The CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) have issued an interim update report on leasehold houses mis-selling. The findings totally vindicate the work of the National Leasehold Campaign and Leasehold Knowledge Partnership in publicising the selling practices and onerous leases being almost universally promoted by the big plc housebuilders in recent years. The report identifies the major areas it will work on and plans to call for more evidence.
In paragraph 14 there is specific reference to “fleecehold” :
The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, a number of MPs, and members of the public have expressed concerns about freehold mis-selling – so called ‘fleecehold’. This is a separate issue from those presently under investigation as our current focus is on issues in leasehold home ownership. As the CMA’s Chairman, Lord Tyrie, has said, the CMA will in due course consider whether to investigate freehold mis-selling, assessing the matter against its prioritisation principles. However we wish to complete our work in leasehold first and anticipate that doing so will assist us should we open a case on freehold mis-selling
What we would like is for them to also understand that estate charges are based on unfair contracts both for leasehold and fleecehold – it is not just a matter of mis-selling although this has happened with fleecehold too. The private estate market is rife with anti-competitive practices including embedded management companies, and sale of rent charges and/or land to private companies without any resident input, accountability or choice.
We applaud the Welsh Assembly for commencing a consultation on Estate Charges and urge everyone affected by these charges in Wales to submit their stories. We can only hope that Westminster and the other devolved housing departments follow suit.
We often now have prospective house purchasers joining our FaceBook group to find out more about estate charges. Some are happy to proceed after informing themselves of what they are taking on and some are not. With their permission we reproduce verbatim a post from a person who pulled out of buying a second hand “fake freehold/fleecehold” home.
Reports are coming in thick and fast of mortgage lenders finally wanting to think about protecting their freehold interest in homes subject to a rent charge. Recent reports in the media include the trigger article by Mortgage Solutions on 19th November 2019.
This was then followed up on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours and Money Box Live later in that week.
What’s the problem?? We think there must have been a case somewhere in the country (it was briefly touched upon in the Money Box item) where a lease has been taken on a supposedly freehold home by the rent charge owner. We know the Council of Mortgage lenders had asked the government to amend the law to remove this draconian penalty for non payment of the rent charge as long ago as 2016. At that time the risk was academic, but a case makes it a reality.
We have had a trickle of reports from our own supporters of sales falling through because their buyers lender insisted on a deed to protect them against this measure. It appears the developers who wrote the original deeds are not always willing to do this, or the delay causes the chain of buyers/sellers to collapse.
What do we say?? We have lobbied for change in this area for a couple of years, and do welcome recognition and protection for new home owners in future, we have grave concerns about the situation of those who have a rent charge and no protection. Government needs to act quickly and repeal section 121 of the Law of Property Act so that non payment of rent charges can only be pursued in the county courts, like any other debt. This will let us out of “mortgage prison” and obviate the need for individual deeds of variation.
“But there is no government” I hear you say – agreed and all the more reason to challenge your own parliamentary candidates on the issue before you vote for/against them….