Is this the end for unfair leases?
The Government has recently published proposals following a consultation on how best to tackle unfair practices in the leasehold property market.
The consultation focused on four main areas of concern that have caused countless problems for unwary property buyers over the years:
- The unjustified use by developers of leaseholds for new houses.
- Excessive and unjustifiable ground rents in leases.
- Expensive service charges and poor service for freehold house owners on housing developments.
- The standard and speed of service provided, and level of fees charged, by landlords/management companies in response to requests for standard leasehold information during the conveyancing process.
The Government has pledged to tackle these issues by implementing the following reforms:
- Banning the use of leasehold for most new houses.
- Banning altogether the charging of ground rent in new leases.
- Granting freehold house owners on housing developments the power to challenge service charges and to have site managers replaced.
- Limiting to £200 plus VAT the administration fees chargeable by landlords/management companies for providing leasehold information during the sale process and requiring them to provide the information within 15 days of the request.
Laura Mather, conveyancing solicitor at Samuels in Barnstaple says: "These reforms will require the passing of legislation and so it is not possible to say how soon they will be implemented, but the Government’s commitment is a welcome development for those looking to buy in the future."
These measures will not of course help those already caught in unfair leasehold arrangements. The existing law may however already provide an acceptable remedy to those affected. Expert advice is available and should be taken before deciding what to do next.
Ground rent claims have increased in recent years, to compensate leaseholders who have found themselves paying escalating ground rents to freeholders.