There are many different things to think about when you are buying a residential leasehold flat or apartment, or if you’re buying one of those rare beasts – a leasehold house. One of the main considerations is that the land on which your property is built does not belong to you, and this raises some important considerations to be aware of.
1. Term of the Lease Remaining
The first thing to look at is just how long there is left on the existing lease. The length of the lease is the time remaining for your ownership of the property. If the lease expires, the ownership of your property passes back to the freeholder, unless you have agreed to extend the lease beforehand.
2. Rights to Extend Your Lease
Most people who are buying a residential leasehold property just don’t understand their right to lease extension. This isn’t really surprising, as leasehold extensions are a complex area of the law with which many estate agents are not familiar and which many conveyancing solicitors don’t take the time to explain to their clients. In basic terms, once you have been the owner of your flat for two years – even if you have never lived there yourself – you have the legal right to compel your freeholder to extend your lease by a period of 90 years, whether they like it or not.
As the period on you lease starts to run down, getting it extended becomes increasingly important. As well as facing the prospect of eventually handing the flat back to the freeholder, many property owners find out the hard way that flats with a short lease are difficult to get a mortgage to buy and therefore hard to sell. It’s also important to realise that if you want to extend the lease straight away after purchase rather than waiting for two years, the person who is selling the flat to you can start the process of extending the lease before the sale goes through and then pass that on to the buyer once the deal is completed.
3. Service Charges
It is standard practice for owners of residential leasehold properties to pay an annual service charge. These charges can be anything between from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds every year. The service charge goes to the freeholder, and covers things like upkeep of the land and the building. Leaseholders are legally entitled to ask their freeholder for proof of how they are spending this money, and if freeholders cannot or will not provide receipts or evidence, it is a criminal offence.
4. Reserve or Sink Funds
Occasionally, a leasehold tenant is asked to pay into an additional fund called a sinking fund or a reserve fund. This find is designed to cover any unexpected disasters or major repairs to the building.
5. Ground Rent
It is a common clause in any lease that the tenant pays an annual ground rent to the freeholder. This is because you are classed as the temporary owner of your property, but are legally only renting the ground which it is built on. Ground rent is usually not a large sum, but if the lease says it has to be paid then there is no way around that. Look carefully at the lease to see what it says about increases to the ground rent. It is normal for there to be regular increases to ground rent, but ensure that you are not signing up to something which allows the freeholder to increase the ground rent substantially after a few years.
However sometimes there are disputes about issues surrounding ground rent arrears – don’t worry if this applies to you, as we can help – our team also specialise in ground rent arrears cases.
Being a property owner can be an expensive business and it might sometimes seem that the list of costs is endless. Many of the costs are associated with essential repairs and maintenance which you would have to cover yourself if you owned the property outright, and over the years the costs will balance out.
It might sound like there are many drawbacks to owning leasehold properties, but they are often still a good investment. Apart from providing you and your family with somewhere to live, having a leasehold flat or apartment can be the first step on the property ladder and a way to owning a freehold house in the future.
Before taking steps to buy a leasehold flat or other property, make sure that you get a specialist property solicitor to look over the lease and explain it to you in plain English. Residential leases are not standard and can differ hugely in their terms, so it is important to know exactly what you are getting yourself into and what your obligations are, both now and in the future.
Interested in Leasehold Extension? Contact us today
Our team are genuine UK leasehold extension experts – so for great advice on extending your lease, please contact us today;
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