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English, Welsh and Northern Ireland estates Q&A

We don't pretend to know as much about the situation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as we do in Scotland, so please check out the Scottish estates Q&A as it contains a lot of information is relevant to everyone across the UK -  however, here's some specific information which might be of interest if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The information on this page represents our best attempts at understanding the situation and is shared in good faith in a bid to empower homeowners to make their own choices.  It does not constitute legal advice. We do not recommend one course of action over another and would always urge people to speak to a solicitor before deciding what to do.

General background
Special note for homeowners in Northern Ireland
How can I find out more?
And finally...

General background 
Greenbelt Group Action is made up of a group of homeowners in Scotland who have been working intensively since 2007 to understand and address the issues caused by land-owning land maintenance companies.

As part of the campaign we've corresponded with many hundreds of estates across the UK, but the bulk of our campaigning activities have been North of the Border.

We've always hoped that a campaign group would form to take things forward in other parts of the UK, and we're delighted to say that an English-based group of homewoners called HorNet - Homeowners Rights Network has formed recently and is doing a great job at linking estates and pushing for change across the UK.

If it's of interest, we started the campaign in Scotland by writing to Scottish Ministers to ask about the legal framework surrounding this situation, and received letters back from the Scottish Government which highlighted areas of law we might want to look at further. We would recommend highly that homeowners in other countries start doing the same - i.e. start involving their MPs / AMs or MLAs or writing directly to Ministers to work out which Ministry this issue sits under and which areas of law apply. 

The letters you will get from these bodies alone may offer some protection in the short term..

As we understand it:

  • consumer legislation (such as laws governing monopolies, dominant market positions and contracts) applies across the UK, and is therefore a reserved issue which is governed by Westminster
  • planning, housing, local government and land law appear to be devolved issues, so will be handled at Westminster for English homeowners, but in the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly for homeowners in those countries respectively.

In other words:

  • wherever you live in the UK, if you're interested in challenging this under consumer or contract law, look to Westminster. There's been a big shake up in consumer protection bodies in recent months, so now would be a good time for people to ask their MPs to write to the new head of the Competition and Markets Authority to ask if it would be prepared to look into this issue, as its predecessor the Office of Fair Trading did in Scotland
  • if you're interested in challenging the legalities of the Covenants in your title deeds under local land laws, look to your devolved Parliaments and land courts. 

It may also be worth adding that this may be considered a Leasehold issue in some countries (something we don't have in Scotland).  We know that some English homeowners have disputed their bills successfully via at the Residential Property Tribunal - the equivalent of our Lands Tribunal for Scotland.

There is also a Residential Property Tribunal for Wales and a Lands Tribunal for Northern Ireland.

Having said all of this, our biggest learning from the Scottish campaign is not to expect consumer bodies and politicians to help you.  They're a useful step on the way to finding out about the legalities in your region, but don't waste energy on engaging with them too much. If you want change, focus solely on MOUNTING A TEST CASE as we did in Scotland - and if that doesn't work first time, take the learnings and mount another!!  The only way Governments, land registries and consumer bodies will act is if someone can prove in a court of law that the land owning land maintenance business model is illegal.

Mounting a test case is easy - and risk free if you do in in a 'no win no fee' basis, by raising an insurance premium to cover the legal costs if you lose.  More information on how to do this can be found on the test case page.  The best way to raise a premium is to join with others.  HorNet - Homeowners Rights Network is currently discussing the possibility of mounting a test case in the English courts - they're a sane and sensible bunch so do join forces with them if you're interested.  Another organisation worth looking at is the Leaseholder Knowledge Partnership which seems to be campaigning well for English and Welsh homeowners.

Special note for homeowners in Northern Ireland

Homeowners in Northern Ireland may want to be aware that Planning Policy OS2 states that planning permission will only be granted if ownership of public spaces goes to the local council, a charitable trust, or a residents association - i.e. not to a private entity such as Greenbelt Group.  In Scotland, a burdens is only legal and enforceable if it complies with law and public policy - it would be interesting to see if this test applies in Northern Ireland.  

How can I find out more?
A lot more information about the campaign and about the nature of land-owning land maintenance companies can be found on the Scottish estates Q&A.   

If you're being pursued by so-called "debt", this page from the National Debtline may be of interest.

And finally...
What we would also say to everyone, is that one of the biggest sources of support in this situation is your neighbours - in our experience, this is a situation which unites estates.  Form a Facebook group for your community - then join with others via HorNet - Homeowners Rights Network, and you'll soon have a huge reserve of help to draw on.

Homeowners on the Sankey Drive estate in Telford express their frustration at the land owning land maintenance model...

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SSPC - Property in Scotland