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Michael Heseltine it isn’t … but ex-Housing Minister and Tory chairman Grant Shapps has a flourishing little publishing business to fall back upon in the event that his political career comes to a grinding halt.
Run out of squalid little offices in Enfield, north London, the Shapps family offer codswollop Freudian analysis of dreams and computerized plagiarism of out-of-copyright material to boost Internet search engine rankings.
Unfortunately, Google has blacklisted a string of 19 websites for breaching its rules on copyright infringement.
The sites are run by his wife Belinda, sister or 75-year-old mother, while Grant himself appears as either Michael Green or Sebastian Fox. Shapps made his fortune as a jobbing printer (see the company history below). [Read more...]
The Observer revealed yesterday that the former Housing Minister and new Tory party chairman Grant Shapps deleted Wikipedia references to donations from property interests to his private office.
He did so secretly, breaking the online encyclopedia’s code of practice which urges that those changing information in personal entries first identify themselves.
The original entry, the Wikipedia biography said: “It was revealed in May 2008 that Grant Shapps, along with other shadow ministers, had taken large donations from companies related to his frontbench portfolio … The revelations were potentially damaging for Shapps given the extent of the donations he had received – tens of thousands of pounds from two online mortgage brokers, an estate agent, a commercial property developer and a firm of solicitors specialising in conveyancing and remortgaging – and the suggestion that these might be influencing Conservative policies.”
Shapps scrapped sections 152 and 156 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 when he came into office, and consistently blocked any attempt at leasehold reform in spite of unanimity in the sector that this was necessary. Even the powerful British Property Federation issued a statement to the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership saying that it was in favour.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps is alone in resisting leasehold regulation saying it will add to costs and landlords don’t want it … even though the British Property Federation, which represents the country’s largest landlords, has assured LKP that it favours the move.
But why – for the sake of consistency – does this minister feel so strongly on the subject of park homes, which he plans to license?
Park homes suffer similar issues to leasehold properties, including inflated service charges and poor maintenance. Yet Shapps wants regulation as part of “sensible, practical proposals, targeted at the worst practices and minimising the burden on those who do a good job for their residents”.
Admittedly there have been cases of park home landlords burning down the mobile homes of those who have complained, which to date is not a feature of leasehold living.
In other respects, the issues are very similar. Was it too much to expect some coherence and consistency from this minister?
Today both Housing Minister Grant Shapps and Siobhan McGrath, the senior barrister who presides over the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal system, face the cameras as part of the Channel Four Dispatches documentary into leasehold.
The programme will be shown on August 20. A second Dispatches programme on retirement leasehold is also nearing completition, although it has not been scheduled a date for broadcast. The following week, August 27, has been suggested, however.
Both Leasehold Knowledge Partnership and Carlex have assisted the programmes, as has the Charter Quay Residents’ Association.
Housing minister Grant Shapps has ruled out statutory regulation of the leasehold sector, but may well introduce measures to improve Leasehold Valuation Tribunals.
Furthermore, an announcement on the fraught issue of “exit fees” in the leasehold retirement sector, which are payable when a flat is sold, can be expected soon. These have been the subject of a prolonged inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading, which is due to make an announcement on the issue in mid-August.
Shapps says of leasehold: “I am therefore thinking about the issue and have not ruled out making other changes where I am able.”
His views are expressed in a letter to Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, who raised the issue on behalf of a pensioner in his Nottingham constituency. The exchange of letters took place last month.
They are the clearest indication of the current thinking of the Housing Minister on leasehold issues.
By ‘Barrack-room Lawyer’
(As ARHM president Baroness Greengross defined OAP complainers in retirement flats with too much time on their hands)
In last Monday’s House of Lords debate, initiated by Baroness Gardner of Parkes following meetings with LKP, a number of important issues faced by the leasehold sector were raised.
They were rebutted by the Government Minister Baroness Hanham, of the Department of Communities and Local Government, who insisted that everything is balanced and that the vast majority of leaseholders are “satisfied”.
She went on to claim that the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal service is now nothing to do with her department, and tells us that it is the leaseholders’ responsibility to ensure that there is nothing onerous in the lease. (And you thought that’s what you employed a solicitor for and why we had laws to protect us!)
For many years, Hanham – and her predecessors -– have been able to rely on leaseholders not fully understanding the complexities of this form of tenure, which she admits is a complex issue.
As a result, many a Murdoch like statement on leasehold is thrown in the leaseholders direction. The Baroness is able to claim evidence where none exists and, conversely, to claim no knowledge on issues well known to her department.
The body representing the most powerful interests in British property fully supports greater regulation of the leasehold sector – leaving Housing Minister Grant Shapps isolated in blocking regulation.
That was the main finding of LKP’s meeting with the British Property Federation’s chief executive Liz Peace and Ian Fletcher, who heads the BPF’s residential division.
The BPF had in fact lobbied in 2010 to stall the introduction of sections 152 and 156 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act, which was actually passed in 2002.
These protections to safeguard leaseholders’ money were in fact jettisoned by Shapps as soon as he took office in May 2010.
The BPF’s objections were that the sections were poorly drafted and the time-scale was unreasonable, but the basic principle – that leaseholders’ money should be better protected than it is now – was not disputed.
There is near unanimity on this – in theory – in the leasehold world, including among the trade bodies such as RICS, ARMA and the ARHM, and the BPF’s clarification will be hugely influential.
Keep informed of Carlex news – and keep the pressure on MPs to act!
Carlex exists to protect the elderly from being cheated by freehold-owning landlords and their agents.
There is huge scope for this with leasehold, a very bad form of property tenure unique to England and Wales. All leasehold homeowners – tenants, in law – are permanently vulnerable and it’s worse for the elderly.
It’s best not to buy it, and retirement property has plummeted in value. But if you are a leaseholder the major protections of the law exist only if you can act collectively.
It is essential to form residents’ associations so that you can challenge costs, exercise right to manage and, if necessary, take actions to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.
Everything is weighted against the leaseholder in this over-complicated and inefficient process, but as these pages show you can win if you are organised and well prepared.
Carlex will put leaseholders in touch with others who have been in the same position, who can offer invaluable advice and warnings about the possible pitfalls. We have a network of volunteer experts who will be happy to help.
All articles on Carlex aim to be accurate and fair. If there are any issues with them, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or 07808 328 230, and they will be dealt with as quickly as possible.
Carlex does not accept referral fees from ‘leasehold professionals’ or money from any commercial organisation. It is paid for by donations and none of its staff are remunerated.
Any donations by cheque must be clearly marked “Carlex donation” and made out to ‘Leasehold Knowledge Partnership’:
PO Box 383,
21 Prescott Street,
London E1 8RP.
Carlex can be contacted at:
07808 328 230
Carlex has published a full list of Peverel’s retirement sites with links to contacting the constituency MP.One feature that is immediately noticeable is that 73 per cent of retirement leasehold sites are in constituencies with Conservative MPs.Click on link … Get in touch with email@example.com. We will draft the complaint to local MP and ensure it is widely circulated in government to sympathetic MPs. These now include several Cabinet ministers. The result: the local MP writes a forcible, effective letter demanding answers. This is more effective than an angry rant to companies that have heard it all before ...
Tonight’s Dispatches programme (September 24 2012) on retirement leasehold was a brilliant example of television journalism that was extremely critical of both McCarthy and Stone and Peverel.Peverel’s LVT defeat at the hands of