Housebuilding in the UK is on the increase with 184,000 new homes constructed in the last year, according to government figures – the highest level recorded since 2008.
The statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government for the quarter ended June 2017 show an increase in new builds completed of 12 per cent on the previous year.
With the government pledging more investment for affordable homes, the number of new properties on the market is likely to continue rising. Around three-quarters of the homes being built are houses and the remainder flats – many aimed at the first-time buyer, keen to get a foot on the housing ladder.
The Prime Minister’s January reshuffle gave Sajid Javid the new role of Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and he immediately pledged to make building homes an “absolute priority” for the Government.
The Minister had announced in December that he would look at a fairer, more transparent system for leasehold owners after reports that some ground rents were onerous, escalating at a rate that caused difficulties for home owners.
Developer Taylor Wimpey has set aside £130 million to compensate people who bought homes from them and found the lease had been sold on leaving them saddled with escalating ground rents and high fees for administration or to purchase the freehold.
Liz Seal, a Partner heading up the Residential Conveyancing team at Curtis Whiteford Crocker solicitors in Plymouth, says that the situation seems to be a greater problem in Wales and the North East but it does signal a warning for home buyers in the Westcountry.
“We have had one or two instances where we have alerted buyers to escalating ground rents and warned them against buying the property in question. The problem comes with the wording of the lease. It’s not the use of leasehold as a method of property ownership; it’s the ground rent. Is it at an affordable level?”
The Law Society has supported the government’s proposal to look at disproportionate fees and the rapid rise in ground rents.
“There are going to be a number of people affected and the only recourse is a good solicitor,” says Liz. “The purchase of new homes, particularly, puts a lot of pressure on people. There is this misconception that there will be ‘no problem’ with a new build. Buyers are told the paperwork needs to be completed in 28 days so you need a quite robust solicitor and client to deal with the developers as the paperwork is delivered with a standing instruction that ‘no amendments will be agreed’.
“It’s good that the government plans to redress the problem. It will be interesting to know what they plan to do about it. Many people will be left to pursue their own redress. That’s why it’s important to choose the right solicitor. The whole area is a minefield.”