When you own a leasehold house, you own that property for a fixed period of years only. As time passes, the term remaining on the lease reduces and with it the value of the property. If your lease is short, you may have difficulty selling or mortgaging the property. To avoid this you can buy the freehold of your property. This is often referred to as “enfranchisement”.
Clarke Mairs has extensive knowledge and expertise in informal freehold purchase transactions and statutory enfranchisement claims and can guide you through the whole process of buying your freehold – from valuation to completion – providing clear advice at each stage.
Below you will find some brief information about the process of buying the freehold of your leasehold house and answers to our frequently asked questions.
In addition, some useful independent guidance on leasehold houses and the process of buying your freehold can be found at http://www.lease-advice.org/advice-guide/houses-qualification-and-valuation/
Get a Quote
For further information about the process of buying the freehold of your leasehold house and a detailed quotation, please complete the contact form below. A quotation will be automatically emailed to you within a few minutes. Alternatively, contact Claire Wilson directly on 0191 429 4014 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on the process of buying the freehold of your leasehold house
There are two routes which may be followed to buy the freehold of your leasehold house:-
Voluntary Freehold Purchase
You approach your landlord and ask them to sell the freehold to you. It is entirely up to your landlord whether they are prepared to do so or not. Many landlords will make a reasonable offer and so it is usually worth asking but if they choose not to you can’t force them (under the voluntary route).
If you can agree the terms of a purchase with your landlord, a voluntary purchase of the freehold is usually quite straight forward and so it can be completed more quickly and the legal costs are usually considerably lower.
Statutory Right to Enfranchise (Buy the Freehold)
The Leasehold Reform Act 1967 was brought in to give the owners of leasehold houses the right to buy the freehold of their house at a reasonable price. Under this legislation, provided you satisfy certain criteria, you can force your landlord to sell the freehold of your house to you.
To exercise the statutory right you need to follow a strict legal process and so it tends to be considerably more time consuming and the legal fees are higher. Using solicitors experienced in this area can make the process as quick and cost effective as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find out whether my house is leasehold?
If you pay a fixed amount of rent every year then your property is probably leasehold. However, sometimes the rent is “a peppercorn” (nil) and so you might not pay anything but still have a leasehold property.
Most (but not all) properties are registered at the Land Registry. You can obtain details of the title to your property from the Land Registry here: https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry. This will tell you whether your house is freehold or leasehold.
If you aren’t sure, give us a call and we’d be happy to assist.
Why should I buy the freehold of my house?
The main reason is to protect your investment – as the lease term shortens the value of your house reduces. In extreme cases, eventually the lease will run out and you won’t have anything to sell. In less dramatic situations the lease may get so short it is difficult or impossible to sell – most mortgage companies require a minimum term in the region of 70 years left on a lease before they will lend. Therefore, even with 60 years or more remaining, you may still struggle to sell a house to someone who needs a mortgage to buy it. Cash buyers will know you’re stuck and expect to pay a reduced price.
How much will the freehold cost me?
You will need to pay the landlord a purchase price for the freehold.
In most cases you will also need to pay your landlord’s costs. If you agree terms voluntarily with your landlord they will usually agree a fixed price for those costs at the outset. If you serve a formal Claim Notice under the statutory right you have, then you must pay your landlord’s reasonable costs of :-
- Your landlords (or their solicitors) investigating your right to buy the freehold;
- Your landlords obtaining their own valuation report; and
- Preparing and completing a transfer of the freehold to you.
You do not pay your landlord’s costs of negotiating the purchase price and terms of the transfer of the freehold to you.
In addition you need to pay your own solicitor’s and valuer’s costs.
Do I need a valuation?
The only way to obtain accurate advice as to the amount you should pay for the freehold is to obtain valuation advice from a valuer with experience in this area of work.
We can provide details of valuers we have worked with and would recommend. Alternatively you can search local valuers to you here: http://directory.lease-advice.org/ or http://www.alep.org.uk/find-a-practitioner.
There are various online calculators which will give you an indication of the purchase price. However, be aware that most calculators refer to the premium that would be paid to extend the lease of flats. This is entirely different to the calculation for buying the freehold. You should not rely on these as indicating the purchase price you would need to pay for buying the freehold. In most cases a lease extension premium calculator will show a much higher premium than would be payable for buying the freehold of a house of similar value.
Any online calculators are not specific to your property and so may not be accurate, particularly with short leases or high value properties.
I had my house valued to sell recently. Do I need another valuation for lease extension?
Yes – it is specifically how much you should pay for the freehold interest that needs to be valued. This is entirely different to the sale value of the house itself.
I have paid for my landlord to carry out a valuation. Why do I need another one?
Any valuation your landlord carries out will almost always be for their purposes and may reflect the price a landlord wants rather than a true valuation. It’s unlikely they would let you have a copy of it but even if they do, it has been prepared for them and so you should be reluctant to rely on it as being accurate advice for you.
Even after you’ve paid your landlord for a valuation there is no guarantee they will have a professional valuation carried out or that they will make a reasonable offer to you. If they don’t and you have to serve a statutory notice, it is likely they will have a separate valuation carried out and you will need to pay for that as well.
Does it matter that you are not local to me or the property?
No – we act for people all over the country and those living and working abroad without any difficulty. Most communication takes place by phone and email and most documents can be emailed or posted to you.
My lease contains covenants that require me to get the landlord’s consent before I make changes to the property. Will these still apply if I buy the freehold?
This depends upon the specific covenants, the property and surrounding areas.
Freehold properties also often have covenants restricting what you can do to that property so buying the freehold doesn’t automatically remove covenants.
In general, the landlord is entitled to retain restrictive covenants that benefit other property such as a covenant restricting the use of a house in a residential area to residential purposes.
If your reason for buying the freehold is to get rid of certain covenants, you should raise this with us as soon as possible so that we can advise you as to whether buying the freehold will achieve that aim.