THE Government is planning to reform the controversial leasehold system in England to clamp down on high costs when extending a lease.

The government's proposals should help those with shorter leases fearing bills of many thousands of pounds.

Former council tenants who bought their homes in the 1980s are likely to be among those who could benefit.

Campaigners gave the complex proposals, which could affect up to four million homes, a guarded welcome.

Some have dubbed the system as "fleecehold", owing to issues over escalating rents and high charges.

While they welcome protections for leaseholders in the future, many believe they should be paid compensation for unjustified charges and rents in the past.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: "Across the country people are struggling to realise the dream of owning their own home but find the reality of being a leaseholder far too bureaucratic, burdensome and expensive.”

The initial part of the plan will see leaseholders given the opportunity to extend their lease for 990 years - reducing risks of the property becoming more difficult to sell.

The move is being welcomed by Propertymark - the professional body for estate agency staff, which has campaigned on the issue.

Mark Hayward, Propertymark’s chief policy adviser, said: "While we welcome the government's initiative to reduce ground rents to zero for all new retirement properties, we would argue this needs to be extended to all retirement properties to create a level playing field.”