My SO Home: No. 4

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Gwen Owens*

I heard one of their officers joking about it; how residents don’t realise that after 99 years the property goes back to the landlord and no one realises they need to extend but can’t until they’ve got 100%.

I was dismayed to discover – after moving into my new build flat in 2014 – that shared ownership flats in my development had a significantly shorter lease than private sale leasehold flats sold at the same time; 99 years versus 125 years. I found this out when a few months after moving in, we set up a residents association and started talking with each other. I purchased a 25% share. 

I found out that you need to extend your lease before it drops below 80 years to avoid high costs, but can only extend the lease via the statutory route once you’ve staircased to 100%. That means shared owners have less than 19 years to find the money to staircase to 100% and to extend the lease, all while paying rent on un-owned shares, 100% of the service charges and 100% of repairs.

This doesn’t seem fair and it’s something the housing association is aware of. I heard one of their officers joking about it; how residents don’t realise that after 99 years the property goes back to the landlord and no one realises they need to extend but can’t until they’ve got 100%.

The housing association did not at first offer informal lease extensions to shared owners, I’ve heard they have recently started doing so, however, I have been badly burned by them too many times (to give one painful example, they promised me in writing they would reimburse costs I would incur repairing build defects, so I went ahead and spent the money. They then failed to pay up even though they’d pre approved the quotes before the works) so don’t trust that I’d get a reasonable deal – I’d rather wait and go the formal route so I can be sure I am protected by law.

I was also troubled to find out that the HA is effectively ‘double dipping’; they’re taking rent while not paying for repairs, but they also expect to take profit from the full rise in market value (which can be huge in London) when shared owners staircase. It seems wrong, if they want to take that level of profit (as well as rent), they should contribute to repairs and service charges.

I’ve had to deal with other problems too: poor quality construction caused water leaks and a lot of other issues in my flat.

Dealing with all the repairs has been living hell, and the housing association is a nightmare to deal with. What makes it worse is that my housing association is the property developer AND the landlord. So, for example, we’ve had build defects inaccurately charged to residents as service charges. Fortunately, having a residents’ association makes it easier to challenge the housing association when things go wrong. But service charges statements aren’t always clearly evidenced so it takes a lot of time and effort to check them.

There have been so many problems I can’t believe I am still standing – just living here feels like an unbearable strain. There’s nothing that can be done other than take the housing association to court as they have refused all offers of mediation and have refused to release basic information about the building and its management. Having multiple court cases for build and management is very, very stressful and takes a colossal amount of time and effort. It’s certainly not something I ever would have chosen to do and it’s had a severe impact on me.

There’s no way I ever would have purchased this property if I had known how many issues there would be with build defects and how disreputable the housing association would be. I’m stunned they are getting away with it.

*Name has been changed..

One Comment

  1. Deepa
    March 15, 2021

    I’m so sorry for your situation. This is standard experience across all housing associations and all shared ownership property, from those I’ve spoken to.
    You have 100% of the bills but 0% legal protection, whereas housing association has it vice versa.
    This is a terrible product marketed well at the financially vulnerable. It makes a mint for those invested (not residents) so why would they want to change things.

    I do hope it starts to improve for you

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