An investigation into the leasehold property market has found that homeowners have been unfairly treated and prospective buyers misled by housing developers.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found evidence that homeowners are having to pay escalating ground rents, which in some cases can double every 10 years. This increase is often built into contracts, meaning people can often struggle to sell their homes and find themselves trapped.
It also found that people have been misled about the cost of converting their leasehold to freehold ownership. When buying their home, some people were told the freehold would cost only a small sum, but later down the line this price had increased by thousands of pounds with little to no warning.
Meanwhile some developers are failing to explain the differences between leasehold and freehold when directly asked, and some actually tell potential buyers that there is no difference. By the time people find out the realities of owning a leasehold, including the regular charges to be paid, they are often unable to pull out of the purchase, or would face significant difficulties if they tried to do so.
Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s Chief Executive, said:
“We have found worrying evidence that people who buy leasehold properties are being misled and taken advantage of.
“Buying a home is one of the most important and expensive investments you can make, and once you’re living there you want to feel secure and happy. But for thousands of leasehold homeowners, this is not the case.
“We’ll be looking carefully at the problems we’ve found, which include escalating ground rents and misleading information, and will be taking our own enforcement action directly in the sector shortly.”
The CMA is now completing all the necessary legal work to launch direct enforcement action against companies it believes have broken consumer protection law. This could result in firms signing legal commitments to change how they do business. If they fail to make the required changes, the CMA could take action through the courts to make them comply with the law.