We think the best way to explain these legal issues is to organise a meeting local to you. There you can meet the team, listen to our presentation and ask questions to address any concerns you might have. If you think you can get 10 people or more from your estate to attend, we would be happy to come see you, day or night. Simply fill out the form below and we will get back to you.
You may be entitled to compensation for what you’ve lost as an implication of your ground rent clause.
LeaseClaims is a working alliance consisting of FS Legal; in partnership with New South Law and Nelsons. Collaboratively working to secure redress for the victims of the Leasehold Scandal. Divided nationally by locations with FS Legal and Nelsons covering Wales, West England into the Midlands and with New South Law covering the South West, South and East including London. The North and the East Coast of England are also covered by New South Law.
You provide us with the authority to obtain your file from the solicitors who acted for you in the purchase of your property.
We review the file and determine the legal issues involved with your leasehold scandal.
If we can proceed we will inform you and offer you a “No Win / No Fee” contract.
We review your file, assess the advice you were given surrounding your ground rent clause and draft your claim.
When a property is bought as leasehold, the purchaser only owns it for a number of years typically 99, 125 or 999 years. The property is owned by the Freeholder (also known as the Landlord) and the purchaser occupies the property on the terms set out in a legal agreement called a ‘lease’. At the end of the lease, ownership of the property reverts to the Freeholder. The lease will set out the rights and obligations of both the purchaser and the Freeholder. The purchaser will usually have to pay ongoing fees to the Freeholder including payment of a ground rent.
Mortgage lenders have recently started to reject applications from purchasers of properties which are subject to onerous Ground Rent clauses. Leaseholders will therefore find that they are unable to sell their properties without compromising on the price that they were hoping to achieve.
Even to a cash buyer, a property affected by the onerous Ground Rent terms will be unattractive, as the burden of the clause will be inherited via the purchase.
Leaseholders face the risk that they will remain locked into their lease agreements, unable to sell their properties, and forced to continue to pay the escalating rent charges.
Generally, parties to a contract are free to agree terms, and Courts are reluctant to intervene, except in specific circumstances. For this reason, a claim against the developers or management companies is not likely to be very successful.
A better option is to bring a claim for professional negligence against the conveyancer that acted on the purchase of the property.
In the context of a property transaction, it is the responsibility of the solicitors instructed, to point out onerous terms to their clients, as well as their implications. As, arguably, purchasers would not have agreed to be bound by these terms, had they been made aware of the implications.
Where a solicitor is liable for negligent advice, a claim for compensation can be made by the injured party. In this case, leaseholders who were either provided with negligent advice or negligently provided with no advice, as to the terms of the escalating ground rent, will be entitled to compensation.
Purchase the freehold or extend the lease
Generally, leaseholders who have owned their property for at least two years, acquire the right to either purchase the freehold or extend their lease (by 90 years for apartments or 50 years for houses) on top of the unexpired term.
Each option will be a costly exercise for the leaseholder. A freehold which is leased and subject to an onerous ground rent clause is a valuable commodity to the freeholder, as it is a guaranteed income stream. With the rent set to increase, Freeholders are likely to set their premiums very high.
The premium will also take into consideration professional fees (including valuation fees and the Freeholder’s legal costs), as well as the potential added value to the property.
The aim of a compensation claim would be to put the leaseholder into the position that they would have been in, had they not been affected by the Ground Rent Scandal. Simply put, the starting point for assessing loss will usually be the difference between what you paid for the property and what it was truly worth with the onerous clauses. This is known as ‘diminution in value’.
Estimations, provided by a firm of chartered surveyors, suggest that the value of some properties has decreased by as much as 30%, where subject to an escalating Ground Rent clause. This estimation takes account of the amount and rate of escalation, the refusal by mortgage providers to lend, the difficulty in selling and the necessity of attracting a cash buyer.
If successful, the compensation received could be used to allow the leaseholder to purchase the freehold and “unlock” themselves from the leasehold trap.
It is worth noting that leaseholders of an apartment may need to form a “management company”, consisting of at least 50% of the leaseholders in the building, and it is that management company which would acquire the freehold.
Alternatively, a leaseholder may wish to extend the lease, as opposed to purchasing the freehold. This option may be more attractive for leaseholders who wish to use the extension process as a device for renegotiating other terms within the lease, such as those relating to permission fees and service or maintenance charges. For example, an extension of the term of the lease would be an option for leaseholders of an apartment who are unable to meet the 50% requirement discussed above.
Again, any compensation received could be used to meet payment of the premium discussed above.
Enfranchisement offers the opportunity to convert a leasehold interest to a freehold interest. Alternatively, a leaseholder may wish to enfranchise to extend their lease. In doing so, the leaseholder is given the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of the lease, and free themselves from the burdensome terms.
Whilst it is positive that these conversations and consultations are occurring at this high level, reform has and will continue to be a lengthy and gradual process. It is therefore, not likely that any of the proposals will come into effect before some years, especially while Brexit remains at the top of the agenda.