Our report breaks ground on the leasehold scandal and sets out our robust recommendations to tackle the growing problem of life sentence leaseholds. As part of our campaign, we surveyed over 1,000 leaseholders to explore the extent of the scandal which has left thousands of Brits facing escalating ground rent, extortionate fees for making cosmetic alternations and the inability to sell their homes.
Since its release, our research has received coverage from many major news providers and has been quoted in Parliament during debates. It found that 62 per cent of respondents felt they were mis-sold their leasehold property and 93 per cent would not purchase another leasehold property.
Thousands of homeowners are stuck in leasehold houses they cannot afford to continue living in and cannot sell. We surveyed over 1,000 people who bought a leasehold house to explore the extent of the scandal which has left thousands of Brits trapped in leases leases with third parties.
Companies that own or manage specialist retirement properties, usually flats owned on a long leasehold basis, often include a clause in their lease agreements requiring owners to pay an “exit” or “transfer” fee when they wish to sell or rent out their homes.
With an aging population, these types of property will become more prevalent. When purchasing retirement housing, many developers will go through the fees with prospective buyers and many agents do the same with the lease. It is important that purchasers and their families realise that the longer they live in these types of property, the higher the charge is likely to be.
We have been supporting the Law Commission as they look to introduce stringent codes of practice to help bring event fees to the attention of prospective buyers. In March 2017, the Law Commission produced a report on event fees which included a draft code of practice protecting consumers by preventing them from being charged in unexpected circumstances. The code limits the circumstances in which event fees can be charged and, in some cases, the amount that can be charged.
Leasehold properties in Wales
We were a member of the Welsh Government’s Task and Finish Group set up to reform the leasehold sector. Its report which identified failings in the leasehold system was released in Juy 2019.
They put forward recommendations on code of practice, accreditation of agents, options available to freehold homeowners and how to improve education, training, and awareness. The report will advise the Minister on leasehold reform including the reform of practices carried out by property agents.
What are we calling for?
In our submission to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee we outlined our position on what is being done and what needs to be done in reforming leasehold.
The government must:
- Prevent the sale of new-build leasehold houses unless there is a legitimate reason, such as shared ownership with a staircasing lease.
- Prevent doubling of ground rents and ban ground rents where they increase above inflation for existing leaseholders.
- Set ground rents at zero on all newly established leases.
- Introduce legislation to exempt leaseholders from Ground 8 possessions claims.
- Make enfranchisement easier and simplify the process for lease extensions.
- Legislate to ensure developers compensate consumers to remedy onerous clauses.
- Remove the requirement that leaseholders must own the lease on their house for two years before making a claim and ensure that developers do not build on land when they do not own the freehold to.
- Amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 to extend the Right of First Refusal to houses and simplify Right to Manage.
- Introduce overarching statutory regulation of the property sector.
- Create a digital log-book for each property that is bought and sold.
Support existing leaseholders:
- Purchasers of new build homes should have access to an ombudsman scheme.
- All new house builders sign up to the Consumer Code for Home Builders.
- Where there is no managing agent, freeholders must sign up to a redress scheme.
- Implement a code of practice and disclosure document concerning event fees in specialist retirement developments as drafted by the Law Commission in March 2017.
Estate agents have a level of responsibility, and the Consumer Protection Regulations require agents to pass on all material information in respect of a lease. This comprehensive guide will help NAEA Propertymark members with best practice regarding leasehold properties.
In our response, we argued that developers should not build on land they own the freehold to and houses should not be sold as leasehold except under specific circumstances.
We submitted a consultation response to Government on making the leasehold market fairer. We argued legislation should prohibit the granting of new residential leases on houses. The Government should also restrict ground rents on new leases for houses and flats.
The Government’s programme of work on residential leasehold reform must go further to help protect consumers.
We provided evidence to the Law Commission's consultation on the provisional proposals for reform of the current Right to Manage (RTM) legislation.
Related news and resources
The UK Government has opened a £4.5 billion Building Safety Fund, so more leaseholders in high-rise homes will be spared unfair bills for building safety.
In a roundtable meeting on 11 July 2022, Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change met with 13 developers to gain their intention to sign the Welsh Government’s Developer’s Pact, which commits them to remediate buildings they have developed 11 metres and over in height, which have identified fire safety issues.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Greg Clark MP, has sent out draft contracts to finalise pledges by major housebuilders to remediate and fund work to solve the UK’s cladding crisis.
Enacted in England and Wales on 28 June 2022, the Building Safety Act 2022 gives many leaseholders, for the first time, legal protection from unfair bills to make their homes safe.
The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022 takes effect on 30 June 2022, ending ground rent for most new long residential leases granted for properties in England and Wales.
The UK Government will launch an independent review of access to mortgage finance for first-time buyers, with the aim of making it easier to access low-cost, low-deposit finance such as 95 per cent mortgages.