In May last year I stood on a manifesto that put forward plans to make sure there were ‘Homes for All’ – one important part of the housing picture is the security of tenure.

To end the scandal of poor-quality estates Plaid Cymru said we would legislate to end the practice of leasehold homes with unfair service charges.

Over the last year I have been acting on behalf of many of my constituents in my region on this issue, particularly those living in Cardiff Bay and ‘The Mill’ estate in Canton. Residents in these communities face high maintenance bills that their neighbours a few meters away do not. They pay council tax but are still required to pay on top of this for their roads, pavements and amenities.

Lease holding is one tradition in Wales and England that most would agree that we can do without. Compared to freehold agreements, where people own the property and the land it’s built on, leasehold agreements are incredibly limiting, both on leaseholders and building managers.

Lease holding in Wales

Approximately 235,000 properties in Wales are leaseholds. This means that about 16% of the total housing stock in this country follow this archaic model of ownership. Notably, both Cardiff and Swansea are hotspots for leaseholds.

Many of these leaseholders struggle to understand the full implications of the law when they purchase these properties, mostly due to the intricate web of legislation leading to a lack of education available around the topic. Crucially, leaseholders do not have the freedom or control that they would expect from owning property; they are essentially living on someone else’s land.

The Law Commission has already made these criticisms clear, including the economic issues of leaseholds as “wasting assets.” One of the most critical issues with them is their restrictive nature, particularly for owners and/or building managers. These individuals have limited rights to perform safety checks on the property, meaning that there is a huge safety concern behind them. As in the Grenfell Tower case, one can imagine the same issue of cladding going undetected due to these restrictions.

What can replace it?

I had an enjoyable conversation with former Welsh Government Minister Sue Essex about the campaign she had with my father, Owen John Thomas in the 1970s for leasehold reform in Cardiff. Thanks to campaigns like that across the United Kingdom, leasehold was a dying form of tenure, yet it has returned with vengeance, to the detriment of thousands of people.

It is time for Wales to join the international stage to reject this old-fashioned, unfair practice, like Scotland, Ireland and Australia have done. We need to bring to an end  leasehold in our country, an end to ground rent, and an end to non-resident management companies.

We need a more holistic and sustainable approach to lease holding. The rights of leaseholders need to be expanded upon by the Welsh Government, both as a matter of freedom and of safety

More education is needed for leaseholders, so they know what their rights are before they buy.

A new accreditation system could help ensure residential blocks are up to the Welsh Government’s standards, particularly in high rise blocks that we see in our larger cities like Cardiff and Swansea.

One option is for the introduction of a ban on unjustified use of leasehold in new built houses.

Once fair terms of agreement are properly set out, we could follow Scotland and Ireland to put an end to all leaseholder tenures, being replaced by freehold and commonhold contracts.