Skip to content
When it comes to purchasing property in the UK, understanding the complexities of ownership is crucial. One of the common forms of property ownership is "leasehold." But what does it mean to own a leasehold property, and how does it differ from other ownership styles? In this blog post, we discuss leasehold properties, exploring what it entails, your rights and responsibilities as a leaseholder, and how the process of selling a leasehold property differs from that of a freehold property.

What is Leasehold?

In simple terms, owning a leasehold property means that you have the right to occupy and use the property for a fixed period of time, as specified in a legal agreement called a "lease." However, ownership of the property ultimately returns to the landlord, also known as the "freeholder," when the lease term expires. Most commonly, flats are leasehold, but houses can also be leasehold, especially when they are acquired through shared ownership schemes.

It's important to note that leasehold rules may vary in Northern Ireland. In this post, we will focus on the regulations in England.

Leaseholder Rights and Responsibilities

As a leaseholder, you have both rights and responsibilities outlined in your lease agreement. Your responsibilities may include obtaining permission for property alterations, contributing to maintenance costs, and adhering to specified conditions. Failure to comply with these conditions can lead to legal consequences, including potential forfeiture of your lease.

On the other hand, your rights as a leaseholder allow you to be consulted about specific maintenance and running costs and challenge certain charges under specific circumstances.

Service Charges and Other Expenses

Service charges are a common aspect of leasehold properties. Your lease will define how the service charge is organised and what expenses can be included. You have the right to request a summary of how the charge is calculated and the related expenditures. Your landlord is legally obligated to provide this information.

Ground rent is another potential expense in your leasehold agreement. For leases granted before June 30, 2022, you must pay ground rent if it is included in your lease. However, recent changes in legislation restrict ground rent for leases granted after June 30, 2022, to a nominal amount known as a "peppercorn."

Building insurance, often part of the service charge, should also be outlined in detail. As a leaseholder, you can request a summary of the insurance policy and challenge the cost if you find it unreasonable.

Reserve or sinking funds may require you to contribute to cover unexpected maintenance or repairs, such as roof replacement. However, you typically cannot recover the money paid into these funds if you move house.

Extending, Changing, or Ending a Lease

Leaseholders have the option to extend their lease, negotiate changes to the lease (varying the lease), or end it.

Extending the lease: You can request an extension from the landlord, with the possibility of extending by 90 years for a flat or 50 years for a house, if you qualify.

Changing the lease: Negotiating changes to the lease is possible, but if an agreement cannot be reached with the landlord, you may apply to a tribunal for resolution.

Ending the lease: While it's rare for a landlord to end the lease and evict you, it can happen in specific circumstances known as "forfeiture proceedings." In most cases, you can end the lease by giving at least one month's notice.

Buying the Freehold

Leaseholders also have the option to purchase the freehold of their property, depending on whether they own a flat or a house:

Flat: You can buy a share of the freehold.
House: You may have the right to buy the freehold.

Additionally, landlords looking to sell the freehold of a building with flats are usually required to offer leaseholders the first opportunity to buy it, known as the "right of first refusal."

Right to Manage and Leasehold Disputes

If you're dissatisfied with the management of your building, you have options to address it:

Appoint a new manager: You can apply to a tribunal to appoint a new manager if you can prove bad management, such as unreasonable service charges or non-compliance with management practice codes.

Right to Manage: Leaseholders can take over certain management responsibilities from the landlord without proving bad management, known as the "Right to Manage."

Leasehold Disputes Resolution

In cases of disputes related to your lease, mediation services are available to help you and your landlord reach an agreement. If necessary, you can apply to a tribunal to address various issues, including service charges, building insurance costs, lease variations, and more.

Understanding the details of leasehold properties is vital when considering property ownership in the UK. As a leaseholder, you have specific rights and responsibilities, and the process of buying, maintaining, and extending a leasehold property differs significantly from owning a freehold property. Whether you're exploring leasehold properties or currently a leaseholder, staying informed about your rights and obligations is essential for a smooth and successful property ownership experience.

For more detailed information on leasehold properties and related matters, you can refer to the Leasehold Advisory Service or seek legal advice to ensure you make informed decisions in your property transactions.