Derry householders who have received out-of-the-blue ground rent bills have been told only to pay the last six years in arrears.
Charlie O’Donnell, from the Oakfield Neighbourhood Watch group, was among the many homeowners landed with a surprise bill recently.
He told the ‘Journal’ he was aware of legions from the Creggan, Moor, Rosemount and Foyle Springs areas served with back rent demands.
Those affected are mainly the owners of leasehold properties who own their homes but not the lands on which they are built and are thus obliged to pay ground rent to a ‘freeholder’ on an annual basis.
But Mr. O’Donnell said it was the first time in many years that demands had been issued to some of the homeowners. And he said that some of the bills - depending on the area of land in question - could be substantial. He knew of one homeowner in Foyle Springs whose multi-annual outstanding balance was several hundred pounds.
Mr. O’Donnell, having sought legal advice, discovered that in most cases only the last six years of a ground rent bill needed to be paid.
“You only have to pay up to six years,” he said.
“The message needs to get out there.”
Mr. O’Donnell said he was anxious to raise awareness due to the elderly demographic profile of some of the areas affected.
“Some older people, I know of a man who is 92 years of age, who received a letter saying he owed £200 and he decided he was going to pay it,” he said.
Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has written to local residents and offered similar advice.
“As a local resident I received one also and after being contacted by a number of residents I followed up by contacting the company that sent it out and sought legal advice. Based on the information residents should only have to pay for the last six years, as we had no prior requests for payments over the years stated in the letter,” she wrote.