Developers to be banned from selling leasehold new-build houses

The ban revealed today does not help those already stuck with high charges but it increases the chance that they will get assistance, says Joanne Darbyshire, of the National Leasehold Council.

She said: ‘Today’s announcement is brilliant news for future home buyers and ramps up the pressure to ensure that those of us already caught up in this leasehold scandal are given proper financial redress and a bright future in a freehold house or commonhold flat.’ 

Most of those trapped say their main problem is that they are being asked to stump up huge sums to buy the freehold and cannot sell to others without doing this.

Andrea Millward with husband Roi and their children, Fienna, 8 , and Isaac, 5

When they moved into their three-bedroom semi-detached leasehold house near Liverpool, Andrea Millward and husband Roi were told that after living in the house for two years, they could buy the freehold at a cost of £2,950.

But 11 months after moving in, the developer sold the freehold on to a third party investment company.

Now the cost of buying the freehold could be much higher.

On top of this, Andrea said she was not told about a doubling ground rent clause until she was too far into the buying process. 

The couple are now left paying an annual ground rent charge of £295, which doubles every 10 years. 

‘We wanted to move house to get into a better school catchment area, but we couldn’t sell it and we’re not allowed to rent it out. We’re trapped here,’ Andrea said.

This is a familiar situation for tens of thousands of leaseholders up and down the country. 

Two of them are Kim Healy and Craig Gibson, who were desperate to move into their new home before the birth of their first child.

Kim Healy and Craig Gibson

Kim Healy and Craig Gibson

The young couple from Binfield, Berkshire, had planned to move from their two-bedroom flat to a three-bedroom house on the same new-build estate as Kim’s mother, so she could help with childcare following the birth in August.

But just weeks before they had hoped to move, their solicitor told them their buyer’s application for a mortgage had been refused because the ground rent on the flat was too high.

When they asked their housebuilder to reduce the annual payment from £500 to £300 — which the buyer’s lender would accept — the firm said they would need to pay more than £7,000.

‘I was appalled,’ says Kim. ‘Even our solicitor told me she was shocked by the amount. For our buyers to achieve a saving of £200 a year, it will cost us 35 times that amount.’  

It’s not just ground rent clauses that are ruining the lives of many leaseholders. 

Leasehold prisoner Lynn Myers

Leasehold prisoner Lynn Myers

Lynn Myers, a widowed mother living with her young daughter, feared she would be left in ‘dire’ financial straits after her estate fees tripled in just two years. 

When she bought her leasehold home in late 2016 on a quiet estate of newly built houses, she was thrilled.

But in just two years, Lynn was left regretting her decision to buy after her builder hired a new estate management company and fees began to rise.

Originally expecting to pay just £50 per year, she ended up being handed a bill for six times that amount.

‘This is affecting my mental and physical health,’ she said. ‘I truly do not know if on top of full council tax, I can afford these estate fees together with my ground rent once my widow’s pension stops in three years’ time.’