Leaseholders freed from costly contract termsSeptember 15, 2021
- Countryside Properties to strike out terms that mean ground rents double every 10 to 15 years in latest CMA victory for leaseholders
- Affected leaseholders’ ground rents will no longer increase and will remain at the amount charged when they first bought their home
- This comes after Persimmon Homes offered leasehold house owners the opportunity to buy their freehold at a discounted price after the CMA probed their sales practices
Following CMA action, leaseholders with Countryside Properties will no longer be subjected to ground rents that double every 10 or 15 years.
Countryside Properties – one of the UK’s leading housing developers – has voluntarily given formal commitments to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to remove terms from leasehold contracts that cause ground rents to double in price. The effect of these increases, which kick in every 10 to 15 years, is that people often struggle to sell or mortgage their home and their property rights can be at risk, for example, if they fall behind on their rent.
Countryside will also remove terms which were originally doubling clauses but were converted so that the ground rent increased in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI). The CMA believes the original terms were potentially unfair and should therefore have been fully removed, instead of being replaced with another term that still increases the ground rent.
The move comes after the CMA launched enforcement action against 4 housing developers in September 2020. These were Countryside and Taylor Wimpey, for using possibly unfair contract terms, and Barratt Developments and Persimmon Homes over the possible mis-selling of leasehold homes. The CMA has already secured commitments from Persimmon and Aviva as part of this action, helping thousands of leaseholders.
Due to the CMA’s action, affected Countryside leaseholders will now see their ground rents remain at the original amount – i.e. when the property was first sold – and this will not increase over time. Countryside also confirmed to the CMA that it has stopped selling leasehold properties with doubling ground rent clauses.
Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said:
Leaseholders with Countryside can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing they will no longer be forced to pay these doubling ground rents. No one should feel like a prisoner in their home, trapped by terms that mean they can struggle to sell or mortgage their property. We will continue to robustly tackle developers and investors – as we have done over the past 2 years – to make sure that people aren’t taken advantage of.
Other developers, such as Taylor Wimpey, and freehold investors now have the opportunity to do the right thing by their leaseholders and remove these problematic clauses from their contracts. If they refuse, we stand ready to step in and take further action – through the courts if necessary.
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