Leasehold scandal: where can you turn for help?

While the number of new leasehold homes is falling, people are still affected by existing leasehold terms. So, where can homeowners go for help?

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The leasehold scandal that has shaken the UK property market, along with the investigation launched into unfair leasehold practices by the Competition and Markets Authority have resulted in a dramatic fall in the numbers of new homes sold as leasehold in England. According to the official report released by the Office for National Statistics, the number of houses sold as leasehold dropped to 4.2 per cent in 2018, down from 17.5 per cent in January 2017. 

While this is good progress, there are still thousands of homeowners trapped in unfair leasehold contracts, saddled with unreasonable ground rent increases and huge fees payable for home alternations and improvements. What recourse do homeowners in this situation have at this point in time?  

There is some good news for those whose main issue has been the doubling of ground rents, with the government having launched an industry pledge that creates a mechanism for freeholders to remove the unfair ground rent clauses from existing leaseholders' contracts. This pledge is not enforced by law, making it essentially voluntary for developers, but as many as forty developers have already signed it. 

If you're not sure whether your developer has signed the pledge, or the problems with your leasehold are more complex (to do with other fees and charges, for instance), you can contact The Leasehold Advisory Service who offer advice on a range of leasehold issues, including a dedicated section for Wales. Their CEO, Anthony Essien, comments:

'If you are affected by doubling ground rents or onerous lease terms, contact the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE). LEASE can highlight whether your developer or landlord is one that has joined the recent government-backed pledge to free existing leaseholders trapped in onerous deals. You can get advice on this, and more leasehold matters, through our dedicated website, free telephone appointments , in writing or by a pre-arranged outreach session for groups of leaseholders.'

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