Newlyweds unable to sell home due to legal catch that sees ground rent DOUBLE every decade

A YOUNG couple can't sell their house due to a legal catch that means their ground rent doubles every decade.

The stunned pair discovered a clause in their agreement stating the cost will keep increasing – eventually skyrocketing to the staggering amount of £307,200.

Newlyweds Nathan and Tasha Stewart only found this out when they went to sell their home and lost thousands in the process.

Now they say most mortgage companies won't lend on this type of property – a leasehold with an increasing ground rent.

Nathan, 27, said their solicitor had not told them about the catch when they bought the Taylor Wimpey home in Soham in 2014.

He said: "We didn't find out about the ground rent catch when we bought the house in 2014. It only came to light when we tried to sell.

"We put our detached coach house on the market in October 2017 and the sale was agreed at £175,000 pretty quickly.

"Everything was going smoothly and we were ready to exchange contracts, but the buyer's solicitor asked for a sales pack from the ground rent company and uncovered the clause.

"The solicitor told us the majority of mortgage companies won't lend on it, so I quickly contacted Taylor Wimpey to ask them to do something, because otherwise I would lose the four-bed semi we were buying.

"They did nothing, the sale fell through and I lost about £2,500."

Homeowners are contractually obliged to pay ground rent to the freeholder or landlord of a long lease property in England and Wales.

The couple's ground rent started at £150 and doubled in January to £300 a year.

If the couple were to stay in their home until their 70s, their annual payment would have risen to £9,600.

They discovered that their freehold had been sold by Taylor Wimpey to a company which now owns the land and can charge whatever they want.

The astronomical annual ground rent payments for Nathan and Tasha's house:

Nathan added: "Some people were quite unsympathetic and said we were idiots for not knowing, but our solicitor never told us about the ground rent.

"I'm not a legal professional so I'm not familiar with this kind of thing. I trusted our solicitor to lead us right. He never made us aware of it.

"Neither Tasha or I have any objection to paying ground rent, but what has left us and thousands of homeowners upset and angry is that the unethical doubling ground rent terms in the lease have meant selling our house is near impossible and that at no stage were we ever made aware such terms were in place or would cause such a scenario.

"Homeowners like us who are looking to build family homes are now left helpless, being exploited by greed, with no solution or end in sight."

Founders of the National Leasehold Campaign Katie Kendrick and Jo Derbyshire both bought Taylor Wimpey houses and were caught out by similar catches in their leasehold agreements.

Katie said: "I set this campaign up a year ago and the penny is dropping all over the country now.

"The issue for many is that they weren’t notified of their property’s doubling ground rent at the point of sale.

"This clause really started kicking off about 10 years ago, so most people are only starting to realise on receiving their latest bill. Or, people find out when they try to move house and a solicitor breaks the news.

"Lots of people have filed negligence claims against solicitors who failed to tell them about the clause when they bought their property, but it's too soon to know what the outcome will be.

“For companies that buy these kinds of freeholds from developers, it’s a license to print money. They buy an incredibly lucrative product, which is this doubling ground rent.”

Jo added: “Leasehold has been around for a long time, so it was never seen as something that would cause any problems. It has only been in the last 10 to 20 years that this new type of leasehold with onerous ground rents and horrible permission fees was drummed up.”

A spokeswoman for Taylor Wimpey said: "Last year Taylor Wimpey announced a voluntary scheme specifically aimed at addressing concerns raised by some of our direct customers regarding how easy it is to sell or get a mortgage on properties with a 10-year doubling ground rent clause.

"We have now reached agreements with freeholders to enable the significant majority of our customers with a 10-year doubling lease to convert their ground rent terms to an RPI-based structure, should the customer wish to do so.

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