UPDATE June 8 2017: LKP has received the following statement from Pete Redfern, CEO of Taylor Wimpey:
Dear Mr O’Kelly,
Thank you for your email dated 17 May.
In August 2009, we entered into a contract to sell the freehold of our Chancel Park development to Fairthatch GR Limited. As a result, Taylor Wimpey was not required to serve section 5 notices to offer the leaseholders the right of first refusal on the freehold to their properties.
Details of the sale to the freeholder were included in the sales pack documentation that was sent to our customers’ solicitors, and we would expect all solicitors to explain the ownership structure and lease terms of a property to their clients.
Originally published on May 17 2017:
The John Lewis Partnership Pension Trust is an active buyer of residential ground rents, including highly controversial ones that double every 10 years.
These were bought via Fairthatch GR Limited from Taylor Wimpey. Any leaseholders caught up in them will be eligible for the company’s Ground Rent Review Assistance Scheme.
The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership has asked the John Lewis Partnership Pension Trust whether owning doubling ground rents on residential property conforms to its standards of ethical investment.
The aims of the John Lewis Partnership include: “We want to build the skills of future generations and create better places for people to live, work in and enjoy. We aim to improve accessibility and inclusion – both in our shops and in the day-to-day lives of people struggling with social isolation.”
Its constitution includes Principle 7: “The Partnership aims to obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law and to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities where it operates.”
If you think doubling ground rents are an inappropriate investment asset class for the John Lewis Partnership Pension Fund you can write to Keith Williams, the partnership’s deputy chairman and chair of The Corporate Responsibility Committee via Miss Elli Share:
In March, the John Lewis Partnership Pension Trust informed LKP that it had no intention of selling its freehold interests to leaseholders unless forced to do so by leasehold house owners exercising their statutory right to buy.
Astonishingly, the John Lewis Partnership Pension Trust ’s freehold assets are managed by Estates and Management, the controversial ground rent and consent fee administrators that are part of Vincent Tchenguiz’s residential freehold empire. It is ultimately controlled by the Tchenguiz Family Trust, based in the British Virgin Islands.
Indeed, the directors of Fairthatch GR Limited are long standing Tchenguiz stooges, with the ultimate ownership of the John Lewis Partnership Pension Fund revealed on page 18 of the accounts here
One group of John Lewis Partnership Pension Trust leaseholders is based in Chancel Park, in Exeter, and another at the Miller’s Brow site, in Blackley, Manchester.
One buyer at Chancel Park bought in June 2012, although the 125-year lease began in 2009.
Ground rents start at £250 and rise to £8,000 a year in 50 years.
“Although I was aware these were the conditions of the lease, I was told by Taylor Wimpey that these sort of conditions were normal.
“When I purchased my flat I used Foot Anstey as my solicitors who were recommended by Taylor Wimpey, and I can’t recall if they pointed out the ground rent conditions at all, but they certainly didn’t draw my attention to it as being unusual.”
The freeholds to several blocks on the estate (Raleigh House, Drake House, Livingston House and Fiennes House) were then sold on Fairthatch GR Limited in April 2014, it is claimed.
The price was £253,125.
The leasehold claims: “Although the Right of First Refusal is provided by Part 1 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987, when Taylor Wimpey sold the freehold, the leaseholders were not notified in advance of the terms of the proposed disposal and we received no offer notice.”
LKP is asking Taylor Wimpey to confirm whether this was the case.
The other group are leasehold house owners at Miller’s Brow, in Blackley, Manchester.
One told LKP:
“We used a solicitor from Bannister Preston as suggested to us by Taylor Wimpey.
“Though we discussed the question of buying the leasehold [freehold] with this solicitor, at no point did he make clear to us that the ground rent would double every ten years or that the starting date for the first ten year period was actually 2008.
“The Taylor Wimpey representative at the development assured us that it would be possible to purchase the freehold at a later date.
“However, just before we were in a position to do so, Taylor Wimpey announced that they had sold the freeholds on the development to a company called Fairthatch.”
Bannister Preston has given statements to the BBC indicating that it fully informed Taylor Wimpey leasehold purchasers of the lease terms.
The John Lewis Partnership Pension Trust trustees are listed here:
The John Lewis Partnership Pension Trust, Taylor Wimpey, Foot Anstey and Bannister Preston Solicitors have been invited to comment on these issues.