England and Wales are the last countries in the West where you can buy a home but not own it. Now the government’s legal advisers want to rewrite the feudal idea that governs almost a fifth of flats and houses through the leasehold system.
It dates back almost a thousand years, to when William the Conqueror claimed all of England for the crown and leased estates to his lords. They, in turn, leased land to tenants on strict conditions. Today this idea allows landlords, or “freeholders”, to grant leaseholders the right to live in a property for 99 to 999 years — as long as they pay high prices for extending the term, service charges for upkeep, consent fees for anything from changing their mortgage