My SO Home: No. 7

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Shared ownership helped Lydia Davis get on the property ladder. But now she can’t sell, and subletting restrictions pose further financial problems.

“When I bought a 50% share in this flat more than 10 years ago, it was the only way I could get on the property ladder”.

I’m currently living in a tiny one-bedroom flat with my four-year-old son. It’s hardly ideal. Given problems with cladding and so on, I can’t sell the flat and move somewhere bigger. I can’t currently rent the flat out. And massively increased service charges mean that I can barely afford to live here at all.

I asked Wandle Housing Association for permission to sublet the property. Initially they refused on the grounds that they only grant permission to sublet to those with “extenuating circumstances”. I didn’t really know what more “extenuating circumstances” there could be! They need a less rigid policy given the difficulties that leaseholders are facing, and the length of time that it will take to make the flats safe.

“I really think that shared owners should have more rights“.

After a lengthy email exchange with Wandle, I have finally been granted permission to sublet. This was after I stressed at some length the difficulties of living in a one-bedroom flat with my young son, and made a big deal about how I have no intention of profiting from this situation. However, there are various strings attached – a one year limit for renting (they’ve been adamant about that), the need to use a certain estate agent, and so on.

Unfortunately, I’m finding it hard to make the figures for subletting add up. Flats like mine now rent for much less than they would have done a couple of years ago. With all the associated costs including estate agent fees, tax implications, massive service charge to pay and so on, I don’t think I can break even at the moment.

So basically I’m stuck with the choice of either moving somewhere much, much cheaper than London, with all the problems that would create with getting to work, my son’s schooling and so on, or staying here at least until I have some concrete information about what is going to happen to these flats.

I really think that shared owners should have more rights. For example, the idea that I own half the flat but am responsible for all the fire safety remediation costs seems illogical and wrong.  

“I have no guarantee that in one year the cladding situation will be any different”.

When I bought this flat more than 10 years ago I was aware that neither shared ownership nor leasehold were ideal. But in London, working in the public sector, it was the only way I could get anywhere near the property ladder. I thought it was the best option available. Of course I had no idea that this situation would become quite so bad.

If I knew that the excessive service charge was going to end at some point it would be a lot easier. But everything is so vague. I have no idea when, or how, these flats will be remediated for fire safety. Also I have no guarantee that in one year the situation will be any different. In that case, I really don’t know what I would do….

One Comment

  1. Sarah smith
    May 3, 2021

    This all resonates with so many people I speak too- so sorry to hear your story Lydia. Thank you for shining a light on these issues and I hope you are able to convince your housing association to do the right thing.

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