Homes affected by the Targetfollow ‘land tax’ will suffer a drop in value and be harder to sell unless the ongoing dispute between the company and residents is resolved.
The warning came from Tunbridge Wells solicitor Jill Thomas on Friday evening at a meeting of over 70 people who have been in receipt of letters from the landowners demanding they pay an annual fee to access their properties.
Hosted in the Rackliff Centre, the old fire station in Rusthall, the question and answer session was the latest move by concerned residents to explore their legal options.
Mrs Thomas, a founding partner of the law firm Thomas Haywood and a member of the Property Litigation Association, had volunteered to explain the legal options available.
She said many people have decided to ‘put their head in the sand’ and will wait to see if Targetfollow sue, adding that they may be right, ‘it may never happen’.
But she warned: “Look at it this way, Targetfollow are a commercial company who bought the commons, I assume, with an eye to make money.
“Maybe they think they can just bully a sufficient number of old ladies who are easily frightened to pay these licence fees for the rest of their lives and they will be fine.
“The problem you have got is that once you have this letter, there is then a dispute on your land and when you sell you are going to have to declare it on your property information form.
“When asked about the dispute you will have to say, ‘well the owners of the land I have to drive across to get to my house have said I’m not allowed to do it’.
“Would you buy a house if you found that out? Potentially everyone with a letter will have trouble selling their houses in the future.”
Even securing a licence to cross common land may not be enough to satisfy a potential buyer, as it will be subject to revision, is ‘open-ended’ and less secure than an easement – which itself could be prohibitively expensive.
Mrs Thomas also warned that bringing collective legal action against Targetfollow would be difficult, as ‘every case was different’, although there was still safety in numbers.