Darren Bagnall from Block in a Box, looks back at 2023 and at what lessons we can learn from a challenging year. 2023 has been a challenging year for most. For property managers, the ongoing cost of living crisis, issues with unsafe cladding, and seemingly endless legal updates have certainly kept you on your toes! Here we’ll be examining the challenges you may have faced (alongside the usual stresses of the job), how many of you have navigated your way through them, and how you can take those lessons learned forward with you into 2024.

Cost-of-Living Crisis

We discussed the cost-of-living crisis in our March 23 blog which summarised the causes of the additional costs we were all facing in the early part of the year: “Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, huge rises in inflation, the cost of materials and increasing fuel prices have all pushed demands up and up.” For most blocks, these issues culminated in increased service charges and energy bills. For some, this would have been irritating. For others, it would have been devastating and led to some tough choices being made. For property managers (who would have been feeling the pinch yourselves), this meant working with stressed leaseholders. You probably saw a rise in service charge arrears as people struggled to balance their bills, as well as a surge in complaints. Many leaseholders would have been quicker to point out issues as they felt the need to squeeze value from their inflated charges, and frayed tempers meant that a thank you was hard to come by.

The Covid Hangover

Having got through the worst of the pandemic, we were still feeling the impact of Covid well into 2023. For property managers, this may have included a shift in leaseholders as people moved out of cities and into more rural areas thanks to the flexibility of home working. This also mean that many managers saw an increase in energy bills and noise complaints as workers stayed at home with the heating on and were now aware of the daytime noise they’d usually miss. You may also have experienced an influx of pets into your building, as so many people took on dogs and cats as they had the time to care for them and wanted the company throughout the day. Of course, this may also have added to noise complaints as well as issue with mess and fleas.

Cladding Issues

By the end of January 2023, the Government had made it clear that leaseholders should not be held responsible for the financial burden of correcting unsafe cladding. This was a welcome relief, but for many, the issue of pinning developers down and arranging for works to be done is still ongoing to this day. Many leaseholders are still living in unsafe blocks, or have been evacuated for much of the year- which is the case for Ipswich block, Cardinal Crofts. The Government is in the process of taking legal action against the developer, and the freeholder has offered to buy back the leases as of October 23. Others find themselves in limbo where the cladding has been removed but not yet replaced, leaving homes uninhabitable through the winter months. This is the case for Ecclestone House in Bristol. For many property managers, these issues are very much ongoing and are affecting their daily lives as they try to handle their leaseholders’ concerns.

Legislative Changes

In June 2022 we had the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022 (which effectively abolished ground rents and reduced fees for lease extensions down to a peppercorn) so things had already started to shift. We then had the Financial Conduct Authority’s regulation update, released in September 2023, which heralded two more major changes:
  •  That Leaseholders will now be considered equal stakeholders when it comes to their buildings insurance, regardless of who actually arranges the policy
  • The other is that firms must provide a disclosure document for any and all stakeholders, which will now include leaseholders (a detailed document that must contain the information needed for leaseholders to be given true transparency and the chance to challenge the policy choice).
Now we have the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill. Introduced to parliament on the 27th November 2023, the bill focusses on bolstering the rights of leaseholders when it comes to collective enfranchisement and lease extensions. Headline changes include: Lease Extensions: The bill makes it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to extend their leases, with ground rent brought down to a peppercorn and marriage value abolished. Leaseholders no longer need to have owned their property for 2 years to be able to extend their lease under the new rules and the standard lease extension term has been increased to 990 years. Taking over the management of buildings: The bill makes it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to buy the freehold of their property, to appoint a managing agent of their choice, or to exercise their enfranchisement rights (as they will no longer need to pay the freeholder’s costs). Transparency and Redress: The bill will ensure that service charge statements are clearer and provided in a standardised format so they can be compared and challenged more easily. Freeholders will now need to belong to a redress scheme so that leaseholders can challenge their decisions in the same way they can for managing agents. The presumption that leaseholders should pay the legal costs of their freeholders when taking an issue to tribunal is abolished and insurance commissions have been replaced with transparent admin fees. Buying and Selling: The bill sets out a maximum length of time for freeholders to supply leaseholders with the information they need to put their unit up for sale and newbuild houses will no longer be allowed to be sold on a leasehold basis unless in exceptional circumstances.


There is a common theme among the challenges faced this year, in that they all required property managers to become even better communicators. Customer service has never been more vital- a willingness to engage, empathise and provide clear, informed updates has now become imperative.

Regardless of what 2024 may bring, it’s communication and the promotion of neighbourly harmony that will see property managers through. That and a steadfast commitment to staying up to date with changes and gaining a true understanding of how those changes may affect both leaseholders and freeholders in the coming months.