Owners of retirement flats and their families are being caught out by unexpected charges hidden in leases.
Leases of retirement flats and bungalows often include a fee triggered by certain events, such as when the owner sells or sub-lets their property. These “event fees” are typically set at around 1% of the property sale price but may be as high as 30%.
Event fees can be a practical way of making retirement flats affordable, particularly for older people with low incomes, because they can defer the running costs until the property is sold. But owners and their families are often not told about the fees until after they have agreed to buy the property and, when they sell, they may be shocked at how high the fees can turn out to be.
In a consultation opening today the Law Commission looks at what can be done to protect consumers from unexpected leasehold event fees (which include “transfer”, “contingency”, “deferred-management” and “selling-service” fees). The Commission asks:
- should developers, landlords and managing agents of retirement flats do more to make potential buyers aware of event fees at an early stage,
- should this obligation be extended to estate agents, and
- how far can this be achieved through industry codes of practice?
The Commission provisionally proposes measures that developers, landlords and managing agents should take to make event fees more transparent, and asks whether the courts’ power to control unfair fees should be strengthened.
Stephen Lewis, the Law Commissioner for commercial and common law, said today:
“Older people are able to live independently in specialist retirement housing thanks to its design and the services provided on site. There are good reasons why they might want to defer some of the associated costs, and pay an event fee when the property is sold. But too many people are being taken by surprise by hidden event fees.
“With the number of people over the age of 85 expected to double in the next 20 years, we need more specialist housing for older people. Developers, landlords and all those who benefit from event fees must do more to make them transparent before the public loses confidence in this valuable sector.”
The consultation is open until 29 January 2016.
Notes for editors
- The Law Commission is a non-political independent body, set up by Parliament in 1965 to keep all the law of England and Wales under review, and to recommend reform where it is needed.
- A summary of the consultation paper, “Residential leases: fees on transfer of title, change of occupancy and other events”, is available under embargo.
- Illustrative case studies of residential leaseholders and families are available.
- Projections for those aged over 85 are based on Office of National Statistics projections, 2012.
- For more details on this project, visit lawcom.gov.uk
- For all press queries please contact:
Phil Hodgson, Head of External Relations: 020 3334 3305
Jackie Samuel: 020 3334 3648