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Questions and Answers: Bedford Park leasehold conveyancing

I’m about to sell my ground floor flat in Bedford Park.Conveyancing solicitors are to be appointed soon but I have just had a yearly maintenance charge demand – what should I do?

The sensible thing to do is pay the service charge as normal because all ground rent and service charges will be apportioned on completion, so you will be reimbursed by the buyer for the period running from after the completion date to the next payment date. Most managing agents will not acknowledge the buyer until the service charges have been paid and are up to date so it is important for both buyer and seller for the seller to show that they are up to date. This will smooth the conveyancing process.

I today plan to offer on a house that appears to be perfect, at a reasonable figure which is making it all the more appealing. I have subsequently been informed that the title is leasehold rather than freehold. I would have thought that there are issues purchasing a leasehold house in Bedford Park. Conveyancing lawyers have not yet been appointed. Will they explain the issues?

Most houses in Bedford Park are freehold rather than leasehold. In this scenario it’s worth having a local conveyancer used to dealing with such properties who can help the conveyancing process. We note that you are purchasing in Bedford Park so you should seriously consider looking for a Bedford Park conveyancing solicitor and be sure that they have experience in transacting on leasehold houses. First you will need to check the number of years remaining. As a lessee you will not be entirely free to do whatever you want to the property. The lease comes with conditions such as requiring the landlord’sconsent to conduct changes to the property. You may also be required to pay a maintenance charge towards the maintenance of the communal areas where the property is part of an estate. Your solicitor will advise you fully on all the issues.

I've recently bought a leasehold property in Bedford Park. Do I have any liability for service charges relating to a period prior to my ownership?

Where the service charge has already been demanded from the previous owner and they have not paid you would not usually be personally liable for the arrears. However, 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 busy estate agency in Bedford Park where we have witnessed a number of leasehold sales derailed due to short leases. I have received contradictory information from local Bedford Park conveyancing solicitors. Can you shed some light as to whether the vendor of a flat can start the lease extension formalities for the purchaser on completion of the sale?

As long as the seller has owned the lease for at least 2 years it is possible, to serve a Section 42 notice to start the lease extension process and assign the benefit of the notice to the purchaser. This means that the proposed purchaser need not have to sit tight for 2 years for a lease extension. Both sets of lawyers will agree to form of assignment. The assignment has to be done prior to, or simultaneously with completion of the disposal of the property.

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 buyer.

Despite our best efforts, we have been unsuccessful in seeking a lease extension in Bedford Park. Can the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal adjudicate on premiums?

Absolutely. We are happy to put you in touch with a Bedford Park conveyancing firm who can help.

An example of a Freehold Enfranchisement decision for a Bedford Park flat is 169 Southfield Road in September 2013. the tribunal decided that the premium to be paid in respect of the collective enfranchisement should be £51,203 This case affected 2 flats. The unexpired term was 64.64 years.

Are there common defects that you see in leases for Bedford Park properties?

Leasehold conveyancing in Bedford Park is not unique. Most leases is drafted differently and drafting errors can sometimes mean that certain sections are not included. For example, if your lease is missing any of the following, it could be defective:

  • Repairing obligations to or maintain parts of the property
  • A duty to insure the building
  • Clauses dealing with recovering service charges for expenditure on the building or common parts.
  • Service charge per centages that don't add up correctly leaving a shortfall

A defective lease can cause problems when trying to sell a property primarily because it impacts on the ability to obtain a mortgage on the property. HSBC Bank, Skipton Building Society, and Platform Home Loans Ltd all have express conveyancing instructions when it comes to what is expected in a lease. Where a lender has been advised by their lawyers that the lease is defective they may refuse to grant the mortgage, obliging the purchaser to withdraw.