We have had a lot of interest from home owners of properties at Speakman Gardens estate in Prescot, following the revelation that some of the properties have a clause in the lease that will see the ground rent increase at an alarming rate over short periods of time.

It has been discovered that a number of residents on the estate have a clause in their lease which will see the ground rate double every ten years.

But what if the homeowner is unable or refuses to pay?

If you do not pay ground rent, then the owner of the ground rent (the receiver of the monies) can take action through the courts to recover the monies and in some cases to forfeit the lease under which the property is held.

Unfortunately, by law it isn’t an option for the residents of Speakman Gardens to refuse to pay the increased ground rent.

In addition, the clause could have a big impact on the saleability of the property. The existence of punitive rentals could, and most likely will, make the homes less attractive to potential buyers. It may be that the houses become difficult to sell or at best will be sold at a discounted rate.

So, what can the home owners do about it?

Well, assuming that the solicitor that dealt with conveyancing did not set out the clause in the lease clearly, then the home owner will need to show a loss. It would be impossible to assess how long the home owner would have to pay the ground rent for as they may sell the property. However, it is possible to assess the loss in value caused by the punitive rentals charged.

There are easy processes available using expert valuation guidance that can establish the losses. The losses could be the entire value of the house or it could be simply a part of the value depending on the amounts of rent payable.

How easy would be for a home owner to make a claim and what would it cost?

No litigation is easy but the principles here are quite straightforward. There would be legal fees involved but only if the case is won and only then would it be a percentage of the claim. The percentage of the claim is capped at 25% which is a ‘success fee’ payable to the solicitor. There would be no fees payable at all should the claim fail.

All of these agreements are set out in writing before the claim is actioned. If the case was lost then any fees payable to the other side would be covered by a policy of ‘After The Event Insurance’ (ATE). This is provided on the basis that, should the claim succeed, the insurers recover their agreed premium. The premium will be communicated before you incur any obligation. The insurer’s quote is based on risk, but it isn’t compulsory to have ATE but it is wise to do so; if the claim fails then the ATE insurer will pay all of the other side’s fees and any expert fees or court fees that may have been paid.

But the home owners were let down by solicitors, so why should they trust another?

Here at St Helens Law we strive to succeed. We will spend as long as it takes and apply whatever resources are needed to obtain a good result and provide an excellent service for our clients.

We have an excellent team of professionals who have a breadth of experience in professional negligence cases and obtain a large amount of work by referral from satisfied clients. I myself have been dealing in solicitor negligence cases in St Helens since 1983.

If you own a property at Speakman Gardens estate or have been affected by a similar issue, call 01744 454433 or email me at howard.nulty@sthelenslaw.co.uk to find out how we can help.