Buying a leasehold flat – what you own, your rights and responsibilities.

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Buying a leasehold flat: What you own, your rights and responsibilities.

If you buy or own a leasehold flat, it is important to know exactly how your ownership works. This guide gives you some general advice about what you own and what your rights and responsibilities as a leaseholder are.

Importantly, this is general advice – for specific legal advice relating to your property, or a property you intend to purchase please contact us.

What do you own?

A leasehold is a long tenancy – when you buy a leasehold flat you have the right to occupy and use the flat for a period. This time is the ‘term’ of the lease and can be from 99 years up to 999 years. Normally, you own everything within the four walls of the flat. This includes:

  • Floorboards
  • Plaster
  • The ceilings & inside of the walls.

It does not normally include the external walls. The freeholder normally owns the common parts of the building and the land, including the structure of the building.

What you own is listed in the lease as the ‘demised premises.’

What are your rights?

‘Quiet enjoyment’ – It is the law (even if it is not set out in your lease) that you have the right to reside in your flat without unreasonable interference from the landlord. It does depend on your lease but you can usually expect the landlord to maintain, repair and manage the common parts of the building. For example, the entrance hall, staircase, car park, etc.

Very occasionally, you may come across a ‘self-repairing’ lease where you may be responsible for the maintenance and repair of your own flat, including the external walls.

You have many other rights, including the right to know certain information about your landlord, the right to be consulted on major works, and much more.

What are your responsibilities?

You will generally be required to:

  • Keep the inside of the flat in good repair and order.
  • Pay your share of the costs of maintaining, insuring and running the building.
  • Behave in a good manner so as not to disturb your neighbours.
  • Get your landlord’s consent before you make alterations or sub-let the property.

Importantly, your rights and responsibilities will be set out in your lease. You should get a solicitor to analyse the terms of your lease and give you advice.

Ground Rent & Service charge:

Because you are a tenant you have to pay a rent to the landlord. It is a specific requirement of the lease and must be paid when the landlord issues a formal demand.

Sometimes your ground rent may be so low that it is known as a ‘peppercorn rent.’ Unfortunately, other leaseholders face the problem of spiralling ground rent.

Service charges are payments made by the leaseholders to the landlord for all the services they provide. For example, maintenance, repairs, building insurance, etc. The cost of service charge varies between properties and is often dependent on a budget that changes year on year.

When you buy a flat we would recommend that you find out what the current service charges are, and what they are likely to be in the future (the estimated budget).

Details of the service charge should be in your lease including when it is payable and what makes up the calculation.

There is often statutory protection on whether the Landlord has reasonably incurred a service charge, limits on when it was incurred an sudden increase in the service charge. These aim to provide consistency in residential development.

How can I be sure that the terms of my lease are acceptable?

You should talk to a specialist leasehold solicitor about the terms of your lease before you purchase. You can contact us today on 01244 312306 or fill in our contact form here.

To learn more about our leasehold services please click here.