Further protection and rights for long residential leaseholders come into force

Leaseholders will be better protected against the threat of forfeiture, and will have to receive a written demand from their landlord for the payment of ground rent before it becomes payable.

Leaseholders of houses will also be able to choose their own buildings insurance for the property rather than use an insurer nominated or approved by their landlord. As well the valuation date for the 'collective enfranchisement' of flats will be fixed at the date the initial notice is served. This avoids unnecessary arguments and removes the possibility of delaying tactics being used by either party to try and gain a windfall.

From today the package of measures will:

* require landlords to demand ground rents in a specific manner before they are able to take any action or impose any penalties for late payment;

* require landlords to first satisfy a leasehold valuation tribunal, court or arbitral tribunal that a disputed breach of a covenant or condition of the lease has occurred before they are able to take any forfeiture action;

* prevent landlords from forfeiting leases as a result of trivial debts that consist of ground rent, service charges, administration charges (or a combination of them) where the debt does not exceed £350, unless all or any part of the sum has been outstanding for more than 3 years;

* prevent landlords from insisting that leaseholders of houses use a particular insurance company nominated or approved by them to insure their house;

* fix the valuation date for collective enfranchisement of flats at the date that the initial notice is served.

Importantly amendments made to the instruments have clarified two particular measures:

* Regulations introducing the right for leaseholders of houses to choose their own buildings insurance prescribes the form of the notice to be served by a leaseholder wishing to exercise this right. This includes a required statement in every notice that 'I/We have no reason to believe that the policy does not cover your interests'.

* A saving and transitional provision concerned with the fixing of the valuation date for the collective enfranchisement of flats now provides that where an initial notice has been served before 28 February 2005, the valuation date will continue to be either that agreed by the parties, or the date when a leasehold valuation tribunal determines what freehold interest is to be acquired by the purchaser. This amendment removes the need for leaseholders and landlords to obtain further valuation advice, helping them to avoid incurring further expense and facing possible delays.

Two other provisions which will be implemented at a later stage are Right to Enfranchise and the accounting requirements imposed on landlords.