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Frequently asked questions relating to Highgate leasehold conveyancing

I only have 62 years unexpired on my lease in Highgate. I now wish to extend my lease but my landlord is absent. What are my options?

If 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 mean that your lease can be extended by the magistrate. You will be obliged to demonstrate that you or your lawyers have used your best endeavours to locate the lessor. On the whole an enquiry agent would be helpful to try and locate and to produce a report to be accepted by the court as proof that the landlord is indeed missing. It is wise to seek advice from a property lawyer both on investigating the landlord’s absence and the application to the County Court covering Highgate.

I am attracted to a couple of maisonettes in Highgate which have about fifty years left on the leases. Will this present a problem?

There is no doubt about it. A leasehold flat in Highgate is a deteriorating asset as a result of the shortening lease. The closer the lease gets to zero years unexpired, the more it reduces the salability of the property. For most buyers and banks, leases with less than eighty years become less and less marketable. On a more upbeat note, leaseholders can extend their leases by serving a Section 42 Notice. One stipulation is that they must have owned the premises 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 Highgate conveyancing experts who will explain the options available to you during an initial telephone conversation free of charge. More often than not it is possible to negotiate informally with the freeholder to extend the lease They may agree to a smaller lump sum and an increase in the ground rent, but to shorter extension terms in return. You need to ensure that any new 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 house in Highgate. Do I have any liability for service charges relating to a period prior to my ownership?

In a situation 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. Strange as it may seem, your landlord may still be able to take action to forfeit the lease. It is an essential part of leasehold conveyancing for your conveyancer to be sure 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 agent office in Highgate where we see a number of flat sales jeopardised as a result of short leases. I have received contradictory information from local Highgate conveyancing firms. Can you confirm whether the vendor of a flat can commence the lease extension formalities 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 commence the lease extension process and assign the benefit of the notice to the purchaser. The benefit of this is that the buyer need not have to sit tight for 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 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 purchaser.

Can you provide any advice for leasehold conveyancing in Highgate with the purpose of speeding up the sale process?

  • A significant proportion of the frustration in leasehold conveyancing in Highgate can be bypassed where you appoint lawyers as soon as you market your property and request that they start to collate the leasehold documentation needed by the buyers conveyancers.
  • In the event that you altered the property did you need the Landlord’s consent? Have you, for example laid down wooden flooring? Highgate leases often stipulate that internal structural alterations or installing wooden flooring necessitate a licence issued by the Landlord acquiescing to such works. If you dont have the paperwork to hand do not contact the landlord without checking with your lawyer first.
  • A minority of Highgate leases require Licence to Assign from the landlord. If this applies to your lease, you should notify your estate agents 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 service charge figures so that they can pass this information on to the buyers or their solicitors.
  • If you have had conflict with your landlord or managing agents it is very important 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 have to bite the bullet and pay 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 will still have to reveal details of the dispute to the purchasers, but it is better to reveal the dispute as over rather than unresolved.
  • You believe that you know the number of years left on your lease but you should double-check via your solicitors. A purchaser's conveyancer will be unlikely to recommend their client to proceed with the purchase of a leasehold property the lease term is below 80 years. In the circumstances it is 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 property on the market for sale.

  • I am the leaseholder of a a ground floor purpose built flat in Highgate. In the absence of agreement between myself and the landlord, can the Leasehold valuation Tribunal make a decision on the premium due for the purchase of the freehold?

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

    An example of a Lease Extension case for a Highgate premises is Flat 2A 19 Shepherds Hill in June 2014. The tribunal concluded in accordance with section 48 and schedule 13 of the Leasehold Reform,Housing and Urban Development Act (the 1993 Act) that the premium payable in respect of the grant of a new lease for the Flat be £24,303 (twenty four thousand three hundred and three pounds) This case was in relation to 1 flat. The remaining number of years on the lease was 67.85 years.

    Other Topics

    Lease Extensions in Highgate