By Harry Scoffin
As Coronation Street fans recover from a plot twist that threatened to retire the much-loved Ken Barlow from the cobbles, ITV’s This Morning programme today ran a segment discussing the weatherfield icon’s decision to buy a retirement flat, and what buyers must look out for if they also want to move into a retirement village.
Thankfully, there was no attempt to explain away the controversial purpose-built retirement leasehold schemes that are pushed by some of Britain’s biggest housebuilders and trap many often vulnerable people and their families.
The daytime show heard that Coronation Street’s central protagonist, who featured in the soap’s very first episode in 1960, has opted for a new life with love interest Claudia Colby at the “posh, upmarket” Still Waters retirement complex, which has amenities including a “cocktail bar”.
The veteran soap character is set to sell his house in order to buy into the leasehold block, a move This Morning’s consumer affairs editor Alice Beer urged him to reconsider in a special – and surprisingly frank – feature on the hidden costs of retirement properties.
In a sign of how LKP and our sister organisation Better Retirement Housing, formerly the Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation, have changed the terms of the debate, the This Morning presenter explained to viewers that owning a flat on a leasehold basis can involve a number of challenges which are not made clear in the glossy brochure:
“But with all those facilities comes a price. When you buy one of these retirement homes, it’s going to be leasehold. When we buy a house, we’ll buy a freehold. Most houses are freehold, many flats are leasehold. There are big changes coming to leasehold properties at the moment, but with a leasehold property come lots and lots of charges: ground rent, service charges, maintenance charges, leasehold renewal [or extension] fees, lots and lots of fees that people don’t think are going to come up and hit them.”
The risk that the service charges could escalate and quickly become unaffordable was hinted at.
The fictional Ken Barlow is said to be expected to pay £4,000 a year.
Echoing last year’s devastating Times investigation into leasehold scams in the retirement sector, Ms Beer stressed that retirement flats fare incredibly poorly on the secondary market, likening the products to “an old car, it’s sort of going down in value.”
She reeled off the reasons why sellers of retirement homes usually end up with a raw deal:
“There’s a lot of people out there who’ve bought into one of these properties and then want to sale, or their children want to sell, [and] you’ve got to sell it to somebody of the right age, some of them the age limit is 55 or 60, you’re not allowed to let it, the management company have to sell it, you have to pay them a percentage when you sell it, could be 12%, could be 30% – and retirement properties do not hold their value like the market around them.”
The segment ended on a rather ominous note, with the former Watchdog co-presenter suggesting that Ken may come to regret the transaction.
“But I would say to Ken, if you haven’t done your homework, there are lots of red flags to be waived.”
The discussion can be watched below: