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Questions and Answers: Richmond leasehold conveyancing

I’m about to sell my garden apartment in Richmond.Conveyancing solicitors are to be appointed soon but I have just received a yearly service charge demand – Do I pay up?

It best that you clear 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 management companies will not acknowledge the buyer unless 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.

Last month I purchased a leasehold flat in Richmond. 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 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. It is an essential part 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).

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

If you are instructing a property lawyer for lease extension works (regardless if they are a Richmond conveyancing firm) it is most important that he or she should be familiar with the legislation and specialises in this area of work. We advise that you speak with several firms including non Richmond conveyancing practices before you instructing a firm. Where the conveyancing practice is ALEP accredited then that’s a bonus. Some following of questions might be of use:

  • How familiar is the firm with lease extension legislation?
  • If the firm is not ALEP accredited then what is the reason?

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

    • A significant proportion of the frustration in leasehold conveyancing in Richmond can be avoided where you instruct lawyers the minute you market your property and ask them to put together the leasehold information needed by the purchasers’ solicitors.
    • Many freeholders or Management Companies in Richmond levy fees for providing management packs for a leasehold premises. You or your lawyers should discover the fee that they propose to charge. The management pack sought on or before finding a buyer, thus reducing delays. The average time it takes to receive management information is three weeks. It is the most frequent cause of delay in leasehold conveyancing in Richmond.
  • In the event that you altered the property did you need the Landlord’s consent? Have you, for example laid down wooden flooring? Richmond leases often stipulate that internal structural alterations or installing wooden flooring calls for a licence from the Landlord consenting to such changes. Should you dont have the consents to hand do not communicate with the landlord without checking with your conveyancer in the first instance.
  • A minority of Richmond leases require Licence to Assign from the landlord. If this applies to your lease, it would be prudent to notify your estate agents to make sure that the purchasers put in hand bank and professional references. Any bank reference will need to confirm that the buyers are financially capable of paying 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 you have had any disputes with your landlord or managing agents it is essential that these are settled before the property is marketed. The buyers and their solicitors will be nervous about purchasing a property where there is an ongoing dispute. You may have to bite the bullet and pay 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 purchasers, but it is better to present the dispute as historic as opposed to ongoing.

  • All being well we will complete the sale of our £225000 garden flat in Richmond in just under a week. The management company has quoted £300 for Certificate of Compliance, insurance certificate and 3 years service charge statements. Is the landlord entitled to charge an administration fee for a leasehold conveyance in Richmond?

    Richmond conveyancing on leasehold apartments more often than not requires the buyer’s solicitor submitting enquiries for the landlord to answer. Although the landlord is not legally bound to address these enquiries most will be willing to do so. They may charge a reasonable charge for answering enquiries or supplying documentation. There is no set fee. The average fee for the paperwork that you are referring to is over three hundred pounds, in some transactions it exceeds £800. The management information fee invoiced by the landlord must be accompanied by a summary of entitlements and obligations in relation to administration fees, otherwise the charge is technically not due. Reality however dictates that you have little option but to pay whatever is demanded if you want to complete the sale of your home.

    I acquired a ground floor flat in Richmond, conveyancing formalities finalised half a dozen years ago. Can you let me have an estimate of the premium that my landlord can legally expect in return for granting a renewal of my lease? Corresponding flats in Richmond with a long lease are worth £225,000. The ground rent is £50 charged once a year. The lease terminates on 21st October 2087

    You have 66 years remaining on your lease we estimate the price of your lease extension to be between £13,300 and £15,400 as well as costs.

    The figure that we have given is a general guide to costs for extending a lease, but we cannot give you a more accurate figure in the absence of detailed due diligence. You should not use this information in a Notice of Claim or as an informal offer. There are no doubt other issues that need to be taken into account and clearly you should be as accurate as possible in your negotiations. You should not move forward based on this information without first getting professional advice.