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Witham leasehold conveyancing: Q and A’s

My wife and I purchased a leasehold flat in Witham. Conveyancing and Clydesdale mortgage went though with no issue. I have received a letter from someone claiming to own the reversionary interest in the property. It included a ground rent demand for rent dating back to 1998. The conveyancing solicitor in Witham who previously acted has long since retired.What should I do?

First make enquiries of HMLR to make sure that the individual claiming to own the freehold is indeed the new freeholder. There is no need to instruct a Witham conveyancing firm to do this as it can be done on-line for £3. You should note that regardless, even if this is the legitimate freeholder, under the Limitation Act 1980 the limitation period for recovery of ground rent is six years.

I am looking at a couple of maisonettes in Witham which have in the region of 50 years left on the lease term. Do I need to be concerned?

A lease is a right to use the property for a period of time. As the lease shortens the value of the lease decreases and results in it becoming more costly to extend the lease. For this reason it is often a good idea to extend the lease term. It is often difficulties arise selling premises with a short lease as mortgage lenders may be unwilling to lend money on properties of this type. Lease enfranchisement can be a protracted process. We recommend you seek professional assistance from a conveyancer and surveyor with experience in this area

I am employed by a long established estate agency in Witham where we see a few flat sales derailed due to short leases. I have received conflicting advice from local Witham conveyancing solicitors. Please can you clarify whether the owner of a flat can start the lease extension process for the purchaser on completion of the sale?

Provided that the seller has been the owner for at least 2 years it is possible, to serve a Section 42 notice to start the lease extension process and assign the benefit of the notice to the purchaser. This means that the proposed purchaser need not have to sit tight for 2 years for a lease extension. Both sets of lawyers will agree to form of assignment. The assignment has to be done before, or simultaneously with completion of the sale.

An alternative approach is 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.

If all goes to plan we aim to complete the disposal of our £375000 flat in Witham on Wednesday in a week. The landlords agents has quoted £384 for Certificate of Compliance, building insurance schedule and 3 years statements of service charge. Is the landlord entitled to charge exorbitant fees for a flat conveyance in Witham?

For most leasehold sales in Witham conveyancing will involve, questions about the management of a building inevitably needing to be answered directly by the freeholder or its agent, this includes :

  • Completing conveyancing due diligence questions
  • Where consent is required before sale in Witham
  • Copies of the building insurance and schedule
  • Deeds of covenant upon sale
  • Registering of the assignment of the change of lessee after a sale
Your conveyancer will have no control over the level of the charges for this information but the average costs for the information for Witham leasehold property is £350. For Witham conveyancing transactions it is customary for the seller to pay for these costs. The landlord or their agents are under no legal obligation to answer such questions most will be willing to do so - albeit often at exorbitant prices where the fees bear little relation to the work involved. Unfortunately there is no law that requires fixed charges for administrative tasks. Neither is there any legal time frame by which they are required to supply answers.

Are there frequently found deficiencies that you encounter in leases for Witham properties?

There is nothing unique about leasehold conveyancing in Witham. All leases is drafted differently and legal mistakes in the legal wording can result in 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
  • Insurance obligations
  • Clauses dealing with recovering service charges for expenditure on the building or common parts.
  • Service charge per centages that don't add up correctly leaving a shortfall

You will have difficulties when selling your property if you have a defective lease primarily because it impacts on the ability to obtain a mortgage on the property. HSBC Bank, Coventry Building Society, and Barclays Direct all have very detailed requirements when it comes to what is expected in a lease. Where a lender has been advised by their lawyers that the lease does not cover certain provisions they may refuse to grant the mortgage, forcing the purchaser to pull out.

Witham Leasehold Conveyancing - A selection of Queries Prior to Purchasing

    Does the lease include onerous restrictions? The majority of Witham leasehold properties will be liable to pay a service bill for the upkeep of the building set on behalf of the freeholder. If you acquire the apartment you will have to meet this charge, usually periodically accross the year. This can vary from a couple of hundred pounds to thousands of pounds for large purpose-built buildings. In all probability there will be a ground rent for you to pay annual, normally this is not a significant amount, say about £50-£100 but you need to check it because sometimes it could be many hundreds of pounds. Are any of leasehold owners in dispute over their service charge liability?

Other Topics

Lease Extensions in Witham