Plans to abolish the ‘feudal’ tenancy system in England and Wales were abandoned

Plans to abolish the “feudal” tenancy system in England and Wales were dropped after a battle between Downing Street and Michael Gove.

Gove, the housing secretary, will announce a series of measures next month to protect the 10 million Britons who own their homes on a rental basis, as part of a major speech following months of partisan disputes over housing.

The measures are expected to include a cap on land rents, more powers for tenants to choose their own property management companies and a ban on building owners forcing tenants to pay legal costs incurred as part of a dispute.

But Gove will stop short of abolishing tenancies entirely, despite a promise made in January to end it this year.

A spokesman for the Department of Equalization, Housing and Communities said: “We are determined to better protect and empower renters to challenge unreasonable costs.

“We’ve already made significant improvements in the marketplace: we’ve ended ground leases for most new residential leases and announced plans to make it easier and cheaper for renters to extend their lease or buy out freehold.

“In line with our stated commitment, we will introduce further tenancy reforms later in this parliament.”

Millions of Britons own their homes through a lease, forcing them to pay additional costs to the building owner, including land rents and service charges.

Apartment owners often have to pay tens of thousands of pounds to repair common areas in their buildings, even if they disagree with the work being done.

Gove has long promised to scrap the system, telling the Sunday Times earlier in the year that it wanted to do it this year.

“I don’t think the lease is fair in any way,” he said. “It’s an outdated feudal system that needs to go. And we have to move to a better system and free people from it.”

Gove told his government colleagues that ending leases would be a way to win votes and could help the party regain its reputation among younger urban voters, who are more likely to own flats.

The most recent YouGov poll shows that less than 15% of those under 50 would vote Conservative if the election were held tomorrow. A separate YouGov poll showed that just under half of voters supported the idea of ​​ending leases, while only 10% opposed it.

Gove wanted to replace flat leases with a ‘community’ system, which is used in other countries and would allow owners to make joint decisions about what should happen in the shared areas of the building.

However, several government sources have told The Guardian that Downing Street rejected Gove’s plan, with the prime minister’s officials arguing there would not be enough time before next year’s election to enact such major reforms.

One said: “Gove wanted to be maximalist on tenant reform, but we just don’t have time to be maximalist right now.”

This is not the first time Gove has been controlled by other departments. In February, the leveling department was barred from spending money on new capital projects amid concerns about how well public money was being managed.

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It’s also not the first time he’s had to water down his housing plans due to opposition within his own party.

Last year he removed a mandatory target for councils to build 300,000 new homes a year after rejection by Conservative MPs, making it voluntary.

That move caused dozens of local councils to halt or scale back their local housing construction plans, causing a collapse in the number of homes to be built in the next few years.

The Federation of Home Builders warned earlier this year that the supply of new homes in England would soon fall to its lowest level since World War Two.

Gove’s latest escalation will disappoint campaigners who have advocated for years for a complete end to leases.

Harry Soffin, co-founder of Commonhold Now, an anti-tenancy campaign group, said: “Michael Gove has made it clear that tenancy, which has its roots in serfdom and manor, has no place in a civilized society and must be abolished. .

“There are up to 10 million votes on this agenda. The Conservative Party would do well to be bold here and phase out the toxic landlord-controlled tenancy regime.”

Gove will argue that the reforms it is enacting will help encourage more people to buy flats and therefore more developers to build them.

If cities become more dense, he will argue, the government will be able to alleviate the country’s housing crisis without having to build as much on new land.

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