There was good news for anyone who is in dispute with their developer over ground rents last week, as the Competition and Markets Authority showed its teeth by launching enforcement action against four well-known housebuilders.
The scandal around leasehold homes has had plenty of publicity. Many homeowners around the country have bought properties that they can't sell or remortgage because – often unknowingly – they have signed up to doubling ground rent clauses. Leasehold homeowners may also need permission to make cosmetic changes to their homes that also mean additional fees must be paid to freeholders. The government pledged to outlaw new leasehold houses last year but so far this has not passed into law. The problem hasn’t gone away and existing homeowners are still, in some cases, facing huge bills.
Now the CMA has named and shamed four developers:
The move comes after the CMA uncovered evidence of potentially unfair terms concerning ground rents in leasehold contracts and potential mis-selling, despite the fact that the four named developers have signed up to the Government’s Leasehold Pledge. It is concerned that leasehold homeowners may have been unfairly treated and that buyers may have been misled by the developers. The CMA has now written to Barratt, Countryside, Persimmon, and Taylor Wimpey outlining its concerns and requiring information.
But before we all jump to the wrong conclusion, the CMA has clearly stated that at this stage of its investigation it should not be assumed that any of the businesses in question have been involved in any or all of the practices outlined above.
We are fully supportive of the CMA taking action in this way and we wait with interest to see how the case proceeds. This of course will depend on a thorough assessment of the evidence. Possible outcomes include legal commitments from the companies to change the way they do business. If necessary, the CMA could take the firms to court.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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