Numbers Growing and Working Away

To all members new and old, this is to bring you up to speed with our activities.

There are now nearly 1,200 FaceBook group members and many others who have joined our private forum and been in contact by email. Networking has proved a tremendous success and members UK wide shared experiences confirm the common concerns which are:

Pressure of time and misleading information during the purchase process.

Promotion of builder recommended solicitors who are not informing purchasers of the implications of their covenants.

High costs, especially for managing the companies, and poor value for money.

No choice of provider, and no alternative dispute resolution process.

No consumer rights. Small claims courts being used to force payment in dispute.

Both leasehold and freehold properties are affected by establishment of an estate rent charge and associated covenants in the deeds.

The law in Scotland is different, but the issues similar.

Nearly all new build estates over the past 10 years are affected by this – estimated at 1 million homes.

Our conclusion is that the law must to changed – this positively feudal set up is not fit for purpose in the 21st century.

What we are doing:

Members are contacting their MPs and there are indications we will find two or three who will sponsor our campaign to change the law. The election is both a challenge and an opportunity and members are asking at the hustings what parties intend to do for us.

We are in discussions with a legal firm to develop a model for challenging the monopoly aspect of this exploitative set up. Also we are exploring the case for group actions against solicitors and vendors for negligence and misrepresentation. In Scotland there may be a further challenge at the Lands Tribunal – see this post.

We have submitted a written briefing paper to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Common Hold Reform and hope to make more representations for a change in the law to protect us when it reconvenes after the election.

We continue to raise the profile of our issues at every opportunity we can, and are building a collection of useful press contacts. At the moment our problems are overshadowed by the leasehold scandal which has had considerable press coverage, but we plan to build on that by pointing out the many similarities in the two situations e.g. the same players are exploiting new home owners, not being truthful about the implications of buying their houses, using feudal land law to their advantage, retention of assets to make more money and generally behaving in an unethical and immoral fashion.

 

 

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RoS Chickens out in Scotland

Following the success of the Marriot case in late 2015 where the burdens were declared invalid due to lack of certainty (i.e. not sufficiently complete or detailed to show what land was being paid far), other home owners on that development applied to RoS (keeper of the land register) and had their burdens removed as well. They no longer had to pay a charge, but Greenbelt still owned the open spaces. At first they refused to maintain it, but the land has to be maintained because of the planning agreements with the council. Then they started selling off parcels of land to unsuspecting small developers who hope to build one or two houses there.

The next stage involved many Scottish home owners on other estates managed by Greenbelt also applying to have their burdens removed, initially with success, but recently RoS appears to have responded to industry pressure and is refusing to use the Marriot case as a precedent.

RoS now expect home owners to reach agreement with Greenbelt (pigs might fly!) or each take a case to the Lands Tribunal.

This turn of events is disappointing, but predictable – the establishment will fight back. Home owners know the more resistance they encounter, the more seriously their campaign is being taken. There are plans to organise a group action in response to the RoS stance on this. More details will be posted as things develop.

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Public or Private – The Debate

We conducted a survey of 100 HorNet Members in January 2017. Here is a summary:

Only 10% of people felt they were fully informed prior to purchase. This means 90% did not know what they were getting into.

Problems encountered and reported as individual comments:

Monopoly – no choice. Only 7% responded that there was an arrangement to switch management company.

Premature charging on unfinished estates

Lack of proper preparation by developer leading to greater expense down the line

Very common problem of play parks being unsafe and not built to standard

Errors in charging (usually overcharging – one of duplicate charging when a home was sold)

High costs for work done – poor value for money.

Disproportionate costs for administration.

Minimal or no response to concerns or queries.

Bullying tactics to recover “debt” which was often with held payment due to dissatisfaction.

Passing the buck for problems on the estate between management companies, developers and sometimes the council – can’t get anything fixed because no one will take responsibility.

Antisocial behaviour and vandalism on the amenity land.

We also ran a FaceBook group poll in December 2016

The Choices:

1. Forced adoption 39 votes

2. Common hold 6 votes

3. Regulation and choice in the current model 0 votes

Where does that leave us? Are these votes are truly representative?

If the government implements measures from the white paper the All Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Common Hold is likely to contain we would have regulation, right to manage and some redress within the current system.

However, the issues arising from private ownership of public open space and the unfairness of one small group paying for its maintenance are not addressed. We should not oppose a change which will give us more rights, but it will not fundamentally change the model.

Is there an argument for bringing open space into public ownership through community trusts? This looks to be the way parks are going to be managed in future.

What other workable solutions can you suggest?

Please comment with your views (public on the web site) – you may also email or join our forum to post in private. You can discuss with others in our FaceBook Group.

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Telford Group Fight in Court

A local HorNet group in Telford are defending themselves in court. It isn’t about bad debt but the principle. Home owners have been hoodwinked into signing deeds which are then used as a blunt instrument to extract payment for maintaining land which isn’t theirs and which gives them no special benefit as it is open to the general public.

This is what they say:

We contend that misleading or false information was given to us by Taylor Wimpey about the nature of the maintenance contract the covenant allows them to enforce.  Say home owners; Tracey Thatcher, Martin Walker, Tatiana Popa, Daniel Popa, Joanne Briggs, Karmjeet Singh Rai, Karolina Gryz,  Ewelina  Gryz, Edwin Chittenen, Susan Jesse,  Jaques Chiankem Fozao  
           
Taylor Wimpy have though their Maintenance company Mainstay have now taken us to the small claims court in Telford.  The Judge adjourned in favour of the home owners and now Mainstay have appealed. In case is due to go back to court before Judge McQueen on 27th March.

 

We are behind you 100%!

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The Female of the Species……

Just before International Day for Women 2017, three indomitable HorNet “queens” visited the Lincoln’s Inn area of London for preliminary talks with a top London lawyer. The mission – to challenge the private estate business model under UK wide law.

The talks went well and we are optimistic about being able to take a challenge to the courts. It is, however, early days and as we all know such things take time. We will keep all our members informed of progress when we are able to say more….

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The “Sting” in The Tale

Imagine this – once upon a time – you are a fly (or hornet) on the wall at the builders annual bash for awarding themselves 5 star customer service.

Two CEO’s are chatting:

I’m getting a bit worried that we will be found out over leasehold revenue – we may be stopped from selling the freeholds for the best price and have to offer them to the leaseholders for a pittance! What if we can’t double ground rents every 10 years – where is our income stream then?

I see what you mean, we can’t go back to the days of just building quality houses for a reasonable profit, one gets used to a certain standard of living!

Well here’s a plan – call it “son of leasehold” if you like. You know all that nice green space the planners make us create on new estates? Instead of paying a fortune in commuted sums to the council for adoption, let’s keep it. You never know if the rules change in future, we could build more houses or even have the odd fracking mine.

That’s fine, but what about the cost of maintaining it?

 

Oh – we just get the mugs who buy the houses to pay for that!

 

Surely even they will see through it – I don’t understand how you can pull that one off.

 

This is the wheeze – we use an old bit of property law and write it into their deeds so they can’t get out of paying. They won’t find out what they have got into until after they have signed the dotted line and can’t escape. We can tell them the service charge is for all the lovely green space on the estate. We won’t tell them it is our land, we run the management company which is answerable to us alone or that the council expect the land to have public access so the home owners will end up paying for clearing up after them as well. Sales can even hint at them being able to change the company or become members, but of course we won’t be doing that…

Are you sure they won’t twig on?

 

Yes – the contract is in their deeds – they don’t read them, and if they do they don’t understand them.

What about their solicitors?

 

They don’t understand them either, and anyway we will get them to use our approved firms – soo much easier!

What about the planners?

 

They won’t care so long as the land is maintained, and anyway they always do what we recommend. We are the experts..

And the politicians?

 

No problem, they need us to build the houses they have promised to the voters.

What if the home owners ask awkward questions or refuse to pay?

 

We don’t have to answer them, we can just take them to court for non payment. That’s the beauty of it!

Some of the land is too small to be useful to us – what about that?

 

I’ve got a mate with a gardening company who will be happy to buy those and make himself a fortune.

I’m convinced – let’s go for it…

 

And they all lived happily for about 10 years until one day they looked up into the sky and saw a yellow and black cloud – as it got closer they saw a swarm of angry HorNets swooping down on them.

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Survey for an English Test Case

The effects of the test case in Scotland are now being felt with many home owners successfully getting their burdens struck out! We are preparing to run a test case under English law and need your help. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/B8HTNDV

The information will be used to support our campaigns as well as helping us identify suitable deeds to challenge.

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A New Year Opportunity!

Happy New Year HorNets!

Let’s make it a good one. Start by contacting your MP to urge them to join the All Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Common Hold Reform. This group is looking at land and property reform in view of the exploitation of their constituents who are leaseholders. The recent debate (20th December 2016) highlighted the problems ordinary home owners face when up against greedy land owners and maintenance companies. We are in a similar situation and need to get the private estate model stopped before more new home owners become trapped. The co chair, Jim Fitzpatrick did mention our problems in his introductory speech.  You can watch the debate here –  http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/5069cc08-aeee-4451-93d8-fef9b0802407?in=14:31:10

For more information about the group take a look at http://www.leaseholdknowledge.com/category/mps-appg-on-leasehold

Don’t miss this golden opportunity to include our issues in any proposed reforms – TAKE ACTION – write to your MP now! You can use this template as a basis APPGMP

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A Dog’s Dinner?

Eventually passes through… What has this got to do with private estates? Well – we have public open spaces on private land and literally are falling between stools! Dog fouling legislation in England applies only to public open spaces, so if there is a problem on your estate the council may not act. You will almost certainly be paying for the clean up through your management charges if the company actually deal with it.

This post is not intended to be offensive, but the scenario does highlight how the private estate model is unworkable at the practical day to day level which impacts on all our lives.

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Double Whammy for Leaseholders on Private Estates

As we link across the country with other home owners we discover that leaseholders on private estates not only have to pay the same land maintenance charges, but are faced with excessive ground rents and unaffordable prices if they wish to buy their freehold. This article gives some details.

So it is not only freeholders who are being ripped off in this scandalous land grab!

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