Commons debate, July 11 2019
Labour MP Rosie Cooper has asked whether it is time to ban Redrow from developing in Liverpool, after the council banned ground rent game-players Countryside Properties plc from the city.
Ms Cooper also named Bannister Preston Solicitors LLP – a firm repeatedly recommended by housebuilders which apparently did not highlight aggressive ground terms to customers.
“I must declare my interest as I am one of the many thousands to have been caught in the leasehold trap.
Ms Cooper is furious at Redrow developing on council land, which means house buyers can only buy leasehold properties, buying the land off the council for very little and then selling it on to ground rent speculators at huge profits.
“In Liverpool, for example, the council sold the freehold of one site to Redrow for £1, which then sold it on for £175,000, saying that that was the best price for Liverpool’s taxpayers. Where was the district auditor?
“My colleagues tell me that this practice is not unusual and is happening all over the country. Liverpool has banned Countryside Properties, and the Mayor has rightly said:
“We will not be making any deals…with any developers that put people at risk.
“Is it now time to ban Redrow? We need to find a way to ensure that thousands who are already caught are given an exit option on fair terms.”
Ms Cooper added:
“It appears that we have 18th-century practices operating at 21st-century prices and, more fundamentally, that a person’s home is not really their own, with the freedom to do within it as they please.
“In West Lancashire, nearly a quarter of homes sold in 2016-17 were leasehold, and the figure was still over 15% in 2018.
“The issue seems to be that leasehold has strayed into being an extortionate money-making racket at the expense of house owners.”
Ms Cooper singled out Bannister Preston Solicitors for criticism:
“My hon. Friend [Clive Betts MP] talked about inducements to use the preferred solicitor of the developer and the lack of information that follows.
“I can tell the House for a fact that Redrow in the north-west simply passes all its clients’ details to Bannister Preston Solicitors LLP, and it is assumed that that firm will act for them. It is time for the Solicitors Regulation Authority to wake up and act.”
And a final thought:
“I firmly believe that, unless strong and immediate action is taken, people will have great difficulty when they come to sell their virtual freehold homes, with the covenants and conditions still remaining, in a few years’ time. I forecast to the Government that the freehold scandal will erupt again.
“We need leasehold reform now. It is in the Government’s power to do it now.”
Full debate here:
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