One topic is making me angrier than anything else at the moment and that is the Leasehold Scandal that is affecting hundreds of thousands of new build home owners around the UK right now.
The scandal is so bad they’ve actually banned leasehold from this point onward, but my wife and I are one of the last few people to be affected by it.
We purchased our house using the government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme. It all seemed pretty simple:
Buy the house at 200,000 with a 10k deposit. The government pay 40k so you’ve got 25% of the funds covered, you get a mortgage for the remaining 75% and after 5 years you need to start repaying the 40k ‘help to buy’ fund.
We looked at this and by that point we can remortgage to cover the 40k, and own about 20% of the house with 70% left to pay off, so its a useful leg up that we couldn’t have managed otherwise.
The only fly in the ointment was that they would not sell us the house as a freehold property.
Their first lie was that this couldn’t be done because the council insisted that they be sold leasehold so that the houses all stayed uniform and were unchanged for a set period of time.
I tried to argue the point on this but eventually was placated when they told me that this was all just a formality and that for £500 we could buy the freehold and we’d be completely free from Persimmon from that point.
I asked for it in writing but never got it.
There was no mention of annual fees, but suddenly a year later we were getting bills for ground rent! So I asked to buy the freehold to eliminate these fees and they tried to charge me £7000!
I had a lot of arguing with the law firm that advised me on the purchase – Tees Law – they are duty bound to talk me through the leasehold process but didn’t.
The only effort they made was to ask if I knew it was Leasehold and I responded saying for 2 years, and I’d be paying £500 to claim the freehold in the end.
They made no effort to tell me anything further about what this meant.
They’ve refused to comment since, and wont help me fix this despite being partially responsible for this issue.
This was their last response:
My colleagues performed their duty to advise you about the pertinent details of the leasehold property you were buying. In these circumstances I cannot agree that my colleagues should now undertake (without charge) the further matter of dealing with your intended purchase of the freehold. Because we disagree about whether my firm fulfilled its duties to you, you should seek independent advice.
I reached out to the salesman who sold me the house, over the internet, to confirm what he had told me about it being £500 to buy, which he did.
I then took to this directors to force their hand into honouring the cost. It took about 3 layers of fighting before one man said ‘well you’ve got us over a barrel really’ and gave in.
Since then it has been a battle to remove all of the nonsense charges they want to enforce.
Annual ground rent – which they use to do nothing at all. It took me 6 months of arguing and talking to solicitors to have this removed.
Maintenance Fees – how this is different I have no idea but they’re finally removing it.
Permission Fees – They told me to get stuffed on this one, I actually did too. My solicitor had said it was nonsense, but they said it wasn’t – I decided that a £250 fee to extend the property and so forth wasn’t a big deal, but I’ve since found out that it does affect the sale price of properties, and it can be removed and is not part of a proper freehold ownership.
This is what I got from Paul Hurst at Persimmon when I complained:
I understand your frustration however there are over 200,000 houses built in this country every year and all will have these or similar covenants place upon their deeds.
I find it hilarious that your solicitor tells you it’s unnecessary, as these covenants are placed upon the deeds at the advice of his fellow professionals.
As already stated we are not prepared to delete this clause from the deeds and apologises for my abruptness however we will not discuss this matter further.
So I messaged my solicitor, and I got in touch with The ‘National Leasehold Campaign’ group on Facebook who have both advised that this is an absolute load of nonsense and to not accept no for an answer.
I’ve had enough though.
I now think what I’ll do is go door to door and talk to my neighbours, get an idea of how much they were quoted for their freeholds.
I know the houses either side of me were quoted 3500 and 6000 respectively. I haven’t told them that mine was £500 but I think if all of us took this to Persimmon as a group we’d get somewhere and I could save them a lot of money and hassle.
Persimmons have had so many chances to do right by me and resolve this cleanly, but every time they’ve made me feel like I’ve hit the wall and this is as good as it gets, I’ve backed down and then found out by chance that they’re lying again.
It fires me up to fight harder.
I would’ve waited 2 years and paid £500 for whatever they’d given me originally, but they dicked me about on the annual costs and then the fee.
So I read the paperwork and learned about it until I could argue my case again.
They dicked me around on the clauses, so I learned what each one meant and asked them to remove the unnecessary ones.
They’re now dicking me around on the permission fees, so I’m forced to join the campaign group.
What I’ve learned is that if I don’t buy this freehold at year 2 then they can and often do sell them on to third parties who then ramp the price up to tens of thousands of pounds and charge much higher ground and maintenance rents, something that again was not mentioned at the point of sale.
Do not buy a home from Persimmon, do not buy new build.
I like the house they built, it isn’t perfect but it is nice.
Their actions however are immoral and unjustified and designed to cause nothing but pain and misery.
Their head honchos are collecting bonuses in excess of 100 mil next year for absolutely screwing their customers with bare faced lies.
There’s absolutely no accountability on them either, MPs and major organisations have so much money tied up in these companies and in the companies invested in owning freeholds that they’re complicit. So many investment banks have been hoovering up freehold agreements and then slapping huge prices on the homeowners that they’re worth millions to them, all at the expense of people like me but didn’t fight back.
I need people to support me really, by taking Persimmon homes to task as much as possible over this until they are forced to act. I thought I’d sorted my situation out last month, but I received an email saying I have to wait until March and I’m stuck with permission fees.
I’m hoping I can drop the permission fees and close things off in March still, but I wont hold my breath on it being that simple.
If any of you are solicitors and can help me at all that’d be useful. I have one I’m already talking to but the more advice you can give the better!
If you’re not – the absolute least folk can do to help would be to sign this petition as people fight to abolish Leasehold altogether.