It was another day in the media for Taylor Wimpey over leasehold houses scandal as BBC Radio 4’s influential You and Yours programme returned to the subject.
This time reporter Simon Hoban looked at buyers whose leases had already eroded two or three years before purchase – meaning they face doubled grounds of £500 next year.
The report concentrated on Speakman Gardens, in Knowsley, near Liverpool, interviewing resident Lisa Chapple who bought in December 2009, but whose lease began in 2008.
She was asked by the freeholder’s agent whether she was aware the ground rent would double to £500 from 2018 and asked whether this would cause difficulty.
Taylor Wimpey said it was “standard conveyancing practice” for the purchase date and lease issue date to be different.
Why didn’t their solicitors warn them, asked the presenter Winifred Robinson?
Taylor Wimpey told the programme that the contract terms of the lease were set out clearly and that their recommended solicitors were “completely independent of Taylor Wimpey and that there was no obligation to use them”.
However, some buyers have told LKP that they had to use the Taylor Wimpey recommended solicitors in order to complete by the sale cut-off date imposed by the company.
Sebastian O’Kelly, of LKP, told the programme that Taylor Wimpey would have to “offer the freeholds at an appropriate low price to these homeowners who were misled into buying these properties under frankly scandalous terms”.
He added: “Taylor Wimpey London did in fact sort out a whole load of leases where the freehold had been sold on to investors.
“I think it is beyond their capability to put pressure on the freehold investors here to resolve this situation. But it is going to cost money. Certainly.”
Taylor Wimpey says that it is “standard conveyancing practice” to issue leases before they are sold, landing leaseholders with £500 a year ground rents after only nine, eight or even seven years occupancy.This “standard conveyancing practice” is rather too convenient.It represents an unseemly haste on Taylor Wimpey’s part to jack up the value of the freehold – at the expense of its own customers.
What would happen if the leaseholders decided only to pay the doubled ground rent after ten years occupancy of the property?
The usual, unsavoury galere of debt-collecting solicitors would be down on them in an instant, threatening forfeiture and adding a hefty legal bill to the outstanding debt.
As Facebook groups mushroom and litigation lawyers begin giving talks to leaseholders, this is beginning to look like a car crash for the housebuilders.
It is time for the politicians to start calling them in.