Sebastian O'Kelly

Registered with
Friday 20th December 2019

Latest Comments

Total Number of Property118 Comments: 3

Sebastian O'Kelly

10:32 AM, 9th July 2020, About A year ago

Major works with ever rising costs

Try the leaseholders' charity

The absolute rule of leasehold litigation is to pay first, fight second, owing to the unfair cost regime under leases. There are many examples of disastrous litigation on the LKP website where people have not followed this. There are successes with section 20, too. But it is major litigation and needs a strong group to pool resources and pay for professionals. No one is going to pay much attention to a lay person's opinion on a major work to a high rise block, for eg.... Read More

Sebastian O'Kelly

15:03 PM, 7th May 2020, About 2 years ago

Walking Watch Fire Safety Charges?

Sebastian O'Kelly, LKP, writes:

Freeholders are not organising waking watch "because it's the right thing to do", but because they have a legal obligation to keep a building safe. Or face prosecution.

The freeholder / his manager will be making a profit out of organising the waking watch, as there will be a management fee. There will also be a profit involved in cladding remediation. There will be some work involved in organising both contracts (quite a lot, in cases of the latter).

The freeholder will almost certainly be making a profit from the insurance of the building, and leaseholders will be paying - but without being a contracted party they will be unable to know what this commission involves. Freeholders' insurance often applies across the portfolio. Insurance commissions and complaints over claims, which freeholders routinely do not pursue if it conflicts with wider commercial interests, are routine. Leaseholders pay for insurance and should be a contracted party.

The waking watch was always intended to be an interim measure lasting a few months, but replaced with upgraded alarm systems. That's according to Roy Wilsher, Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).

It is unlikely that the larger freehold owners of these assets are maintaining the waking watch for commercial gain. More because it is a compliance belt and braces, and, besides, the leaseholders are paying, not them.

The familiar rubbish about commonhold need not detain us. Any commonhold association (or RMC or RTM in England and Wales) will soon find decisions taken out of their hands for non-compliance in today's regime of fire safety. This has happened in Australia with strata associations, and it almost certainly should happen at Islington Gates in Birmingham, an RMC, which has a huge service charge shortfall and is poised to become uninsurable. Without outside assistance, it will need to be evacuated.

Government ministers wasted two years urging freeholders to "do the decent thing" and pay to remediate "their" buildings. This was in part because they believed the lobbying propaganda of the ground rent lobby that professional investors in freeholds were the "responsible long term custodians" of buildings.

LKP has long been critical of residential freeholders, and the unbalanced powers that they have, but did indicate that they were only the speculators in residential buildings' freeholds and should not pay for cladding remediation and associated costs:

Of course, this is a bad way of organising communal living in flats, with wide potential for abuse. The rest of the world uses forms of commonhold, but it must be understood that this involves greater responsibility as well as freedom from a minority shareholder, with an array of privileges under the law in any money dispute. The windfall of lease forfeiture being the most egregious.... Read More

Sebastian O'Kelly

10:14 AM, 20th December 2019, About 2 years ago

New Father of the House and leasehold reform?

Leasehold is not a "useful concept". It is not even a concept at all, rather a convention that has existed for centuries with cobbled together laws and, in modern times, used primarily for communal properties (flats).

No other jurisdiction, including English law ones, use it. It is inherently unbalanced, and a means to squirrel away an investment asset into people's homes. It needs replacing with commonhold, as repeated reforms have failed.

It would be iniquitous to create another 100 dukes of Westminster through this flawed system, yet that is what we are doing.

The Grenfell and other combustible cladding issues have shown just how utterly pointless third party freehold owning is in residential homes. An impediment to resolving this crisis, with a legal entity that pays for nothing, yet receives the income from the building.

It needs stopping, and leaseholders need to be real owners of their flats and take full responsibility for them - as flat owners do in the rest of the world, including Scotland.... Read More