Sadiq Khan: leaseholders in England should have the right to withhold service charges

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has called for leaseholders hit with exorbitant and unjust service charges to have the right to refuse payment. This demand comes amidst concerns that the government has reneged on its promises to enhance tenants’ rights. In London alone, there are 1.4 million leasehold properties, a quarter of the national total, with many residents suffering from what Khan describes as a “shameful abuse of power” by landlords.

Khan’s proposal aims to attach the right to withhold unfair service charges to the leasehold and freehold reform bill currently passing through parliament. He emphasizes the need for stronger rights for leaseholders to challenge unjust charges, with new powers of redress and the ability to withhold service charges that lack justification.

Under Khan’s plan, leaseholders could withhold payments for service charges that have not been adequately explained in writing, such as in a statement of accounts. Additionally, he advocates for empowering the housing ombudsman with greater oversight over the level and increase of service charges, as well as making it easier and more affordable for leaseholders to take legal action against their landlords as a last resort.

Khan’s comments come in the wake of an investigation by The Observer, revealing dramatic increases in annual service charges by some of the UK’s largest housing providers, causing financial distress for many residents. Residents, particularly those in shared ownership properties, have seen service charge increases of over 40%, with some now facing charges higher than their share of rent.

As Khan heads into a London mayoral election, housing remains a key issue. While his rival, Susan Hall, focuses on affordable family homes and blocking unwanted tower blocks, Khan continues to advocate for stronger rights and protections for leaseholders, aiming to address the ongoing challenges faced by London’s housing market.

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