Leaseholds on new-build houses would be outlawed, while ground rents could be dramatically reduced, under government plans subject to public consultation.
Ground rents can double every decade, crippling home owners and in some cases making a property impossible to sell.
"Enough is enough. These practices are unjust, unnecessary and need to stop," said Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.
The proposals, which are subject to an eight-week consultation, apply only to England.
The leasehold system has existed for a long time in England and Wales, especially in blocks of flats. Leaseholders own their homes for a fixed period of time, on a "lease" to a freeholder, but many have long leases, for example for many decades, and experience no problems. Traditionally houses have nearly always been sold as freehold properties, meaning the buyer owns the building and land it is built on outright.
But the trend for new-build houses being sold as leasehold has accelerated in recent years. The government said it was a particular problem in the north-west of England. Leaseholders typically pay ground rent to the freeholder, but can be caught out by clauses allowing for dramatic increases in these fees, which come on top of management charges for the upkeep of communal areas.