should have no right whatsoever to end up owning the buildings and the land they sit on. No rights to it at all. It is only our stupid legal system based on a feudal system and backed by our inbred ‘royalty’ that make it exist at all.
There are only five other countries in the whole world, which have this, ridiculous, unfair leasehold system based on land owning as a right for the elite and they are all ex-colonies of the UK. The rest of the world operates some form of the fairer common hold system of flat ownership.
If you ‘own’ a flat and are unhappy with the ways things are, what can you do about it? Well, freeholders operate in the shadows and get away with ripping off flat owners at will because no one talks about it or kicks up a fuss. They rely on your apathy for their immorality.
One way to stop this is name and shame the crooks, go onto blogs and website and have your say (I guarantee there is a website about your freeholder somewhere on the web, declaring them to be the spawn of Satan) where you can join voices with their other victims. Write to newspapers and let them know. Arrange meetings with your fellow neighbours and group together for legal action against your freeholder or their equally evil managing agents, thus spreading the cost.
Secondly, take a leaf from our American cousins. Obviously, as the USA was our biggest colony, they too were heading for this same leasehold system that we continue to suffer under. Except they were saved by a churlish group of New Yorkers, who in the mid 1800s kicked off anti-rent riots and a subsequent powerful political movement which was against elitist feudal freeholders and their powers which were being misused.
This anti-rent movement, which was originally a localized movement against a particular family, spread to anywhere where other major freeholders owned significant holdings. By 1845 a new, bipartisan consensus emerged that this wholly unjust leasehold system was hostile to American liberties and it was abolished for all eternity.
I’m not encouraging middle England to start riots in London (although I would pay to watch it) The thing to learn from the anti-rent movement was how cleverly they used politics to achieve their aim. There is a lesson we can learn in the UK today.
If you say there are 5.1 million leasehold flats today and an average of two people live in a flat and they all decide to vote for the political party that support flat owners right’s, that’s seven million votes up for grabs!
Cameron won the last election with 10.7 million votes cast for the moron. Imagine what a big voice seven million voters have (there was about a 2 million vote spread between each party) Powerful stuff. Especially when you consider that most of the major reforms that that have been made to the leasehold system over the last 30 years, have come from a drive for votes from the political parties (including Labour’s ‘The end to a feudal system’ damp squib)
So, write to your MP, parliament, newspapers and Jeremy Kyle (I just threw that last one in to see if you were still paying attention). Make as much noise as you can, make it an issue that must be noticed.
As it stands the rich, royal and immoral of this country makes hundreds of millions of pounds from this elitist feudal system every year, money they have absolutely no right to have. Money that is stolen from hard working flat owners. Money that is immorally squeezed from a thousand year old feudal system designed to benefit the royal and noble at the expense of the poor.
If you own a flat and are trapped in this system, no one is coming to help you. No government is going to change this system thus alienating their wealthy supporters and paymasters. If you want to change it, you will have to do it for yourself because you can bet your mortgage (and your flat) on the fact that it’s not going to change any time soon.
©Barcode1966 – 2015