ALL around the UK house-buyers have fallen foul of the leasehold scandal.

For a long time, the ‘feudal’ practice went unnoticed but thanks to the hard work of campaigners and MPs, it is now firmly in the limelight.

Mike Amesbury, MP for Weaver Vale, has been extremely vocal in support of those affected by the scandal since he took his seat in last May’s elections.

Last month, Mr Amesbury highlighted the story of Winnington Village resident Emily Martin when he was given the first question of the New Year at PMQs.

Emily purchased the leasehold – on the advice of her solicitor – on her property in 2016 after discovering last minute that the freehold had been sold to Landmark Collections.

About six months later she discovered the freehold had been sold on to yet another company.

After canvassing the David Wilson Homes housing estate, Emily realised there were many others in a similar situation to herself.

She said: “I realised then I was part of a bigger problem – that developers were selling houses as leasehold to make more money, and that once they have sold the plots, they often sell the freeholds on to various investment companies.

“Because there is no law to prevent this, they don’t provide any notice to the homeowner or give a first refusal to the purchaser.

“We think we are buying a house to own and be proud of, when in fact we are tenants sitting on land we do not own, facing extra charges not just for the ground rent, but from companies – often held offshore – which also charge extra fees for things such as permission to alter the house, re-mortgage or even own a pet.”

Emily realised that if she wanted to stop others from falling foul of the practice, she would need to campaign for a change in the law.
In an effort to do that, she approached her MP to see if he would support the campaign.

Mr Amesbury has met with residents on a number of occasions, and has been actively lobbying the Government on their behalf.

He has written Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about the issue and also joined residents for a meeting with Katie Kendrick, who is spearheading the National Leasehold Campaign.

In December, the campaign made a huge stride when Mr Javid announced that new build houses are to be banned from being unnecessarily sold as leasehold by developers, citing it as a ‘feudal practice’.

Emily said: “This is great news for future buyers, who can buy a house and own all of it and I’m really pleased for each and every one of them, but it does leave current leaseholders in a precarious position.

“At present, I live in a leasehold house on an early phase of a huge development, with all new houses being built and sold as freehold for the same price.

“So if I were to put my house on the market who would really want to buy it?”

Following this, Mr Amesbury continued to press Theresa May on what the Government was doing to ensure adequate compensation for those, like Emily, who have been impacted.

The Prime Minister said the Secretary of State for housing would personally examine the individual case.

A spokesman for David Wilson Homes North West said: “As a leading housebuilder, and in line with industry standards, it is not our practice to retain freeholds. 

“The homes at Winnington Village are advertised to customers as being for sale on a leasehold basis and all of our customers have access to independent legal advice throughout the purchase process. As Ms Martin has previously made clear, she was informed by her solicitor that Landmark Collections owned her freehold before she purchased the property.”

Despite promising to end the practice in the future, the Government has offered no solutions thus far for those already caught up in the scandal.
So while future buyers appear to be protected, it is still unclear what will happen to those already affected by the scandal.

For Emily – and indeed the 1.4 million people like her – it appears the fight is far from over.