Leasehold home owners slapped with costly fees, says Which?

Home owners in England with leasehold properties are being slapped with costly "permission fees" to make improvements, including £252 to own a pet and £60 to put up a doorbell, according to Which?

Leasehold properties generally require home owners to pay ground rent on their home and there can also be service charges for maintaining any common areas.

The consumer group said in recent months, many leaseholders have contacted Which? about needing to pay permission fees to freeholders and managing agents to make home improvements, citing the double whammy of paying a fee - of as much as £108 - to even make a request, followed by another fee to obtain permission.

It has received complaints from home owners who were asked to pay as much as £2,500 to build a conservatory, £252 to own a pet, £60 to replace a doorbell and £300 to erect a fence.

One Which? reader feared her property was going to be repossessed after she built an extension and this concern was only lifted after she agreed to retrospectively pay a £1,600 fee, the consumer group said.

Which? said that in an attempt to avoid paying ground rent, some home owners had asked to purchase their freehold up-front.

But some leaseholders told Which? they had been discouraged at the time of buying the property - only to find later that the freehold had been sold to a third-party company.

The consumer group said some home owners could find themselves effectively "trapped" in properties they may struggle to sell on.

In December, the Government announced a new crackdown on unfair leasehold practices - including making it cheaper and easier for existing leaseholders to buy out their freehold and better information available about redress for people who face the most onerous terms.

Gareth Shaw, Which? money expert, said: "We look forward to seeing firm action from the Government to protect home owners."

A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation said: "Leasehold is in itself a secure and proven tenure that helps protect millions of home owners.

"It works well for the vast majority of people who own their home with a lease in instances where they are interdependent and where facilities, grounds and services are shared by multiple households.

"The terms of leases should be proportionate and clearly communicated to buyers whenever they purchase a home. The industry continues to work with government and other stakeholders to ensure that leasehold terms are fair and transparent, providing confidence to homebuyers and existing leaseholders alike."

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