Mary attended an event in Parliament on Helen Goodman’s Ten-Minute Rule Bill - the Freehold Properties (Management Charges and Shared Facilities) Bill.
This Bill will look to address the issue of ‘fleecehold’ estate fees – “new build tax”– which primarily affect freeholders on private housing developments.
Communal spaces on an estate, such as grass verges, playgrounds, and areas planted with trees and shrubberies, are retained by developers instead of being handed over to the local authority. Property companies then either charge residents directly for maintenance, or sell on the contract to a property management company who collect these fees.
Although estate fees are often included as covenants in the transfer deeds on many freehold properties, many homeowners don’t know they exist until a bill arrives. This practice is currently unregulated, and is the latest cash cow for property companies. There is no cap on fees and management companies are under no obligation to account to homeowners for work carried out or costs incurred. Often, residents find themselves trapped on poorly maintained estates, paying hundreds of pounds a year, with no way to hold the company to account. Unlike leaseholders, who have access to a dedicated ombudsman service, freeholders facing estate maintenance fees have no legal recourse in the event of a dispute. This issue affects around 1.3 million people in this country.
This Bill would therefore make provision for the regulation of these fees and the self-management of shared facilities by such freeholders. It would also make provision to require management companies to ensure shared facilities are of a suitable standard, amongst other related things.