The Leaseholder Association has facilitated a consultation meeting with the Law Commissioner, Stephen Lewis, and leaseholders in retirement flats to get their views on hidden charges in leases. The Law Commission has been asked by the Government to investigate the fairness of ‘Event Fees’ and make recommendations for changes in the law.
The meeting on 3rd February was hosted at Riverbourne Court, Sittingbourne and was attended by over 60 residents from 9 other McCarthy & Stone retirement estates throughout East Kent.
‘Event Fees’ is an umbrella term given by the Law Commission for fees payable upon sale or subletting of a flat also known as Exit Fees, Contingency Fees or Transfer Fees and are particularly common in leases of flats in McCarthy & Stone retirement schemes.
Stephen Lewis told the audience that although the Law Commission are taking into account leaseholders views it has a ‘required outcome’ which is to stimulate growth of retirement housing as this has many benefits such as making this type of housing more affordable, freeing up larger properties that families could occupy and saving money for the NHS by encouraging the vulnerable elderly to live in accommodation that offers greater support and security.
Leaseholders present expressed anger and outrage about fees that go straight to the landlord and give no benefit back to flat owners and in most cases are not even paid to the developer but to an offshore investment company that acquires the freehold after the site is built and all the flats are purchased. “Its a rip off” one said.
Stephen Lewis went on to say that Event Fees are unlikely to be banned but the Law Commission would like more transparency in the fees being charged to allow purchasers to make an informed decision early on in the sales process. He acknowledged that this might not help leaseholders that already have these terms in their leases.
It became evident from comments that leaseholders were confused by the term ‘Event Fees’ because it did not distinguish between monies paid for services and windfall monies paid straight back to the freeholder for no service at all. Stephen Lewis said he might need to revisit the definition.
Joe Oldman, Housing Policy Adviser from Age UK said the consultation on event fees was long-awaited as Age UK had for many years received complaints about these fees in leases. Joe said that Age UK’s position was to seek a ban of event fees other than payments for genuine administration costs or as contributions to a sinking fund.
Sub note: –
The Leaseholder Association is inviting estates with leases that were originally drafted by McCarthy and Stone to support legal action to challenge unfair, unreasonable and wrongful charges. There is an arguable case that the 1% transfer fee is unreasonable, that rents on scheme manager’s flats are not payable and that guest room income should not go back to the landlord.
Anyone interested in supporting this action should contact the Leaseholder Association at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Law Commission Consultation Paper on Event Fees is available here
At the request of the Law Commission, The Leaseholder Association has responded to the Consultation Paper. This response is available to view here.