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Orchid Meadow residents could be charged over £400 just to change their carpets by the ground manage

RESIDENTS of Formby’s Orchid Meadow have hit out at the developer Bellway who they say “misled” them and “abused its position” when they were purchasing their homes.

The newbuild estate off Park Road includes dozens of three and four-bed homes sold on 999-year leases. The residents each pay a yearly ground rent which increases with inflation. They must also pay fees to carry out improvements to their homes such as building extensions or conservatories. Although they can by law purchase the freehold after two years, many are worried that when the time comes it will be too expensive.

Unhappy homeowners say they weren’t made fully aware of the implications of the leasehold. The freeholds have now been sold off by Bellway to a third party which residents fear will make the freeholds even more expensive to purchase.

One resident, who lives in Edison Close but who preferred not to be named, said Bellway had acted in an unfair manner. She said: “To many of us owning a leasehold property was new and the implications not really understood completely."

“Many of us used the solicitor recommended by Bellway. They should have explained the implications leasehold properties had in more detail. But the solicitor just said ‘it was one of the best leases you could have’ and I trusted the solicitors’ judgment.”

The resident said the new ground rent management company, HomeGround, which acts on behalf of the landlord, charges £108 to residents for simply enquiring about buying the freehold or making improvements to a property.

“To make certain changes to your house you have to pay £108 to HomeGround just to ask the question,” said the resident. “We have a right to buy the freehold after two years but uncertainty about the cost is leading many on the estate to try to buy it before the two years is up.

“The worry is that if we don’t, we will be priced out of buying our freehold altogether. Other people in the country have experienced this problem too but it seems to be a particular issue in the North.

“It's the general feeling that we have been misled by Bellway as they have acted in a unfair manner and abused their position as all this was not made clear from the beginning."

“All the companies are using immoral practices to ultimately make more profit.”

Residents are charged £108 just to ask the ground management company a question. Depending on what works are being requested, the resident can be charged anything from £300 for changing carpets or laying laminate flooring, to £1,440 plus an unspecified landlord’s fee to build an extension.

A sokesperson from Bellway said: "We highlight where we are selling leasehold or freehold at the point of reservation. Purchaser’s solicitors will advise on the detail of the leasehold terms which are clearly and explicitly detailed within all contractual documentation provided to the purchaser. This includes the terms of the leasehold, as well as the ground rent payable and review frequency."

"In all circumstances, the purchaser will be advised by their solicitor who will act in compliance with Law Society and CML requirements. Bellway leasehold properties are typically for periods of 999 years with ground rent increasing by RPI which means that in real terms, the amount payable will remain the same value in future years."

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has slammed this “legalised extortion” and has vowed to step in to help residents who feel trapped by their newbuild homes.

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