Taylor Wimpey apologises in leasehold dispute

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Taylor Wimpey, one of the UK's biggest housebuilders, has set aside £130m and apologised to home buyers in a dispute over sharply rising fees.

It is the first major builder to apologise after criticism for leaving customers with onerous leasehold deals.

The contracts meant that ground rents - which are paid to owners of the property - doubled every 10 years.

MPs have described the situation as a "national scandal" and the "PPI of the house building industry".

Other builders have also been criticised for drawing up similar contracts, but are yet to set aside compensation.

What is a leasehold?

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  • Someone who owns a property outright, including the land it is built on, is a freeholder.
  • Most houses are freehold but some might be leasehold - usually through shared-ownership schemes.
  • With a leasehold, the person owns the property for the length of their lease agreement with the freeholder.
  • Leaseholders have to pay their freeholders ground rent and other fees in order to make changes to their homes.
  • When the lease ends, ownership returns to the freeholder unless the person can extend the lease.
  • Some wish to buy their freeholds to save themselves these costs.

Source: The Money Advice Service

'Ripped off'

In a debate on leasehold reform in parliament last year, MPs said thousands of home buyers were being "ripped off left, right and centre" and that it was "nothing short of a national scandal".

As well as sharply rising ground fees, many of the contracts also allowed third-party firms to buy freeholds to houses, making it more difficult to sell the homes.

Taylor Wimpey said the leasehold contract, which contained the doubling clause, was issued to some customers between 2007 and 2011.

The firm said: "It is clear from our review that the impact of these doubling rent review clauses is now causing some of our customers understandable concern."

The company added that it was "sorry for the unintended financial consequence and concern that they are causing".

The £130m will go towards making ground rents for those customers "materially less expensive".

Taylor Wimpey said it was in negotiations with the majority of freehold owners to change the contracts, and would "pursue other avenues" to help other customers.

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