Leasehold shake-up on the horizon

Ground rents for residential properties on long leases in England and Wales will soon be abolished, with further reform to follow. This first step in the government’s plan to reform leasehold law affects new leases. However, many homeowners will benefit immediately following a commitment made by two big players in the leasehold sector.

Government reforms

The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill currently passing through parliament will remove ground rents for residential leasehold properties with leases of more than 21 years.

The next step, if the Government follows through with its intentions, will be to give leaseholders the right to extend a lease to a maximum term of 990 years, with no ground rent payable. This term is more than 10 times the current standard 90-year extension. An?online calculator will be introduced to?make it simpler for leaseholders to find out how much it will cost them to extend.

Persimmon and Aviva

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating the leasehold sector, with doubling ground rent clauses of particular concern. Also, many homes that should ordinarily be sold as freehold have been mis-sold as leasehold. Crucial changes have recently been agreed by housebuilder Persimmon and insurance company Aviva (which buys leaseholds from housebuilders), including:

  • Aviva will remove leasehold clauses that double ground rent every 10 to 15 years, with leaseholders refunded for past increases.
  • Persimmon will grant leaseholders the chance to acquire the freehold of their property at a concessionary price (capped at £2,000), and refund homeowners who have already bought their freehold at a higher price.

As yet there is no date for the implementation of the new leasehold rules. The CMA is continuing its investigations into several other housebuilders and investors in freeholds. The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill doesn’t help existing leaseholders, but the hope is that that the recent move by Persimmon and Aviva will send a clear signal without the need for costly court cases.

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