First published in First Time Buyer magazine June/July 2015

Whilst exciting, buying your own home comes with responsibility, especially if it’s leasehold

Buying your first home is the most exciting time, and anyone who wants to put practicality in the way of the romance of the purchase faces a hard task. It is the largest investment you will probably ever choose to make, so having your eyes open to the responsibilities is essential.

These two conflicting sentences create an important realism for you. Enjoy the excitement. but make sure you know your commitment. If you buy a leasehold property it is essential you know your rights, responsibilities and liabilities. The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) exists to give information and guidance to leaseholders.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is seeking to have information presented to prospective purchasers before they look at a leasehold property; to ensure they have the understanding of what is involved and their eyes are wide open.

On 1st January 2015, Roger Southam was appointed non­ executive Chairman by the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis. Roger has been involved in the property industry for over 30 years and has specialised in aspects of residential management over the last nine of these. His appointment came at a time when there has been a large focus on leasehold and leaseholders. We have had the Competition and Markets Authority carry out an investigation into how to improve the leasehold market. and the last Government responded with positive responses in seeking to help leaseholders.

LEASE was formed 21 years ago and, over the years, has helped thousands of leaseholders with queries and problems. The challenge facing LEASE is the same as for any other government department or arms-length body -namely budget cuts. Therefore, Roger’s most pressing challenge is the dual facet of making the service economically viable, accompanied with expanding the remit to encapsulate all the possible issues and communication needed going forward.

This is a challenge he is well equipped to meet. having run his own company for the last 26 years, ridden through three recessions and caught the wave of the markets capitalising at the peaks.

He commented, “LEASE is at an exciting time in its history. There is fabulous work carried out by the team and, every day: we are helping more and more leaseholders. The service is so well respected that lawyers and managers will use the service for their own queries. It is this respect for the first class advisers, that gives us scope to capitalise on the service. We are very clear that the leaseholders will always have free advice from our service available to them. But we can go on to expand our facets to deliver new ways of educating and assisting the professionalisation of the residential management services.”

Expanding on the situation for first time buyers, he went on to explain, “With the housing shortage the UK faces, more and more developers are building blocks of flats and creating leasehold properties. There is nothing wrong with the leasehold tenure in all its forms, including shared ownership, however, we have to make sure that we educate new entrants to the market place and also make sure that they always have a place to seek answers as and when they feel they need them”

The LEASE website is a great source of information, in the form of guides and frequently asked questions, and they put on training courses, conferences and seminars around the country. LEASE has a remit to make sure that the leasehold market is well informed and where areas need change, informing and advising to influence improvements within the market.

He concluded, “LEASE offers a special service aimed at meeting the needs of the market and providing high-quality and clear advice. The website should be the first port of call for assistance and, if you feel the need to speak to an advisor, they are always on the end of the line. I hope that over my five-year tenure, I can ensure we see fairness for all in the leasehold sector.”

For the first time buyer, it is fairly typical to be buying a leasehold property; Therefore, enjoying the excitement is important but also make sure you know your rights and responsibilities. Of course LEASE is always there to help you.

LEASE is governed by a board, appointed as individuals by the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

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