More people are worried about the quality of housing stock and leasehold system

Michael Lloyd

March 26, 2019

Concerns about the quality of Britain’s housing stock and our outdated leasehold/freehold system have soared faster than at any point since 2014, a YouGov poll on behalf of HomeOwners Alliance, BLP Insurance and Resi.co.uk has found. 

Almost two thirds (63%) of adults now cite it as a serious concern, up 6% from 2018, while nearly seven in 10 people (69%) living in rented accommodation report serious concerns with housing stock quality.

Paula Higgins, chief executive HomeOwners Alliance, said: “It is shocking that in a country that is a leading world economy that so many people have serious concerns about the quality of our old and new housing stock, whether they are renting or are owner occupiers.

“We need more decent housing for more of us.”

Alex Depledge, chief executive of Resi.co.uk, added: “Housebuilders keep churning out badly-built boxes. They prioritise profit rather than the living environment. This poorly-designed housing stock is having an increasingly profound effect on the nation’s mental health and productivity.

“It’s scientifically proven that people respond well to beautiful facades and large windows, which is why Georgian and Victorian properties are so enduringly popular and expensive.

“But everyone has the right to live in a well-designed property. Solving the issue of poor housing stock would address so many other issues in society.”

This year’s survey took a deep dive into challenges facing leaseholders. The much-criticised leasehold system has been the fastest rising housing issue over the past five years.

Three in five (60%) adults said the leasehold/ freehold system – including service charges, ground rent and other fees – is a serious problem, up from 42% in 2015. The issue registers similar levels of concern across all regions in England.

More than a quarter (26%) of leaseholders complained about the high cost of works and management fees while just under a quarter objected to unfair service charges (22%) and a lack of control over which major works are done (23%).

These results follow a Select Committee report last week announcing a crackdown on the leasehold system, which is open to corruption, and the poor value for money it represents.

Higgins added: “The HomeOwners Alliance urges the government to take action now to abolish the leasehold system. Only last week MPs highlighted the fact that developers, freeholders and managing agents treat homeowners as a source of steady profit.”

“As a membership organisation representing homeowners we want to see a better deal. If the government was really serious about this then they should commit themselves to widespread reform instead of the piecemeal approach they have adopted – making well intentioned announcements with no timetable for action.

“They can’t hide behind Brexit while homeowners continue being mis-sold leasehold, left trapped in their own homes with rising ground rents and unable to buy the freehold.”

Two trends that indicate a lack of confidence in house prices are gazundering escalating and more people becoming worried about negative equity.

Gazundering is when buyers drop their offer price just before the sale. It has risen from 40% last year to 45% in 2019. And some 45% of adults have described negative equity as a problem.

Levels of happiness among homeowners were highest among the Welsh, who also voted in favour of Brexit, and lowest among the Northern Irish, who voted to remain in the EU.

Two-thirds of those in Northern Ireland (69%) say they are really worried about negative equity.

Northern Ireland is yet to fully recover from the 2008-9 credit crunch and house price crash, it has had no functioning devolved government since 2017 and is set to be the UK region most badly affected by Brexit because of its border with the Republic of Ireland.

Getting a mortgage or remortgaging is declining as an issue over time with 64% of adults saying the ability to get a mortgage or a remortgage is a problem, down from 72% in 2015.

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