Devastating letter to Taylor Wimpey CEO from a member of the National Leasehold Campaign Facebook group:
Dear Mr Redfern,
I read with some interest the announcement and presentation of Taylor Wimpey’s Full Year Results for 2016, published last Tuesday, 28th February. There are a few issues I feel compelled to raise:
You state in your announcement and presentation that “concern was expressed by some customers about certain leasehold houses…which are subject to leases with doubling ground rent clauses…the clauses are clearly outlined in the lease…”
It is the final part of this statement that I would like clarifying. I quote below, word-for-word, a section of my doubling lease:
“then the Review Date affected thereby shall be postponed until the expiration of three months from the date upon which such prevention restriction or modification is removed relaxed or modified and the Company shall then be entitled to recover any resulting increase in the Rent with effect from the postponed Review Date as shall then be permitted by law Provided That nothing herein shall be construed as varying any subsequent review date”
Now, I appreciate that having been an English-speaker for mere 35 years means I am a novice at comprehending the language.
However, even if I were an expert, with a First Class English degree, I would still struggle to comprehend the above clause.
There is nothing “clearly outlined” in the clause above. And, the whole lease is written in this un-punctuated and incomprehensible manner. The only people who might argue the lease is clearly written (apart from yourself, obviously) are lawyers – the very ones who wrote this lease for you.
Where, in the lease, does it “clearly” outline that you planned on selling on the land to a third party who would then use the lease as a means of extorting as much money as possible out of their unsuspecting leaseholders?
Where in the lease, Mr Redfern, does it “clearly” state you would sell on these leases at a low price, without offering the home owners – your customers – first refusal?
Where does it “clearly” state these doubling leases will devalue our homes rendering them impossible to sell, unless one is prepared to sell at a significant loss?
This is the root of the problem, Mr Redfern – you never told us you were going to sell on the land. If we had known, we would have purchased our freehold from you, or not bought our house at all.
With regards to the “clearly outlined” lease, you stated that “customers received independent legal advice.”
How “independent” is the advice from a solicitor that has been recommended, and used, by the developer?
Now, I admit I feel very naive and foolish for falling into this group. However, as you are well aware, emotions run high by buying a home.
It is a stressful time, and when you are told by a sales adviser that everything will be quicker and smoother if you use the same solicitors the developer is using, you can see the logic.
So, my issue here is this – a significant number of your customers did not receive truly “independent” advice.
In acknowledging the concerns raised by those trapped in these doubling leases, you stated you are “in the process of…working with these customers”.
As one of these customers, I have yet to see any evidence of this.
I have posted my concerns on your Facebook page, only to be told by one of your staff that you have a ‘dedicated team’ working on this issue who will contact me “shortly”.
The better part of a month has passed since I was told this and yet no one from your ‘dedicated team’ has been in touch.
Who, exactly, are you working with?
From speaking to my neighbours, who are also in the same situation, it isn’t any of us.
I would be delighted to assist you in resolving this issue – I have many ideas about how you can make amends: you only need ask.
I am also certain every single one of my neighbours would be happy to work with you, too.
I was pleased to read that you are “committed to being a responsible housebuilder.” I hope this commitment extends beyond the laying of bricks and mortar and towards those who have bought your doubling-lease houses, whether direct from yourselves, or indirectly through resales.
That, indeed, would truly be the mark of a responsible house builder – one who admits responsibility for creating a huge leasehold problem, but who is prepared to help everyone affected by its actions.
In the presentation that accompanied your announcement, you referred to leasehold houses being “Normal Industry Practice in some regions, particularly [in the] North West.”
It was once “normal industry practice” to send children to work in coal mines and cotton factories – it didn’t make it right.
Just as it isn’t right to change the spirit of ground rent from one of a ‘peppercorn’ fee to a profit-making scheme designed to line the pockets of off-shore ‘fat cats’.
You must become the Robert Owen or Michael Sadler of our times, Mr Redfern: these men saw the immorality and injustice of a “normal industry practice” and successfully campaigned to change it for the better.
You could do great things, Mr Redfern, and, at the same time, repair and enhance Taylor Wimpey’s reputation so that you can genuinely claim you are a “responsible” house builder.
What are you going to do and when are you going to do it? Stalling for time only makes matters worse – like a cancer, this problem will continue to grow.
As a final aside, I noted, with some irony, that one of the charities that Taylor Wimpey supports is ‘End Youth Homelessness’.
Maybe you would consider establishing a charity for the homeowners who will find themselves homeless in old age as a result of being unable to pay the increased ground rent – the ‘Taylor Wimpey Charity for its Homeless Pensioners’, perhaps?
I look forward, as always, to your response. Maybe this time there will be some substance and solutions? One can live in hope.