Cornwall estate sells off homes leaving tenants devastated

One of Cornwall’s grandest estates is selling off a number of properties that some local tenants have called home for decades, leaving them devastated.

Lisa Letcher www.cornwalllive.com 

The four properties, located within the 6,000 acre Port Eliot estate, in St Germans, have been put on the market by the Estate trustees’ management team at Savills. All tenants were issued a Section 21 notice on March 24 – extended to three months instead of two.

One resident told CornwallLive that while people are not begrudging the Estate’s decision that it was “totally unexpected” and couldn’t have come at a worse time. It’s as a widespread housing crisis is impacting much of Cornwall. Some of the affected residents have lived in the homes for as many as 20 years.

At least one has stipulated that they believed they were “guaranteed” as long term rentals – having invested thousands into maintenance and renovation of the properties through the years. Savills has however confirmed that all those issued notice were on an assured shorthold tenancy – meaning it can issue notice at any point without giving a reason.

One of those affected said: “I have been a tenant at Port Eliot for many, many years, and I’ve lived in a couple of properties and our understanding at the time was that the trust wouldn’t be selling the properties on. As time has gone by we got a Section 21 notice just pushed through our letterbox a couple of weeks ago to say they are selling our home.

“it was a no fault eviction and basically we had three months to find somewhere else to live and move out so I’m quite aggrieved because we’ve ploughed a lot of money into the house. We spent an awful lot of time making it a nice place and the estate is going to benefit from it basically.”

She explained that she shared her story – believing it to be a single case – to a local Facebook page at which point things “ballooned”. She had numerous other people reach out explaining they too were being evicted.

“Myself and my next door neighbour are being evicted,” she said. “And I know another person who is moving on their own as they have purchased a house and I’m pretty sure they will sell that as well. It could be a whole street that’s going.”

She added that she knows it’s not ‘her property’ at the end of the day but that with the housing crisis it’s no doubt going to leave people without homes to go to. “We were hoping that maybe the Duchy of Cornwall might look into buying some more property here like it has in the past but really we don’t know what’s going to happen yet,” she continued.

The house is within an estate of 6,000-acre which extends into the neighbouring villages of Tideford, Trerulefoot and Polbathic. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Eliot family invested substantially in the estate by building farmhouses, fishermen’s cottages and other homes throughout the land. Many of these properties remain part of the estate to this day and are rented out to local residents and friends of the family.

Some properties – like the ones mentioned here – have been sold over the years. The Duchy of Cornwall estate purchased the southern portion of the Port Eliot estate in 2014 as part of the most substantial purchase of farmland made in Cornwall since The Prince of Wales became Duke of Cornwall in 1952. The Duchy of Cornwall does not own any of the properties currently being sold.

Another affected tenant said they were being “turfed out” after 13 years and were “heartbroken” as a result. A third said they were struggling to find a property with the ongoing housing crisis, and having pets which makes finding a property even more challenging in the current climate.

Savills has now confirmed that four properties total have been impacted by the notice period served on March 25 as it was instructed by the trustees. Port Eliot is the ancestral seat of the Eliot family, whose present head is 17-year-old Albert Eliot, 11th Earl of St Germans. His father was found dead in the bath, aged 40, after an epileptic fit in 2006 and the estate is being managed by trustees until he comes of age.

A Savills spokesperson said: “The Port Eliot Estate has decided to sell a small number of its properties occupied on assured shorthold tenancies. The family is working to try and find alternative accommodation on the Estate.

“The tenants were served notice on 25th March and the notice period has been extended to at least three months instead of the statutory two months. The proceeds from the sale of these properties will facilitate reinvestment into the remaining Estate.”

There were some questions over who was actually responsible to the decision with some claiming that Savills had full management responsibilities of the estate but that has been confirmed as untrue. Savills manages the Port Eliot Estate on behalf of its trustees. Savills is therefore the primary contact for estate management queries, however it takes instruction from the trustees.

Port Eliot Estate declined to comment saying that the sale of the properties is being dealt with by Savills.

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