RESIDENTS who have suffered years of stress and frustration have been boosted after confirmation that four house-builders are being investigated over the way leaseholds were sold.

Barratt Developments, Countryside Properties, Persimmon Homes and Taylor Wimpey face action from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after ‘troubling evidence’ of potentially unfair terms and mis-selling.

It has demanded information from the companies – and the matter could go to court.

Labour Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury says it is welcome news and ‘not before time’.

Leasehold ownership, most commonly found in flats, means purchasing a property for the duration of a usually long-term lease rather than owning it outright.

Residents across the region have been affected by the issue.

Mike Carroll, who lives on Steinbeck Grange in Chapelford, Warrington, is among those affected by the leasehold scandal on what residents say is a collective issue.

They believe they were mis-sold their property by David Wilson Homes (DWH) – which is part of Barratt Developments.

Mr Carroll, who moved into his home in December 2008, described confirmation of the investigation as amazing news.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Residents, including Mike Carroll, pictured at the official opening of David Wilson Homes' Dakota Park development in 2012

He slammed the ‘lies’ and ‘deceit’ which residents have faced, while stating they have been strategically deceived.

But a spokesman for DWH North West says all of its leases are designed and intended to be clear and transparent – and that ‘all customers were made aware of the leasehold nature of the properties’ prior to sale.

“We aim to provide all relevant information to our customers at first point of sale and through solicitors prior to exchange of contracts,” he said.

Mr Carroll says, when deposits were placed, there was never any mention of a property management company and residents were placed ‘under duress’ to utilise one of the conveyancing firms put forward by DWH.

He is being charged management fees for communal areas on the estate, which he believes are unfair and unjustifiable, given that there is ‘nothing to manage’ and all latest phases identical to Steinbeck Grange are exempt from any management contract.

Mr Carroll says the developer has ‘never once put customers first’ and highlighted the ‘stress, strain and impact’ the issue has had on him for the past decade as he worked tirelessly to resolve it amicably.

He added: “The way we have been treated has been morally and ethically disgraceful.

“I am hoping for some equality. I would like to have the freehold to my property because there have been houses sold as freehold on the development – and I would also like to be exempt from any management contracts.”

Meanwhile, Persimmon Homes said a proportion of its properties were sold on a leasehold basis in the past and confirmed it will engage fully with the CMA.

It said: “Following consultation with Government, stakeholders and customers we took the decision to stop selling leasehold houses where Persimmon owns the land freehold in 2017.

“Any customers of a Persimmon leasehold property in the last six years have been given the right to buy their lease at below market value and many have done so.”

Taylor Wimpey confirmed it has noted the announcement from the CMA as it vowed to co-operate fully, with the board taking it ‘very seriously’.

Countryside Properties says it is committed to resolving the issue to the satisfaction of its customers and will continue to co-operate fully with the investigation.

Mr Amesbury has issued a statement. He said: “This is welcome news and not before time.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

MP Mike Amesbury

“Since I first became an MP this has been one of the biggest issues I’ve been contacted about by my constituents and some of the stories I’ve heard when meeting with residents genuinely beggar belief.

“The fight for leaseholders justice has been a long one and it’s certainly not over yet, but this feels like a significant step forward.”

Warrington South Tory MP Andy Carter hopes the investigation into four major house-builders will deliver a satisfactory resolution and allow residents to move on.

He said: “I really do welcome the CMA’s response to a serious issue and hope that the report will help my constituents find a resolution to the problems they have faced.

“I can only imagine the impact that the many years of campaigning has taken on those who have been mis-sold, bringing this to an urgent conclusion is of critical importance.

“I’ve spent the last few months engaging with the house-builders, owners of the leasehold, CMA and ministers, highlighting the specific issues in Chapelford.

“I hope shortly we will have a satisfactory resolution that will allow residents to put this to bed and move on.”

Furthermore, it has been an issue that local authorities have been monitoring.

A motion passed last year noted that the Labour-run Warrington Borough Council reaffirmed its commitment to support residents affected by the leasehold scandal.

Council chief executive Steven Broomhead said people’s finances and quality of life have ‘obviously been very badly affected’ by what has happened.

He said: “Any changes which bring about changes to the leasehold arrangements, I think, are to be really welcomed.”