London leaseholders face spiralling costs as landmark court ruling favours freeholders

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Thousands of London homeowners will continue to face spiralling costs when extending the lease on their property or attempting to buy the freehold because of a landmark court ruling.

Campaigners had brought a case to the Court of Appeal to have the current valuation system thrown out and replaced by a new “fairer” system after a Chelsea-based property company demanded £420,000 from a leaseholder to renew a less with only 23 years remaining.

However, the court dismissed the appeal and said the current system – first developed by surveyors working for Britain’s richest man, the Duke of Grosvenor on his Grosvenor Estate – should stay in place at least until the Law Commission reports on its own review of valuations under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993.

In Mundy v Sloane Stanley Estate, surveyor James Wyatt of Parthenia Valuation had argued that the valuation model used by property surveyors to judge what a new lease is worth was out of date. A new statistical model, known as the Parthenia model, was proposed that would reduce leasehold extension and freehold purchases by up to 50 percent.

'Fight goes on'

Leasehold reform campaigners vowed to fight on. Mr Wyatt said after the judgment had been delivered: “Now we need the government to act.” And Paula Higgins, chief executive of the Homeowners Alliance, described the ruling as “deeply disappointing”.

She added: “This ruling means leaseholders will continue to hand over huge amounts to their freeholders for very little in return. The method of lease valuation currently employed is over two decades old and is no longer appropriate.

“The Government must now act to ensure there is a fairer way to calculate leasehold extensions that is not subjective and favours the freeholders over leaseholders. The fight must go on.”

Louie Burns, managing director Leasehold Solutions, said the ruling was “devastating” and he said leaseholders are being overcharged all over England, adding: “The valuations model at the heart of this case estimates that leaseholders are currently being overcharged by £480 million a year. Over the past two decades that’s a staggering £9.6 billion that has been taken from householders due to flawed valuation methods that have favoured freeholders at the expense of leaseholders.”

Get the right advice from the start

There are around 4.1 million leasehold properties in England and Wales with around 2.1 million with less than 80 years left on the lease. Of those, around 500,000 are in London.

Leaseholders don’t own the land on which their property stands. Instead it’s owned by the freeholder who charges an annual ground rent and offers a long-term lease, usually decades long. It is when those long leases get close to expiring that householders face increasingly punitive renewal costs.

If you’re buying a leasehold property, you need the right legal advice from the start. Capital Conveyancing’s solicitors panel are experts in the property field and can provide clear, informative advice on leasehold, length of leases and the costs associated with such properties, including ground rent, maintenance fees and service charges.

Call Capital Conveyancing now on 0207 406 5880.

About the Author Frances Traynor

Fran is the content writer for Capital Conveyancing, producing articles on all aspects of the conveyancing process and around the UK property market in general. If there is a topic you'd like to see covered on these pages, please drop Fran a line on Frances@searchesuk.co.uk.

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