Homeowners kept in limbo by legal debate over land

First published in News

HOMEOWNERS at a Droitwich housing development are being kept in limbo, unable to sell their homes, due to legal wrangling between the owners of the freehold to the land, and Wychavon District Council which has dragged on for the past five years.

Residents of Willow Court in Droitwich own their properties as leasehold, which means that although they own the buildings themselves, they don’t own the land on which they are built.

The 99 year lease on the land currently belongs to landowners the Emms family estate, with nearly 47 years remaining on the lease.

However, due to lending restrictions from most banks and building societies, the vast majority of people can’t obtain a mortgage for properties with less than 70 years left on the leasehold, which puts the Willow Court home owners in a drastic position if they want to sell, since no-one is in a position to buy their houses.

Homeowner Ann Hickman, said: “We feel we’re being held to ransom, because we cannot sell our houses, we cannot do anything. We’ve got our hands tied.”

District councillor Lynne Duffy has been liaising between the residents and the council.

She said: “Wychavon are trying to buy back the freehold. We’re trying our best to do this, but it’s not easy. I’ve been asking these questions now for about five years and it’s been in negotiation.

“I’ve door-knocked around Willow Court and they’re really worried, because none of them can sell, or if they do sell they have to sell at really low rate because the properties are not mortgageable. Several have had to move and they’ve rented the property out, but for others their money is tied up in assets that they can’t get hold of.”

The stalemate between the Emms estate and the council has meant that residents needing to move are faced with taking a massive loss on their property.

Mrs Hickman added “We think we should get between £110,000 and 120,000 for these properties, but they’re falling. One of the little bungalows, the owner involved had put his up for auction. When he said ‘what I’ve had is £40,000’ I nearly died.”

Councillor Duffy added: “Nothing can be done until this lease is sorted. It’s going through the legal department. I would like to see an agreement for either a 99 year lease or the freehold with the tenants.

“I think that’s a possibility, but I don’t know what the time scale is. It’s got to have been dragging on at least five years now.”

Peter Head, property and projects manager at Wychavon District Council said: “We are aware of the unfortunate circumstance the residents of Willow Court have found themselves in. We have been working with them for some time to resolve these issues but it is a complicated process which is reliant on others.”

The Advertiser was unable to contact the Emms estate for comment.

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