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    • Narc0lepsy
    • By Narc0lepsy 10th Jul 17, 10:47 PM
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    Narc0lepsy
    Ransom strip?
    • #1
    • 10th Jul 17, 10:47 PM
    Ransom strip? 10th Jul 17 at 10:47 PM
    Apologies for the length of this post: We've just had a letter from the council asking us to buy back a strip of land at the front of our house. This piece was a compulsory purchase by the council in 1965 as they wanted to widen the road; they did not use the full amount so 'leased' it back to our predecessors for a nominal rent. We have been in the house for 27 yrs and bought it from the estate of the previous owner after she died. We don't know whether she paid the nominal rent (we think not) but certainly we have never been asked for any rent.

    The plan with our house deeds shows the strip to be at the front end of our garden and includes the drive. The plan the council have just sent also includes the grass verge and the piece of tarmac between our drive and the road. So they are wanting us to buy more than we actually currently use, or want. Their cost for the land is apparently reasonable, but their legal fees (which we have to pay) exceeds the cost of the land, plus we are expected to get a solicitor to do the conveyancing our end. We have to decide by the end of the month and complete promptly - so will need to find around £3-4K at short notice.

    If we buy the land, I suppose we have peace of mind that should we sell the house in future, there will be no difficulties.
    If we don't buy it, it will go to auction and we have heard of companies that buy such land and then charge you rent to access your own driveway. About 6 of our neighbours have had a similar letter.

    Does anyone have experience of these 'ransom strips'? Someone has told us that as we have been using the land for 25 years we can claim squatter's rights as we have never been asked for rent.

    I was incensed that the letter was addressed to "the proprietor" - they didn't even look up our names.

    Any suggestions?
    Remember...a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.
Page 1
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 10th Jul 17, 11:45 PM
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    davidmcn
    • #2
    • 10th Jul 17, 11:45 PM
    • #2
    • 10th Jul 17, 11:45 PM
    I was incensed that the letter was addressed to "the proprietor" - they didn't even look up our names.
    Originally posted by Narc0lepsy
    Why "incensed"? And where would they look up your names? Not all changes of proprietorship are registered.

    The short timescale sounds somewhat bizarre. When you say "leased", was it actually leased i.e. is there a lease still running? Is any part of the land adopted highway (e.g. who cuts the verge)?
    • anselld
    • By anselld 11th Jul 17, 6:37 AM
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    anselld
    • #3
    • 11th Jul 17, 6:37 AM
    • #3
    • 11th Jul 17, 6:37 AM
    How much is the ground rent in the lease? If it goes to auction the new owner can only charge what is allowed under the lease, they cannot make arbitrary ransom demands.
    Last edited by anselld; 11-07-2017 at 4:35 PM.
    • Norman Castle
    • By Norman Castle 11th Jul 17, 7:14 AM
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    Norman Castle
    • #4
    • 11th Jul 17, 7:14 AM
    • #4
    • 11th Jul 17, 7:14 AM
    The council aren't asking you to buy it back, they're giving you first refusal.
    If there are six properties involved would using the same solicitor reduce costs?
    Don't harass a hippie. You'll get bad karma.
    • elsien
    • By elsien 11th Jul 17, 7:24 AM
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    elsien
    • #5
    • 11th Jul 17, 7:24 AM
    • #5
    • 11th Jul 17, 7:24 AM
    The squatters rights you refer to will be adverse possession, an element of which is that you have to be occupying the land without permission which doesn't seem to be the case if there is a lease on the land.
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
    • moneyistooshorttomention
    • By moneyistooshorttomention 11th Jul 17, 8:03 AM
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    moneyistooshorttomention
    • #6
    • 11th Jul 17, 8:03 AM
    • #6
    • 11th Jul 17, 8:03 AM
    In your position - I'd buy it, ie to save any possible future hassle of any description.

    Well worthwhile to see if you can share solicitor costs with the neighbours.
    #MeToo

    Why should our needs override the needs of all other living species? What makes us so special? (Brigit Strawbridge)
    • rjwr
    • By rjwr 11th Jul 17, 8:40 AM
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    rjwr
    • #7
    • 11th Jul 17, 8:40 AM
    • #7
    • 11th Jul 17, 8:40 AM
    If you do not buy it and a frontage company helps themselves to it, what is the potential damage to your future? If the answer is anything but none you might need to consider buying this.

    Did this not come up when you first bought the house?
    But never spend money you don't have to buy things you don't want to impress people you don't like.
    .
    Originally posted by kidmugsy
    • Narc0lepsy
    • By Narc0lepsy 11th Jul 17, 6:06 PM
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    Narc0lepsy
    • #8
    • 11th Jul 17, 6:06 PM
    • #8
    • 11th Jul 17, 6:06 PM
    Why "incensed"? And where would they look up your names? Not all changes of proprietorship are registered.

    The short timescale sounds somewhat bizarre. When you say "leased", was it actually leased i.e. is there a lease still running? Is any part of the land adopted highway (e.g. who cuts the verge)?
    Originally posted by davidmcn
    I think it was the short notice and general courtesy - being asked to come up with what may be about £3-4k at 3 weeks notice was rather a shock. I appreciate they may not have time to research every name, but name and address will be matched on the electoral roll for example. I guess I'm just "old school" and expect anyone writing a business letter to go to the trouble of addressing the person by name. I run my own business and that's how I operate. Technically the letter had to be signed for - but as the postman just put it through the door (we were away for a few days), I could claim I haven't received it if challenged; however I'm not that stupid!

    The verge is maintained by the householders, never the council. However, when we block-paved the drive (when we moved in it was just a hoggin track), we asked the council whether we could block pave right up to the road, at our own expense. They refused to allow that, so we paved up to the fence and the council came and put tarmac on the remaining area. Of course about 4-6ft of what we paved is still the council's property.

    The fence, which is about mid-way between our legitimately owned boundary and the road, was in place when we moved in 27 yrs ago although we have replaced it with new, but in exactly the same place. Neither here nor there - but someone is bound to ask!

    The lease - called "agreement" (so there may be a difference) was signed between the council and the previous householder in 1965 and the rent was one shilling per year. As far as we are aware, that has never been paid. We have a copy of that agreement and would have discussed it with the solicitors when we bought the property, but after this long I really can't remember what was decided. We are fairly cautious people so would have enquired as fully as possible what any implications were. As far as I know (and we are going to re-check all our documents) we never had a similar lease and we have never been asked for, or offered, any rent. It would probably be a different department, but when we enquired about paving the drive, clearly someone checked who owned what bit in order to refuse permission. Again, I'm not meaning any judgement on this, just saying.

    Regarding the timescale, one interesting clause in the lease is that either party are obliged to give 3 months notice of termination - of course as we haven't signed it, it wouldn't apply to us.
    Remember...a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.
    • Narc0lepsy
    • By Narc0lepsy 11th Jul 17, 6:08 PM
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    Narc0lepsy
    • #9
    • 11th Jul 17, 6:08 PM
    • #9
    • 11th Jul 17, 6:08 PM
    How much is the ground rent in the lease? If it goes to auction the new owner can only charge what is allowed under the lease, they cannot make arbitrary ransom demands.
    Originally posted by anselld
    That is interesting and doesn't really match my understanding of the concept of a "ransom strip" where we heard about vast amounts being charged people just to access their property. The rent was one shilling per year! (5p if you are young!!) What I referred to as a lease is entitled "an agreement for letting of land" so I don't know if that is different.
    Remember...a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.
    • Narc0lepsy
    • By Narc0lepsy 11th Jul 17, 6:12 PM
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    Narc0lepsy
    The council aren't asking you to buy it back, they're giving you first refusal.
    If there are six properties involved would using the same solicitor reduce costs?
    Originally posted by Norman Castle
    Fair enough, sorry I wrote it in rather a strop!
    Yes we are enquiring, with our neighbours, whether the same solicitor could do the conveyancing - and considering doing it ourselves. My main objection and what I really don't understand, is why we are expected to cover the legal costs of the council. If we were to sell the house, we would expect to pay our own conveyancing and for the purchaser to pay their own; surely it would be unusual for us to insist on the purchaser to pay our fees?
    Remember...a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.
    • glentoran99
    • By glentoran99 11th Jul 17, 6:20 PM
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    glentoran99
    If it was sold to someone else could the rental fee actually be increased? Any mention of that in the terms?
    • Narc0lepsy
    • By Narc0lepsy 11th Jul 17, 6:24 PM
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    Narc0lepsy
    The squatters rights you refer to will be adverse possession, an element of which is that you have to be occupying the land without permission which doesn't seem to be the case if there is a lease on the land.
    Originally posted by elsien
    From what we have read, and with the benefit of hindsight, we should have put in place an easement when we purchased the house. "An easement may be created of necessity. Thus a parcel of land will have a right of way of necessity over a road, track or path leading to it if that route is the only means of access between the public highway and that parcel of land. An easement may also be created by prescription. This happens when someone carries out an act (that is capable of being an easement) repeatedly, openly and without the (potentially servient) landowner's permission for a period of at least twenty years." http://www.boundary-problems.co.uk/boundary-problems/easements.html
    As the "agreement" was between the previous householder and the council, we may fall into the category of prescription. I suspect that to prove this and get it legally accepted would cost more than the cost of just biting the bullet and paying what they ask. However, if it was easy to prove, I would happily let them sell the land at auction so long as I had continued access to my house.
    Remember...a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.
    • Narc0lepsy
    • By Narc0lepsy 11th Jul 17, 6:25 PM
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    Narc0lepsy
    If it was sold to someone else could the rental fee actually be increased? Any mention of that in the terms?
    Originally posted by glentoran99
    No mention in this agreement but as I said, we need to trawl through a load of paperwork in case there is something we have overlooked.
    Remember...a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 11th Jul 17, 6:26 PM
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    davidmcn
    My main objection and what I really don't understand, is why we are expected to cover the legal costs of the council. If we were to sell the house, we would expect to pay our own conveyancing and for the purchaser to pay their own; surely it would be unusual for us to insist on the purchaser to pay our fees?
    Originally posted by Narc0lepsy
    Pretty commonplace for the purchase of odd bits of land from councils. Anyway, it's not really a reason for "objection", just take all those costs into account when considering the price.
    • Mossfarr
    • By Mossfarr 11th Jul 17, 6:28 PM
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    Mossfarr
    It is usual for the purchaser to pay the legal feels for the vendor/freeholder when purchasing a lease. I had to pay the legal fees last year when I purchased the freehold on my house from the local authority.
    The same applies when purchasing a local authority property at auction, it is detailed in the legal pack.
    • Narc0lepsy
    • By Narc0lepsy 11th Jul 17, 6:31 PM
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    Narc0lepsy
    If you do not buy it and a frontage company helps themselves to it, what is the potential damage to your future? If the answer is anything but none you might need to consider buying this.

    Did this not come up when you first bought the house?
    Originally posted by rjwr
    I think I've pretty much covered this in other replies. We're going to have a close check of all our old documents in case there is something we overlooked. Certainly I recall discussing this "agreement" with the solicitor when we bought the house but I can't remember what we decided; we aren't reckless people so if something needed to be done we would have done it.

    My 1st choice, if we could guarantee future ability to access our house, would be to let them sell the land; we have a large back garden and a bit less to maintain wouldn't upset me!

    I accept that if there is any risk at all of not being able to get to our house/drive, or being liable in future for a large rent, or having difficulty selling the house, then we have to buy the land. I just object to paying the council's legal fees. Their letter says "not negotiable" so I'm sure when the shock has died down we will reluctantly write a large cheque and get back to normal life - it's not worth fretting over in the long term.
    Remember...a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.
    • Narc0lepsy
    • By Narc0lepsy 11th Jul 17, 6:34 PM
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    Narc0lepsy
    It is usual for the purchaser to pay the legal feels for the vendor/freeholder when purchasing a lease. I had to pay the legal fees last year when I purchased the freehold on my house from the local authority.
    The same applies when purchasing a local authority property at auction, it is detailed in the legal pack.
    Originally posted by Mossfarr
    Fair enough; I've only ever bought a freehold property before so I didn't know that. Thanks for explaining. I feel a bit better if it is normal procedure!
    Remember...a layer of dust protects the wood beneath it.
    • ThePants999
    • By ThePants999 11th Jul 17, 8:30 PM
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    ThePants999
    Any chance the adverse possession route would apply here? It's been leased to someone who's not the OP, so "adverse" is checked, and their driveway is on the land, so "possession" is checked...
    • ProDave
    • By ProDave 28th Jul 17, 8:05 PM
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    ProDave
    In relation to the OP, as the council originally purchased the land for a road widening scheme, can you not argue that although it was not ALL used for the road, the remaining bit is still part of "the highway" (the verge) and so a public right of way over which you have therefore got a right of access.
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 28th Jul 17, 8:07 PM
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    davidmcn
    I purchased a building plot with outline planning permission in Dec 2016. I have found out today that there is a ransom strip at the front of the property stopping access to the land. Who's responsibility was it to inform me of this when I purchased the land?
    Originally posted by sarafreeman01
    Probably your solicitor, if you used one?
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