What do we mean by the phrase “long leasehold house”? In the English Legal System there are two main classes of property title, Freehold and Leasehold. As the owner of a freehold property you own the land and any buildings on them. In contrast as the owner of a leasehold property you will simply have a temporary right to occupy the property under the terms of a lease which has been granted out of a freehold title. A lease will endure for a specified period of time after expiry of which you then will have no interest in the property whatsoever. A long lease is a lease for a term of more than 21 years. Typically for residential property this will usually be for terms starting at 99 years.
Usually a leaseholder will be required to pay ground rent to the landlord and there will be a number of restrictions upon the use of the property.
Long leasehold houses have been having a rough time in the press recently, primarily in relation to leaseholds of new build properties which contained ground rent provisions providing for the ground rent to increase dramatically at a set point in time.
In addition to ground rent long leasehold titles may also contain restrictions on your use of the property ranging from requirements to obtain the landlord’s consent for alterations to whether or not you can have a pet at the property.
The nature of these ground rent increases and the restrictions contained in the long leases of houses has left many owners of such properties concerned about their finances and questioning whether or not they will be able to sell their homes going forward. So, what can be done to solve these dilemmas?
There are two options. The first is to see if the landlord will agree to a variation of the terms of the lease; however there is no obligation on the landlord whatsoever to agree to this course of action and in fact unless the landlord has decided that it will pursue this course of action across the board with all of its leasehold houses it is unlikely that this would be agreed. The second option is to purchase the freehold interest in the property so that the requirement to pay ground rent effectively comes to an end. In addition, owning the freehold enables you to have control over the management and future of the property (subject to any restrictions in the title of the property or Planning/Building Control requirements) including decoration, garden maintenance, insurance and future development opportunities.
The right to purchase the freehold is not automatic and certain conditions have to be met if your landlord is not willing to sell the freehold on a voluntary basis. The procedure of enforcing rights to acquire the freehold can be a complicated process and obtaining legal advice is essential to ensure that all the required boxes are ticked.
Additionally, when purchasing the freehold there are a number of important matters to attend to including whether the freehold and leasehold titles should be merged, obtaining any necessary lender’s consent to the purchase and ensuring that the purchase is correctly registered at the Land Registry. Therefore, it is important that you receive legal advice on the process.
In order to ascertain the value of the freehold and the sale price it is possible that the landlord will require a valuation of the property to be carried out the costs of which will need to be paid by you.
You should also factor into your calculations that, in addition to the purchase price of the freehold, the landlord is likely to require you to pay their costs associated with the transaction including their legal costs. Following an approach to the landlord you may be requested to pay a deposit to the landlord or their agent.
Our Residential Property Team would be happy to guide you through the process and we would recommend that you instruct a solicitor, before paying any money to the landlord, to provide you with advice in relation to the documentation and to act on your behalf in the purchase.
If you would like to discuss this further please do not hesitate to contact the Residential Property Team on 02380 644 822 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. Knight Polson Limited trading as QualitySolicitors Knight Polson accepts no responsibility for reliance on this article and recommend that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps