Alarm bells at buying homes at new build estates

Buckshaw Village
Buckshaw Village

A homeowner in Buckshaw Village has urged buyers to be wary of purchasing homes from new housing estates.

Bridget Murphy bought her nine year old property under a freehold agreement in 2015.

She says that despite owning the full rights to the house she still has to pay fees if she wants to make changes to the property.

“The unfairness of the situation in which leaseholders find themselves is widespread and also extends to freehold properties on new housing estates in this area,” said Bridget, who is retired.

“Although the property is freehold, the deeds contain numerous covenants, some of which are linked to uncapped permission fees.

“For example, I believe the fee is currently in the region of £200 for permission to add a conservatory or extend the property.

“It seems unethical that, although I own my freehold, the developer still has an interest in my property and can demand permission fees.”

In a statement a spokesman from the developer Redrow said: “For those who apply to Redrow, in writing, to make changes to their home, for example to add an extension, Redrow charges a fixed admin fee of £150 + VAT to process the application. An exception to this would be if someone applied retrospectively, having already made changes to their property, in which case a reasonable fee would be charged for the time taken to process the retrospective application.”

The leasehold scandal caught Government attention last year when Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, announced a crackdown on the practice.

Also known as fleecehold, the practice sees charges on ground rent ratcheting up for buyers as their freeholds are sold on to investment companies.

It means the properties become unaffordable to the leaseholder but also means they are trapped, unable to sell the lease on.

On top of this leaseholders have to pay permission fees to refurbish the properties.

But Bridget is warning that this practice is now being transferred to freehold properties.

She says that buyers need to be conscientious in buying freeholds from new housing estates as some freehold agreements are now also stipulating that residents need to pay fees if they want to make changes to their homes.

“Now that the government has announced plans to sell all future new build houses as freehold properties, people need to be alerted to the fact that this new type of freehold is set to become the norm, if developers get their way,” said Bridget.

“Leasehold residents planning to purchase their freeholds also need to be alerted to the issue of permission fees in freehold deeds.”

The mayor of Chorley councillor Mark Perks said: “My advice to anyone who has contacted me interested in moving to Buckshaw has been to make sure you get a good solicitor who reads and understands the fine print on the deeds, lease or freehold and what permissions are placed upon each property.

“Certainly choose your own independent solicitor rather than go with one a developer recommends.

“It may cost you more at the start but far better than being trapped into something that turns out to be costly and difficult to get out of.”

For more information on the on-going situation with leasehold properties search The National Leasehold Campaign group on Facebook or see websites: The Home Owners Rights Network and The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership.