COUNCILLORS have joined growing calls for Government to tackle the leasehold scandal after hearing how it is turning dream homes into living nightmares.

Many new homebuyers across Cheshire West – including at new developments in Winnington, Winsford and Ellesmere Port – have bought leaseholds rather than freeholds.

It means they do not have control over the land that their home sit on, so they have to pay ‘ground rent’ plus fees for changing their property such as adding a conservatory.

But developers can sell off the freehold to a third party without notifying the resident – and that can see costs escalate as the new freeholder ramps up charges.

“The damage to people’s lives and the impacts on their mental health and physical wellbeing cannot be overstated,” Cllr Christine Warner, Labour Cheshire West and Chester Council member for Ledsham and Manor, told Thursday’s meeting.

“Buying a new home gives people the impression that buying new means buying perfect and free from worries – this is patently not the case.”

Katie Kendrick, a nurse and mum from Ellesmere Port, bought a four-bedroom leasehold property in 2015 after being told she could buy her freehold after two years for £2,000.

But she discovered the freehold had been sold off to a third party, who demanded £13,000 for the freehold, while permission fees also increased – with the cost of adding a conservatory rising from £300 to £2,600.

Katie said: “It was then that I had my ‘penny drop moment’ that something was seriously wrong – and my home was now being used as a cash cow.

“I say my home, but it’s not mine. I am a mortgaged tenant with a landlord. Loopholes of outdated legislation have allowed this to legally happen.

Winsford Guardian:

“When I moved into my leasehold house in 2014, I never thought for one minute that my dream home would turn into a living nightmare.”

Katie discovered that the issue was affecting her neighbours – some who had been quoted as much as £30,000 for their freehold – and those who want to sell their property are now struggling to.

She then set up the National Leaseholder Campaign, which now has more than 15,000 members.

She added: “I never realised I would spend the next three years living a real-life David and Goliath battle, fighting for the homes of millions.

“This battle has taken so much time from my family I can never get back. The impact this is having on people’s mental health and wellbeing is alarming.

“I have been contacted by people wanting to end their own lives because they feel there is no other way out – this is the reality of the situation.”

Councillors across the political divide agreed that action needs to be taken on leaseholds.

Cllr Bob Cernik, Labour member for Winnington and Castle, called for an end to the ‘arcane and feudal practice’ that has ‘blighted the lives of many’ in Winnington Urban Village.

“What I see is a lot of very, very distressed residents in Winsford and beyond,” added Cllr Mike Baynham, Conservative member for Winsford Over and Verdin.

Winsford Guardian:

“It’s not my role to say whether it’s scandalous, but I do believe it is wrong, and I do believe that this Government – and every Government before it – could have addressed it.”

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CWAC members voted for a motion – proposed by Cllr Warner – to lobby Government for a national inquiry into the mis-selling of leaseholds, a ban on new leaseholds, an end to ground rents, cheaper freeholds for leaseholders to buy and stronger regulation.

The council will also work with leaseholders on scrutiny panels to see how widespread the issue is in the borough and how residents can be supported.