We reported last February how thousands of owners of new-build homes are being hit with unexpected costs when they go to buy the freehold (currently 1.4 million houses have been sold as leasehold).
This week, there was more doom for freeholders, with the Daily Mail reporting that caveats within the freehold contracts meant the homeowners have to stick to “onerous” rules – or seek out from, and pay for permission to, the developer or the former freeholder to carry out certain activities.
This means that legally, some residents who sign the deals will have to get permission if they want to redecorate their home or install a conservatory or shed.
Other rules appear to ban owners from parking a caravan on their drive, running a business from home or removing shrubs from their gardens. Others stipulate that the windows must be cleaned regularly.
Even if the homeowner pays a fee for seeking permission, there is no refund if the request is turned down.
It is not clear how stringently these rules might be applied by the freeholders – typically major developers, such as Barratt and Redrow, builders and investment firms – with legal experts warning that the contracts create a huge grey area of potential restrictions that could put off future buyers.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, a partner at Leasehold Law, says: “Freehold buyers need to be very cautious about the terms they are offered.
“While one might expect that purchasing the freehold would remove all onerous clauses, all too often these clauses are retained in the small print.
“We’ve seen many instances where the homeowner still needs to get permission for anything from building a conservatory to changing the carpets, and even installing blinds on the windows.
“The worst-case scenario is that homeowners might end up with a property that is unsellable due to the persistence of onerous clauses and permissions.”