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Questions and Answers: Brent Cross leasehold conveyancing

I only have Sixty One years remaining on my lease in Brent Cross. I am keen to extend my lease but my freeholder is absent. What are my options?

On the basis that you meet the appropriate requirements, under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 you can submit an application to the County Court for an order to dispense with the service of the initial notice. This will enable the lease to be extended by the Court. You will be obliged to prove that you or your lawyers have made all reasonable attempts to find the freeholder. In some cases a specialist should be useful to try and locate and prepare an expert document which can be accepted by the court as evidence that the landlord can not be located. It is advisable to get professional help from a conveyancer both on devolving into the landlord’s absence and the vesting order request to the County Court overseeing Brent Cross.

I am a negotiator for a reputable estate agent office in Brent Cross where we see a number of leasehold sales derailed as a result of leases having less than 80 years remaining. I have received conflicting advice from local Brent Cross conveyancing firms. Please can you clarify whether the owner of a flat can initiate the lease extension process for the purchaser on completion of the sale?

Provided that the seller has owned the lease for at least 2 years it is possible, to serve a Section 42 notice to kick-start 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 sit tight for 2 years for a lease extension. Both sets of lawyers will agree to form of assignment. The assignment needs to be completed before, or simultaneously with 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 buyer.

Can you offer any advice when it comes to choosing a Brent Cross conveyancing practice to deal with our lease extension?

When appointing a conveyancer for your lease extension (regardless if they are a Brent Cross conveyancing firm) it is most important that he or she should be familiar with the legislation and specialises in this area of work. We recommend that you make enquires with several firms including non Brent Cross conveyancing practices before you instructing a firm. If the firm is ALEP accredited then that’s a bonus. Some following of questions could be useful:

  • How familiar is the firm with lease extension legislation?
  • Can they put you in touch with client in Brent Cross who can give a testimonial?

  • Can you provide any advice for leasehold conveyancing in Brent Cross from the point of view of speeding up the sale process?

    • Much of the frustration in leasehold conveyancing in Brent Cross can be avoided if you get in touch lawyers as soon as you market your property and request that they start to put together the leasehold information which will be required by the purchasers’ solicitors.
    • In the event that you altered the property did you need the Landlord’s approval? Have you, for example laid down wooden flooring? Brent Cross leases often stipulate that internal structural alterations or installing wooden flooring calls for a licence from the Landlord approving such changes. Where you fail to have the approvals to hand you should not contact the landlord without checking with your conveyancer before hand.
  • A minority of Brent Cross leases require Licence to Assign from the landlord. If this applies to your lease, you should place the estate agents on notice to make sure that the purchasers put in hand financial (bank) and professional references. Any bank reference should make it clear that the buyer is able to meet the annual service charge and the actual amount of the service charge should be quoted in the bank’s letter. You will therefore need to provide your estate agents with the actual amount of the service charge so that they can pass this information on to the buyers or their solicitors.
  • If there is a history of conflict with your freeholder or managing agents it is essential that these are resolved before the property is marketed. The purchasers and their solicitors will be reluctant to purchase a flat where there is a current dispute. You may need to swallow your pride and discharge any arrears of service charge or resolve 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 are still duty bound to disclose particulars of the dispute to the buyers, but it is clearly preferable to present the dispute as over rather than unsettled.
  • You may think that you are aware of the number of years left on your lease but you should double-check via your solicitors. A buyer’s conveyancer will be unlikely to recommend their client to where the lease term is less than 75 years. In the circumstances it is essential at an early stage that you consider whether the lease for your property needs extending. If it does, contact your solicitors before you put your home on the market for sale.

  • I am the proprietor of a ground-floor 1950’s flat in Brent Cross. Given that I can not reach agreement with the landlord, can the Leasehold valuation Tribunal make a decision on the sum due for a lease extension?

    Most definitely. We are happy to put you in touch with a Brent Cross conveyancing firm who can help.

    An example of a Lease Extension matter before the tribunal for a Brent Cross premises is First Floor Flat 61 Wilberforce Road in March 2014. The premium payable was £10,130 and the case was remitted back to the Willesden County Court to effect the Vesting Order (Claim No 3W103100). This case related to 1 flat. The the number of years remaining on the existing lease(s) was 71 years.

    Are there common deficiencies that you encounter in leases for Brent Cross properties?

    There is nothing unique about leasehold conveyancing in Brent Cross. Most leases are unique and drafting errors can sometimes mean that certain provisions are wrong. For example, if your lease is missing any of the following, it could be defective:

    • A provision to repair to or maintain elements of the property
    • A duty to insure the building
    • A provision for the recovery of money spent for the benefit of another party.
    • Service charge per centages that don't add up correctly leaving a shortfall

    A defective lease will likely cause issues when trying to sell a property primarily because it impacts on the ability to obtain a mortgage on the property. National Westminster Bank, Coventry Building Society, and Britannia all have very detailed requirements when it comes to what is expected in a lease. If a mortgage lender believes that the lease is defective they may refuse to grant the mortgage, obliging the purchaser to withdraw.

    Other Topics

    Lease Extensions in Brent Cross