Buckshaw Village residents stand firm in ground rent battle over leasehold properties
Residents are fighting back as further injustices in the battle against the leasehold scandal come to light.
Householders in Buckshaw Village, threatened with an increase in ground rent which came out of the blue, have overthrown the demand from freeholders.
Meanwhile a woman whose house sale fell through following a claim from the freeholder has now finally moved into her new home after a row over the legality of the claim.
Revelations of the leasehold scandal, which sees homebuyers trapped in contracts with spiralling costs, came to light in July last year.
In December the Government announced plans to outlaw leasehold agreements for new-build houses in England.
But for those stuck in leasehold limbo the measures do not go far enough.
Craig Dixon bought his leasehold in Elan Place, Buckshaw Village, three years ago.
This year he was sent a letter from the company which manages the lease, Mainstay, informing him of an increase in his ground rent charges from £250 to £298.
However sensing that something was amiss Craig, 43, sat down to examine his leasehold agreement himself.
“We got this demanding letter telling us that our ground rent was increasing,” he said. “Rather than just paying it I challenged them on it.
“There’s one bit of my lease which says they can put the ground rent up after 25 years and there’s another bit which says they can put it up after 15 years. I’ve been in my house since 2015 when it was built but the leases start in 2003 - the houses weren’t even built then. I don’t know how they can do that.
“I had quite a long conversation with them and they came back and said there’s an error on your lease document. The ground rent will only increase in 2028.
“There’s lots of people in Buckshaw Village who have already paid this. It’s a rip off.
“I want everybody to know before they pay it. If you pay it you’re basically agreeing to the rent increase.”
Conservative County Councillor for Euxton, Buckshaw and Astley, Aidy Riggott said: “Whilst I am personally not affected by these practices, a large number of the residents I represent are facing unjustifiable increased charges relating to their leases.
“I wholly support the action taken by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, in banning the future sale of new build leasehold homes and welcome the statements the government have made around providing leaseholders with clear support on the various routes to redress available to them.
“I will be writing to the Minister of State for Housing, Dominic Raab, briefly outlining some of what Craig and his neighbours have uncovered and their excellent work in highlighting this to others.
A spokesman for Mainstay said: “We have recently been in communication with home owners at The Avenue, Buckshaw regards the rent review mechanism within their lease. It is correct that Mainstay did issue rent review notices for 15 houses where the rent review was not due until 1st January 2028, we have communicated this to those owners affected and apologised accordingly for our administrative error.
“The rent review for the remaining houses within the development was due on January 1 2018, we have notified those owners affected and have subsequently been in communication with a number of owners regards this. It is worth noting that every lease is unique and can carry different dates and stipulations, we are therefore more than happy for owners to contact us should they have any questions relating to their individual circumstance.”
Meanwhile in Coppull, leaseholder Gill Woods has only just been able to move into her new house after her initial sale fell through entirely.
Just before moving day her freeholder, Philip Tucker of Ashby’s Eling Brewery Ltd, got in touch to say she had added a porch onto her home in Chapel Lane without permission.
Gill, aged 55, had hoped to move into her new home in time for Christmas.
But the dispute meant that her buyer backed out, meaning that Gill, who works in HR, was also unable to move.
She said: “The sale was going through, but when we should have been moving he sent a letter saying I’d not had permission to make changes which put the house in dispute. That meant that I couldn’t sell it and everything fell through.”
To help her plight Gill sought out support from solicitors and from Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle.
Under pressure Ashby’s Eling Brewery eventually backed down and Gill was able to move into her new house on January 11.
She said: “The porch went in 30 years ago. They weren’t even the freeholder then.
“When I realised the house was unsaleable it made me ill.
Claire Wilson of C. Wilson Solicitors in Eccleston, who represented Gill, said that she had not been the only victim of this type of problem.
She said: “The freeholder knows that they are potentially scuppering someone’s sale.
“Then there are people who say, ‘look I’m just prepared to pay just to see the sale go through’.”
The Guardian was not able to make contact with Ashby’s Eling Brewery.