Fears over ground rent and cladding prompt 'Leaseholders Together' protest outside Parliament

Political correspondent Lise McNally has been speaking to a campaigner from the North West who has been impacted by ground rent.

Campaigners from the North West have protested outside parliament, urging the government to act faster to end what they say are huge injustices in the leasehold system 

A new law currently going through parliament will put an end to ground rents for the majority of new, leasehold homes.

It has been called the most significant change to property law in a generation, but people already stuck with skyrocketing costs say they've been left behind.

Jo Darbyshire now runs a campaign group for people affected by leasehold issues.

"It's just greed, that's all it is - just greed."

Jo Darbyshire's family bought their dream home in 2010.

The house had a doubling ground rent clause which meant the cost paid to the freeholder went up every ten years - she says she was told she could buy the freehold at any point, for £5000.

It was then sold to an investor - and the cost went up to £30,000.

Jo recalls: "You go through a range of emotions - you feel physically sick, angry, cheated, then you start to go right, what can we do about this?"

It left Jo with few ways to escape having to pay ground rent to the freeholder, which started at £295 a year, and then doubled. 

Jo's developer, Taylor Wimpey, said in response that they have volunteered to convert her ground rent - at their own cost -  so it is measured against inflation instead. 

They added: "We are very sorry about the difficulties some of our customers have faced as a result of their ten-year doubling lease terms and we have taken decisive and proactive action to put it right."

That change means buying the freehold is finally in Jo's reach.

But she says this is about so much more than her own situation - and is currently running a Facebook campaign group to support others through leasehold difficulties.

What are leasehold homes?

Homes bought under leasehold are essentially long term tenancies - where ground rents and other fees could need to be paid to the freeholder - the person who owns the land.

Leaseholds can make up the vast majority of house sales in some areas: data from 2019 revealed the top ten constituencies - all of them are in the North West of England.

A change in the law is currently going through parliament, called The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill, which aims to abolish ground rent for long residential leaseholds. 

But if it is passed, it will only apply to homes sold in the future, and does nothing for people like Jo.

"Like something from the middle ages"

Mike Amesbury, the Shadow Housing Minister and Weaver Vale MP - wants to bring forward an amendment to the bill, ending existing ground rents for everyone.

He told Granada Reports: "The leasehold system is like something from the middle ages, where leaseholders are in serfdom, they've got less rights than many tenants in the private rented sector."

"We've had people feeling suicidal"

Jo helps to run a campaign group for others feeling caught in a leasehold trap. 

She said : "For some of them - we have had people in the group who've said they're feeling suicidal. I've been on the phone to people in tears, they just can't cope, its horrific."

Jo and her fellow campaigners will gathered in front of parliament, urging the government to act on all things leasehold - from ground rents to cladding costs.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "We have already introduced legislation to free future leaseholders of the additional costs associated with new leases, and we welcome the Competition Markets Authority’s continued success in securing agreements with developers to remove doubling ground rents for existing leaseholders.

“This will ensure leaseholders are given the fair treatment they deserve, and we strongly urge other developers to follow suit.”