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Questions and Answers: Blackburn leasehold conveyancing

Harry (my fiance) and I may need to let out our Blackburn 1st floor flat for a while due to taking a sabbatical. We instructed a Blackburn conveyancing firm in 2001 but they have since shut and we did not think at the time get any advice as to whether the lease allows us to sublet. How do we find out?

Some leases for properties in Blackburn do contain a provision to say that subletting is only permitted with prior consent from the landlord. The landlord cannot unreasonably refuse but, in such cases, they would need to see references. Experience suggests that problems are usually caused by unsatisfactory tenants rather than owner-occupiers and for that reason you can expect the freeholder to take up the references and consider them carefully before granting permission.

I am looking at a two flats in Blackburn which have about fifty years remaining on the leases. Should I regard a short lease as a deal breaker?

There are no two ways about it. A leasehold apartment in Blackburn is a wasting asset as a result of the reducing lease term. The nearer the lease gets to its expiry date, the more it adversely affects the marketability of the premises. The majority of purchasers and lenders, leases with less than 75 years become less and less marketable. On a more positive note, leaseholders can extend their leases by serving a Section 42 Notice. One stipulation is that they must have owned the property for two years (unlike a Section 13 notice for purchasing the freehold, when leaseholders can participate from day one of ownership). When successful, they will have the right to an extension of 90 years to the current term and ground rent is effectively reduced to zero. Before moving forward with a purchase of property with a short lease term remaining you should talk to a solicitor specialising in lease extensions and leasehold enfranchisement. We are are happy to put you in touch with Blackburn conveyancing experts who will explain the options available to you during an initial telephone conversation free of charge. A more straightforward and quicker method of extending would be to contact your landlord directly and sound him out on the prospect of extending the lease You may find he or she is happy to negotiate informally and willing to consider your offer straight off, without having to involve anyone else. This will save you time and money and it could help you reach a lower price on the lease. You need to ensure that the agreed terms represent good long-term value compared with the standard benefits of the Section 42 Notice and that onerous clauses are not inserted into any redrafting of the lease.

I've recently bought a leasehold property in Blackburn. Do I have any liability for service charges for periods before my ownership?

In a situation where the service charge has already been demanded from the previous lessee and they have not paid you would not usually be personally liable for the arrears. Strange as it may seem, your landlord may still be able to take action to forfeit the lease. A critical element of leasehold conveyancing for your conveyancer to ensure to have an up to date clear service charge receipt before completion of your purchase. If you have a mortgage this is likely to be a requirement of your lender.

If you purchase part way through an accounting year you may be liable for charges not yet demanded even if they relate to a period prior to your purchase. In such circumstances your conveyancer would normally arrange for the seller to set aside some money to cover their part of the period (usually called a service charge retention).

I am a negotiator for a reputable estate agency in Blackburn where we have experienced a number of flat sales put at risk as a result of short leases. I have received contradictory information from local Blackburn conveyancing firms. Could you confirm whether the seller of a flat can start the lease extension formalities for the purchaser on completion of the sale?

As long as the seller has been the owner for at least 2 years it is possible, to serve a Section 42 notice to commence the lease extension process and assign the benefit of the notice to the purchaser. The benefit of this is that the proposed purchaser can avoid having to wait 2 years to extend their lease. Both sets of lawyers will agree to form of assignment. The assignment needs to be completed prior to, or at the same time as completion of the sale.

Alternatively, it may be possible to extend the lease informally by agreement with the landlord either before or after the sale. If you are informally negotiating there are no rules and so you cannot insist on the landlord agreeing to grant an extension or transferring the benefit of an agreement to the purchaser.

Can you provide any advice for leasehold conveyancing in Blackburn from the point of view of expediting the sale process?

  • A significant proportion of the frustration in leasehold conveyancing in Blackburn can be avoided where you instruct lawyers as soon as you market your property and ask them to put together the leasehold information needed by the purchasers’ lawyers.
  • The majority freeholders or Management Companies in Blackburn charge for providing management packs for a leasehold property. You or your lawyers should enquire as to the fee that they propose to charge. The management pack sought on or before finding a buyer, thus accelerating the process. The average time it takes to receive management information is three weeks. It is the most common reason for delay in leasehold conveyancing in Blackburn.
  • If you have carried out any alterations to the residence would they have required Landlord’s approval? Have you, for example laid down wooden flooring? Blackburn leases often stipulate that internal structural alterations or laying down wooden flooring necessitate a licence from the Landlord approving such changes. Where you dont have the approvals to hand do not communicate with the landlord without contacting your conveyancer first.
  • If you have had conflict with your landlord or managing agents it is essential that these are settled before the property is put on the market. The buyers and their solicitors will be warry about purchasing a flat where a dispute is unsettled. You may need to swallow your pride and discharge any arrears of service charge or settle the dispute prior to the buyers completing the purchase. It is therefore preferable to have any dispute settled ahead of the contract papers being issued to the buyers’ solicitors. You will still have to reveal particulars of the dispute to the buyers, but it is clearly preferable to reveal the dispute as historic as opposed to unresolved.
  • You may think that you are aware of the number of years left on your lease but it would be wise to verify this via your lawyers. A purchaser's conveyancer will not be happy to advise their client to to exchange contracts if the lease term is less than 75 years. It is therefore essential at an as soon as possible that you consider whether the lease term for your property needs extending. If it does, contact your solicitors before you put your premises on the market for sale.

  • Blackburn Conveyancing for Leasehold Flats - A selection of Questions you should consider before Purchasing

      Plenty Blackburn leasehold flats will be liable to pay a service bill for maintenance of the block invoiced by the landlord. Where you acquire the property you will have to pay this amount, normally in instalments throughout the year. This could vary from a couple of hundred pounds to thousands of pounds for bigger purpose-built blocks. In all probability there will be a ground rent for you to pay annual, normally this is not a large figure, say around £25-£75 but you need to enquire it because on occasion it can be prohibitively expensive. How long is the Lease? Does the lease contain onerous restrictions?

    Other Topics

    Lease Extensions in Blackburn