My SO Home: No. 27

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Ten years ago, my husband and I bought a 25% share of a flat. We didn’t need a mortgage as we used money from the sale of our former council home, which we’d purchased some years before. We sold our council home as we needed to downsize. And selling it meant we could help one of our children buy a home of their own. After selling, we rented while we tried to buy on the open market, but nothing suitable was available. So, when this shared ownership flat came up, it seemed ideal.

We thought a housing association would have our best interests at heart

The flat was a resale, not a new-build,, so we bought directly from the seller. But because the landlord – Great Places (ironic!) – is a housing association, we thought they would be fair and have our best interests at heart. We assumed that they were similar to the council, helping people who are not financially well off. Especially when they checked to see if we were eligible to obtain a social property. How wrong we were!!!

I had no idea that buying a 25% shared ownership would be something that we would come to regret. I am not a stupid person, but I can honestly say that we acted foolishly when we entered into this arrangement. Having said that, no one warned us of the consequences, neither my solicitor nor the estate agent. No one advised us we would be responsible for 100% of all the costs of repairs and maintenance, or why it mattered that the lease had fewer than 70 years remaining. And no one explained how much our rent could increase over time.

Our rent has just gone up another £57 per month. I looked into staircasing but I couldn’t get my head round it. It seemed that we would need a solicitor and a surveyor every time we wanted to increase our share. Which sounded costly and complicated. Worse, I only recently realised that my lease needs extending, and this in itself can be expensive.

Unfortunately, our housing association is difficult to deal with, especially regarding ground maintenance and window cleaning – the only services we receive.

I can’t retire – I need to work to pay our rising housing costs

At 66 years old I just received my pension after waiting a further six years for it, being a WASPI woman (Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign). My husband is 72 and has just taken his retirement. I am too old now to get a mortgage. So we can’t afford to extend our lease, and the opportunity to staircase to 100% is out of reach. But I can’t retire. I have to continue working to meet all the rising costs of our future rent and service charge obligations.

I can’t work forever – the money we have will eventually run out

We are in a property that we can never buy. As I said before, we can’t extend our lease. But we can’t sell our share because no one would get a mortgage due to the short lease remaining. We can’t leave our home to our children (we don’t want them saddled with the debt). However, we are both getting older and I can’t work forever, so the money we do have will eventually run out.

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I fear for the future. What once seemed like a good idea has turned into a nightmare!! My shared ownership home makes me feel like I am in a marriage with an abusive partner – only difference being that I could walk away from that partnership, which I am not able to do in this situation. It feels like the whole business is an utter scam and that I have been taken advantage of, because of my financial status.

No matter which way I look at this, we are stuck. Worse, I fear that eventually we will not be able to afford the rent and will be evicted. I am worried about what the future holds, and I feel helpless on what to do next!


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2 Comments

  1. Dawn Harper
    July 13, 2024
    Reply

    My thoughts on this are as follows:

    Your property will be part of your estate when you die. When sold, any proceeds will be divided between your beneficiaries. Don’t know why you think your children will be left with a debt. People don’t inherit the debts of their parents. But speak to a qualified solicitor who can advise you on your will

    You might also be able to extend the lease. So look into it.

    Also, if you are on a low income, you will get housing benefit through retirement to cover rent and service charges. Go to Turn2Us to see what benefits you might be entitled to.

    • Sue
      July 13, 2024
      Reply

      Thanks for your comments and suggestions, Dawn, and particularly for drawing attention to Turn2us. (https://www.turn2us.org.uk/)

      However, regarding beneficiaries, it’s important to note that they are liable for ongoing costs associated with a shared ownership property (rent, service charges and also estate charges (if applicable)). If a property is difficult (or impossible) to sell, say, due to a short lease, or for any other reason which makes it unmortgageable, this can leave beneficiaries with problematic liabilities and, perhaps, debt. Back in 2020, the journal, Inside Housing, wrote a feature on the problems bereaved families can encounter. (Excerpt and link below)

      ‘Around the time of the [Covid] outbreak, Penny Ashcroft contacted Inside Housing in distress. She was being pursued by housing association A2Dominion for £25,000 in unpaid rent on her deceased mother’s shared ownership flat. The flat passed to her as executor of the estate after her mother, Lois Plowman, died in January 2018. Despite Ms Ashcroft’s best efforts, she was unable to sell it. Her requests for A2Dominion to buy back the equity share or allow her to sublet the flat came to nothing, leaving the arrears to pile up.’

      https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/insight/how-bereaved-families-are-being-stung-by-the-costs-of-shared-ownership-66830

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