Campaigners caught up in a leasehold “trap” are taking mass legal action for the first time.
Hundreds of leasehold homeowners in the northwest have served notice to forcibly buy their freeholds from big investors.
A leasehold only gives you exclusive ownership of the right to occupy the property for the length of the lease.
These can be anything between 99 to 999 years when a lease is first created.
They are almost unique to England and Wales and have long been controversial.
Interest-free Help to Buy loans meant new-build houses were often sold as leasehold by developers, who could then take advantage of rising ground rents or sell the freeholds to a third party.
More than six million properties in England and Wales are leasehold, according to the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership.
Nurse Katie Kendrick is one of thousands who bought new homes on leases, to later discover the developer had sold the right to own their home.
The mother-of-one bought her home in Cheshire in 2014 believing she would be able to buy the freehold two years later. She has since started the National Leasehold Campaign which now has more than 10,000 members.
Ms Kendrick said: “I want to own the property that I’m paying a mortgage for. It doesn’t sit right with me and it gives me many sleepless nights that somebody else actually owns my property.
“I absolutely feel like I was misled at the point of sale. Had I known then what I know now there’s no way that I would have entered into such a vulnerable, complex system that I’m now trapped in.
“If it was their intention to sell my freehold on they should have been upfront with that at the point of sale. I absolutely believe that I was misled and miss-sold this property.”
The other concern for leaseholders is that landowners can impose strict rules on their lease. With homeowners having to pay, sometimes large costs, for anything from changing the carpet to building a conservatory.
The Home Builders Federation, that represents developers, believes there is still a place for leaseholds, if they are used fairly.
It said in a statement: “Leasehold remains a safe and secure tenure for millions of people. No realistic alternative to the leasehold system currently exists for apartment buildings or where residents share facilities, infrastructure or common spaces.
“The industry has made huge progress to identify and address the issues raised on particular aspects of leasehold sales, and all relevant sections of the property market, including builders, mortgage lenders and conveyancers have developed a common understanding of the suitable terms for leasehold ownership.”
Bellway, the developer of Ms Kendrick’s home said: “Although Bellway pledged in January 2018 to discontinue the sale of leasehold houses, for many years prior to that, it was commonplace for local authorities, certain landowners and the majority of house builders to sell homes and development sites on a long-leasehold basis.”