The National Leasehold Campaign is calling for a Select Committee Inquiry into the leasehold scandal. In the north east and Ellesmere Port area, developers like Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon sold houses as leasehold and over two years later the buyers are still in legal disputes, fighting arbitrary charges, or unable to sell. Housing Minister Sajid Javid has promised a ban on leasehold houses, but the thousands who have already bought are still in legal limbo. The National Leasehold Campaign is an 11,000 strong Facebook group which has been largely responsible for bringing the issue to government and media attention.
These are just some of the issues the inquiry would address –
- Leasehold houses were sold with doubling ground rents
- Buyers were encouraged to use the seller’s solicitors based on arbitrary deadlines and a need for speed.
- The solicitors had an undeclared conflict of interest and failed to properly advise the buyers.
- Many of the houses were sold using the government Help to Buy scheme which led buyers to believe the purchase was endorsed and validated by the government.
- Many of the leases include permission fees for minor alterations e.g. £300 to lay a new carpet!
- Buyers were told they could buy the freehold later at a reasonable price – only to find the freehold sold on to an offshore company that asked wildly inflated sums.
- Some buyers have been offered a ‘freehold’ but with covenants regarding service charges and permission fees. Residents describe these as ‘fleecehold’.
- Some buyers have received offers to buy the freehold, but on condition they drop any further action regarding solicitor conflict of interest.
- Some buyers receive bills for maintenance of adjacent roads, grass and common areas in addition to being charged full council tax. This is because the developers who bought the land seek to pass on the costs of maintenance.
What’s it got to do with London?
Most of these houses were sold in the north-east but here’s why the inquiry is relevant for Londoners too. Every new housing unit in recent years has been built on the developers’ terms, and there are scant legal controls on service charges, permissions or covenants, or fairness in the terms of shared ownership schemes. Just this week a woman lost her shared ownership flat when the service cost was ramped up from £59 to £200 per month. And when public land is sold to developers, residents are charged with its maintenance.
Please ask your MP to support the call for an inquiry by contacting Clive Betts, the Chair of the Select Committee for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and copy in officeofclivebettsmp@parli