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Woodford leasehold conveyancing: Q and A’s

Frank (my husband) and I may need to let out our Woodford 1st floor flat for a while due to a new job. We used a Woodford conveyancing practice in 2004 but they have closed and we did not have the foresight to seek any advice as to whether the lease allows us to sublet. How do we find out?

Some leases for properties in Woodford do contain a provision to say that subletting is only permitted with prior consent from the landlord. The landlord cannot unreasonably withhold but, in such cases, they would need to see references. Experience dictates 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 consent.

I have just appointed agents to market my garden flat in Woodford.Conveyancing is yet to be initiated but I have just had a yearly maintenance charge invoice – Do I pay up?

Your conveyancing lawyer is likely to suggest that you should clear the invoice 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 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. Having a clear account will assist your cause and will leave you no worse off financially.

My wife and I purchased a leasehold house in Woodford. Conveyancing and Barclays mortgage went though with no issue. A letter has just been received from someone saying they have taken over the reversionary interest in the property. It included a ground rent demand for rent dating back to 1992. The conveyancing solicitor in Woodford who previously acted has now retired.Any advice?

The first thing you should do is make enquiries of the Land Registry to make sure that this person is indeed the new freeholder. It is not necessary to instruct a Woodford conveyancing practitioner to do this as it can be done on-line for £3. You should note that regardless, even if this is the legitimate landlord, under the Limitation Act 1980 no more than 6 years of rent can be collected.

I am attracted to a couple of maisonettes in Woodford which have about forty five years left on the lease term. Do I need to be concerned?

There is no doubt about it. A leasehold flat in Woodford is a wasting asset as a result of the shortening lease. The closer the lease gets to zero years unexpired, the more it adversely affects the salability of the property. The majority of purchasers and mortgage companies, leases with less than eighty years become less and less attractive. 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 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 premises 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 Woodford 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 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 Woodford. Do I have any liability for service charges for periods before my ownership?

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 have had difficulty in trying to reach an agreement for a lease extension in Woodford. Can this matter be resolved via the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal?

Where there is a missing freeholder or if there is disagreement about what the lease extension should cost, under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 you can apply to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal to calculate the sum to be paid.

An example of a Freehold Enfranchisement decision for a Woodford residence is 201 & 201a St. Barnabas Road in October 2013. The Tribunal decided that the price to be paid by the Applicants for the freehold interest is £20,071. This case affected 2 flats. The the unexpired residue of the current lease was 69.26 years.

Other Topics

Lease Extensions in Woodford