Fixed-fee leasehold conveyancing in South East London:

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Questions and Answers: South East London leasehold conveyancing

My husband and I may need to let out our South East London garden flat for a while due to taking a sabbatical. We used a South East London conveyancing firm in 2002 but they have since shut and we did not think at the time get any guidance as to whether the lease allows us to sublet. How do we find out?

A small minority of properties in South East London do contain a provision to say that subletting is only permitted with prior consent from the landlord. The landlord is not entitled to unreasonably refuse but, in such cases, they would need to see references. Experience suggests 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 permission.

I’m about to sell my basement apartment in South East London.Conveyancing lawyers have not yet been instructed but I have just received a quarterly service charge demand – what should I do?

Your conveyancing lawyer is likely to suggest that you should 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 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.

I own a leasehold flat in South East London. Conveyancing and Aldermore mortgage organised. I have received a letter from someone saying they have taken over the freehold. Attached was a ground rent demand for rent dating back to 1994. The conveyancing solicitor in South East London who acted for me is not around.Do I pay?

First contact HMLR to be sure that this person is in fact the registered owner of the freehold reversion. It is not necessary to instruct a South East London conveyancing practitioner to do this as it can be done on-line for a few pound. You should note that in any event, even if this is the legitimate freeholder, under the Limitation Act 1980 no more than 6 years of rent can be collected.

I work for a busy estate agent office in South East London where we see a few leasehold sales derailed as a result of short leases. I have been given inconsistent advice from local South East London conveyancing solicitors. Could you clarify whether the seller of a flat can start the lease extension formalities for the buyer?

As long as 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. This means 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 simultaneously with completion of the disposal of the property.

An alternative approach is to agree the lease extension with the freeholder 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 top tips for leasehold conveyancing in South East London with the aim of expediting the sale process?

  • Much of the frustration in leasehold conveyancing in South East London can be bypassed if you appoint lawyers the minute your agents start advertising the property and ask them to collate the leasehold information needed by the purchasers’ lawyers.
  • A minority of South East London 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 purchasers or their solicitors.
  • If there is a history of conflict with your freeholder or managing agents it is very important that these are resolved before the property is marketed. The buyers and their solicitors will be warry about purchasing a flat where a dispute is unresolved. You will have to accept that you will have to 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 are still duty bound to disclose details of the dispute to the purchasers, but it is clearly preferable to reveal the dispute as over as opposed to unsettled.
  • If you hold a share in a the Management Company, you should make sure that you have the original share certificate. Organising a duplicate share certificate is often a time consuming formality and slows down many a South East London conveyancing deal. If a duplicate share certificate is required, you should approach the company officers or managing agents (if relevant) for this sooner rather than later.
  • You believe that you know the number of years left on your lease but you should verify this by asking your conveyancers. A purchaser's lawyer will not be happy to advise their client to to exchange contracts if the remaining number of years is below 80 years. It is therefore essential at an early stage that you consider whether the lease term requires a lease extension. If it does, contact your solicitors before you put your property on the market for sale.

  • Having spent months of negotiations we are unable to agree with our landlord on how much the lease extension should cost for our flat in South East London. Does the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal have jurisdiction to calculate the appropriate figures?

    Absolutely. We are happy to put you in touch with a South East London conveyancing firm who can help.

    An example of a Freehold Enfranchisement matter before the tribunal for a South East London property is 20 Avonwick Road in July 2013. The Tribunal was dealing with an application under Section 26 of the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 for a determination of the freehold value of the property. It was concluded that the price to be paid was Fifteen Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy (£15,970) divided as to £8,200 for Flat 20 and £7,770 for Flat 20A This case was in relation to 1 flat. The the number of years remaining on the existing lease(s) was 73.26 years.

    Other Topics

    Lease Extensions in South East London