Fallout from ground rent scandal continues

One of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, Taylor Wimpey, has insisted that the majority of those embroiled in a major ground rent scandal will have the opportunity to have their leases varied in order to remove unusual and onerous ground rent clauses which double the ground rent payable every ten years.

There has been a storm of controversy following revelations that many of those who had bought new-build properties from Taylor Wimpey and other leading developers had been caught out by rapidly rising ground rents that had left them with properties  that were difficult to sell, or mortgage.

Such is the pace at which ground rent charges can increase at some leasehold properties, owners claimed that they had been rendered all but unsellable.

Earlier this year, in response to the criticism, Taylor Wimpey unveiled a £130million support scheme, which it said would be used to help leaseholders transfer to alternative arrangements – under which the ground rent will be tied to inflation.

CLC are now acting for a large number of Taylor Wimpey leaseholders in order to get their leases amended.

However, this does not help the vast majority those property owners who have bought second hand Taylor Wimpey homes because the assistance scheme does not extend to them.

For those victims their only remedy may be to bring professional negligence claims against their conveyancing solicitors who failed to warn them about the onerous ground rent terms.

In those cases we are now starting to receive admissions of liability from the insurers, so we hope that these owners will soon recover compensation to enable them to cover the cost of getting rid of onerous ground rent terms.

CLC are also acting for a number of leaseholders who have bought flats where the freeholds are owned by property companies whose businesses models are based on exploiting flat owners by creating leases with extraordinarily high ground rents (in some cases annual ground rents rising to over £1m for a properties worth less than £200,000!) and other unfair and exploitative terms and charges.

Last month we successfully acted for one such client who bought a flat for £172,000 last year with ground rent rising to as much as £11,264,000 per year. That happened because unfortunately the client’s solicitors failed to notice that when the client paid £1,000 to have the loft space formally included as part of the flat, the freeholder took the opportunity to insert a number of extremely onerous clauses in her lease.

As a result of their negligence the conveyancing solicitors had to pay the freeholder £30,000 in order to get the onerous clauses removed.

If you believe that you were not properly informed about the potential risks relating to ground rent clauses you may have grounds to make a professional negligence claim. For guidance please contact Graham Balchin.