Runcorn and Widnes leaseholders and their families could be in line for thousands of pounds in compensation after being badly advised by their legal firms in outrageous property deals.

Big property developers have got rich flogging on freeholds of houses from under the feet of hard working families to third party pension and investment funds.

Many families bought their new build estate properties under a long term lease unaware of any associated risks and fees.

But since then freeholders have demanded spiralling ground rents from householders as part of their contract which will often double every ten years.

Under the leasehold scheme someone signed on with a doubling ground rent costing £295 a year in 2008 would pay an eye watering £182,000 over fifty years. In some cases these ground rents have left people seriously out of pocket and unable to sell their homes and others facing bills of tens of thousands to buy back their property freehold.

Now in a cruel twist of fate proposals by the Law Commission designed to protect leaseholders by allowing them to extend their leases to 990 years will not help those already in leasehold properties - only new buyers. And threatened legal action by Government agency the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) isn't expected to start until next year at the earliest and only involves four house developers.

Meanwhile Residents of the Meadows estate in Sandymoor near Runcorn and St Aidans Place estate in Widnes along with other estates in the Runcorn and Widnes areas are stuck in onerous leases.

Many of these cases are now being investigated by Professional Negligence expert Robert Godfrey, a partner at Simpson Millar.

He has previously recovered hundreds of thousands for ex miners who sued their own solicitors for dodgy advice over illness claims, he has now set up a specialist unit to help ripped off leaseholders.

Robert - who is already representing 240 leasehold victims caught in the scandal - said: "This is an absolute disgrace. These families have been let down from start to finish. It's scandalous people can be treated in such a way.

“Unfortunately any new changes are too little too late and won’t help those who already bought their leasehold properties before 2018. They should be made retrospectively to help those already stuck on outrageous leasehold terms.

"These are hard-working families who should have been looked after, not taken advantage of. Now many of them are trapped in their homes unable to sell or afford to purchase their freehold back and saddled with spiralling rents. Many of those affected have yet to take action.

"We are already representing affected residents in the Meadows estate in Sandybrook and St Aidans estate in Widnes but we estimate there are hundreds more people in new build estates all over Runcorn and Widnes and the North West who have been short changed with these leasehold deals.

"I believe people stuck in these onerous leaseholds could be owed many thousands of pounds for the negligent advice from their conveyancers.

“We can help those even if they have swapped ground rent deals or since been offered freehold at cost price.

"For solicitors to be paid for doing a bad job is disgraceful. These families have been sold a very bad deal with very little understanding of what they were really signing up to. And all the while they continue to suffer conditions that hamper their everyday life and will affect them well into the future."

It is estimated that there are over 100,000 householders trapped in restrictive leasehold schemes on estates across the country.

They are mainly located on new build estates and have been a popular option for families and first time buyers to get on the housing ladder as part of the government’s help to buy scheme.

Developers whose North West estates include affected leaseholders are David Wilson, Morris Homes, Barrett Homes, Countryside, Persimmon, Bellway and Taylor Wimpey.

Many buyers used conveyancing firms recommended by these developers to complete their property deal who failed to adequately warn them of any risks.

This included doubling of ground rents and restrictions on home improvements and buying the freehold of your property until two years after purchase.

After the companies were exposed for a system that routinely doubled annual ground rents every ten years - they have since convinced some families to swap onto a new yearly ground rent deal linked to the Retail Price Index - a marker of inflation.

But Rob says this can still mean yearly bills of up to £300 as the RPI could increase considerably making these new deals less certain than toxic doubling ground rents.

Other leaseholders have unwittingly signed draconian contracts which also include ‘permission’ fees which means that many DIY makeovers to the house also come with a hefty price tag and lucrative payments to the freeholder.

It some cases home improvement charges just to allow the installation of double glazing can cost over £1,000 while permission to change the kitchen units can cost over £800 and just changing the blinds can set some people back up around £500 according to estate agency body NAEA Propertymark.

This can render some houses unsellable and in some cases mortgage lenders have refused to lend monies for houses with leasehold restrictions and doubling ground rents.

Now conveyancing lawyers are facing legal action from their own clients after failing to properly advise them of the associated risks of buying a leasehold property.

Mr Godfrey - who has also joined forces with pressure group National Leasehold Campaign - said: "It is abundantly clear from speaking with families that they didn't understand the leasehold scheme. We are now in the process of settling claims for some householders against their developers after receiving offers over their ordeals.

"They received little advice about the risks of leaseholds and long term doubling of ground rents and onerous clauses and the fact that they were unable to buy their freehold for a period of years by which time the cost of doing so was prohibitive for most working families.

"A number of solicitors friendly with developers handled thousands of these sales. It was therefore not unreasonable for these families to have fully trusted them and expected them to secure a great sale deal on their behalf. "But what we now know is that they have been let down in the worst possible way and stuck in restrictive deals of the worst kind.

“What is required now is for the government to implement new law and rules so those stuck in old leasehold deals can get the same terms as new home buyers. We are now offering a free lease check on properties for concerned residents to see if we can help them in their crisis. I would urge any families stuck in a leasehold scheme to seek appropriate independent legal advice."

To get a free lease check go to