There are different interests which it is possible to hold in land. By far the most common and important of these are freehold or leasehold interests.
A lease creates a more limited interest in land than freehold – primarily rights that last for a limited amount of time, commonly 99, 125 or 999 years in residential properties.
Leasehold interests are the usual vehicle to grant title to flats in a block or sometimes houses on modern estates.
The lease is effectively the statement of rights that will be granted to the Buyer. Because leases have to grant similar rights to each resident of a block their terms are usually not negotiable.
Modern leases have become longer and more complicated but typically the contents will include:-
- A description of the property conveyed
- The duration of the term
- Details of payment for ground rent and service charges
- The rights to be granted – typically rights of access over “common parts” – for example stairways and corridors etc
- Obligations to contribute towards communal costs – for example buildings insurance and maintenance of the building – common structures such as the roof and fabric of the building
The lease will usually contain various restrictions and it is important to see the lease and read these but often they may attempt to control behaviour such as the keeping of pets, the use of the property, noisy or antisocial behaviour. Leases will also often permit structural alterations only where prior consent has been obtained from the Landlord – so as to protect the structural integrity of the building.
The lease will always contain a clause allowing the Landlord to forfeit title where there has been a major breach of the tenant’s obligations – for example a failure to pay rent or service charges.
Because of the limited duration of a lease and the ability of the Landlord to forfeit the lease for breach of covenants, the law has intervened to provide a number of important safeguards for leaseholders:
- Landlords must comply with strict rules concerning service charges. Residential Leasehold Service Charges
- In certain situations leaseholders may combine together to take over management of a building from a Landlord – or force him to sell the freehold. Collectively Purchasing Your Freehold.
- If a Landlord attempts to ‘forfeit’ a lease because of alleged non-compliance by the leaseholder he must comply with appropriate legal formalities and the leaseholder may apply to the Court for ‘relief from forfeiture”. Forfeiture of Residential Leases.
- Tenants of long residential leases may also be entitled as of right to seek an extension of their lease. This is to prevent the leaseholder being left with a dwindling lease which they cannot sell (and upon which mortgage lenders will be unwilling to advance monies). A tenant will have to pay a premium to the Landlord to compensate him for the fact that the lease is being extended. If the lease requires extending (and typically lenders become anxious if there is less than 70 years left on the lease) the size of the sum to be paid to the Landlord will depend on the remaining term of the Lease and the value of the property. We are able to provide specialist advice concerning this. Extending Your Lease