In Brief

National Trust defends 10,000% ground rent increase

Controversy has rumbled on for years and is rooted in legislation passed in 1967

The National Trust is being criticised in the press over claims it has hiked the ground rents for some elderly tenants by as much as 10,000 per cent.

In a strongly-worded statement, the Tenants Association of the National Trust said the organisation is trying to "exploit vulnerable parties ... to make a quick – and very large – buck".

The Association called for an inquiry and "the immediate resignation of all those that allowed this sorry debacle to take place".

Among the cases, it is citing is that of an 87-year-old tenant of a property on National Trust land, who faces an increase in his ground rent from £148 to £15,000 a year if he goes ahead and extends his ownership lease.

Alternatively he has been told he can "buy out the higher ground rent", says The Times, at a cost of £78,000.

Ed Vaizey, the Conservative former heritage minister, said that a National Trust leaseholder in his South Oxfordshire constituency complained his ground rent was rising from £50 to £5,000 a year.

But the National Trust has defended the changes.

It says leaseholders, who mostly bought 49-year leases including only nominal ground rents, were always due to move to higher "modern ground rents" in the event they exercised their legal right to extend the lease by 50 years.

The provision is included in the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 and is designed to "strike a balance between the competing interests of landlords and tenants", says the Slee Blackwell Solicitors website. 

Controversy over these provisions, which could affect around 300 of the 5,000 occupied National Trust homes, dates back to at least 2014.

Under the 1967 act, the move to "modern ground rents" means revaluing the charge based on the land value of the property – a proportion of the overall property value – and dividing this over a number of years.

Huge increases in property prices in recent years means the increases in rents are sizeable.

The National Trust says where it is satisfied tenants were misled over the changes that would come when they renewed their lease it will forego the modern ground rent, as it has done in one case.

It adds that it has been released from its obligation to maximise the value of its land and that the buyout values offered to leaseholders are half of the full commercial market rate.

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