“Shared ownership is a government scheme run by a housing charity. What could go wrong?”
I bought my shared ownership flat in 2006, from Metropolitan Housing Trust (now Metropolitan Thames Valley (MTVH)). I couldn’t rely on my parents for a deposit because I don’t come from a well-off family. I couldn’t afford to buy on the open market as a single person, either. Property prices were high and I was on a relatively low income as a university lecturer, so the idea that I could buy a part share was appealing. At least I wouldn’t be renting, I thought. Shared ownership is a government scheme run by a housing charity. What could go wrong?
MTVH’s sales rep explained that I’d buy a share and pay rent on the rest. They told me I’d have a foot on the ladder, and gave me a glossy brochure which told me about the development, and the local area. They also gave me a short list of financial advisers and solicitors. They said that shared ownership was a niche product, and if I used their recommended specialists my purchase would go through more quickly. I got a mortgage via a financial adviser recommended by MTVH. The conveyancing was done by a solicitor recommended by MTVH. And within eight weeks, I was given the keys and moved into my first home. It was a lovely flat on a nice development, and I felt very lucky.
Within a few months problems became apparent. My neighbours and I were paying service charge, but we weren’t getting any service. We thought it was just teething troubles in a new building. Fourteen years and three sets of legal proceedings later we’ve had to accept that our landlord is very happy to take the £87k that leaves the building in service charge alone every year, without ever providing any kind of service in return. Our building is now shabby, run-down and neglected.
Shared ownership is not shared, and it’s interesting to note how that works in real terms. I have to maintain 100% of my flat, even though I only have a 30% share, and if I want to change the bathroom or the kitchen, I need to ask first, and pay a permission fee. My neighbours and I must also pay for the maintenance of the building. It costs a landlord nothing to maintain their share because the tenants pay for everything.
After I moved in, I also found out that it’s not actually ownership either. The case of Richardson v Midland Heart (2007) proved that shared ownership is just an assured tenancy. What this means is that if a shared ownership tenant gets into eight weeks arrears with either rent or service charge, the landlord will repossess the property in its entirety, without refunding the money the tenant paid for their share. This was not explained to me at the point of sale, and when I went through the conveyancing report several years later, I found that the clause in the lease stating this was the one clause that the conveyancing solicitor had skipped over.
I took out a mortgage and, far from actually owning a share in a property, all I have is a tenancy that is less secure than the one my grandmother had on the council house she brought my father up in.
The emotional impact of realizing I had been deceived to this extent was immense. I am not a stupid person but, like any con victim, I feel like a gullible fool for having believed all the sales talk. I was promised a foot on the ladder with the potential to own my own home, but that’s not what happens with shared ownership. I was lied to by a housing charity, by the government, and by a whole array of professionals who make their living from the sale of shared ownership properties. All I wanted was a secure and decent home, but buying into shared ownership turned out to be the biggest financial mistake of my life.
I don’t know how it can possibly be right that this situation is allowed to continue, but while it is, I would advise anyone reading this to be very, very careful about buying shared ownership.