Thompson Smith and Puxon Residential Property solicitor, Laura Finnigan, discusses some of the problems to look out for when you are purchasing a flat, either by way of a new lease or taking an assignment of an existing lease.
A lease is the document that sets out the rights, reservations and restrictions relating to that particular flat. It will tell you what exactly is included in the property being leased, what your obligations are, what the obligations of the Landlord are, etc.
Often the agents selling the flat will not have had the opportunity to check through the lease before putting it on the market, and therefore it is important to check that what you are being advised is included in the sale is actually included.
Problems often arise in relation to the following:
- Lease term – It is important to ensure that there is a good term remaining on the lease. A lease is granted for a term of years. Once a lease term falls below 7o years you may want to consider extending it. This is because on a lease term below 70 years, some mortgage companies are reluctant to lend. Extending a lease can be a lengthy, expensive process and one which you must be sure you are prepared to take on. If you are thinking about extending a lease you can find more information about what to consider here.
- What ground rent and service charge are you expected to pay? Ground rent is an amount set in the lease which will be reviewed at dates provided for in the lease. Service charge is a contribution towards the fees incurred by the Landlord or their managing agent in maintaining the building, the cost of buildings insurance, etc. The amount of service charge will fluctuate from year to year. If there are major works planned (for example a new roof on the building), this can significantly impact on the amount of service charge due and this could affect the affordability of the property
- Is there a parking space? It is important to establish if a parking space is included in the property being leased or whether you are simply being granted the right to use a space. If you have the right to use a space, it could be possible for the landlord to change the space you are able to use. Not all flats come with parking. It is important that your mortgage company are informed about whether a parking space is included as this will impact on the valuation
- Is there a balcony? If so, does the balcony form part of the leased property or do you simply have a right to use it? Who is responsible for maintaining it? Often the lease will contain restrictions on what you can keep on your balcony and what it can be used for
- Does the lease plan accord with the actual layout of the flat? Sometimes work may have been carried out (internal walls removed) which would most likely have required the landlord’s consent. It is important that this landlord’s consent is provided, otherwise the landlord may require you to put the flat back to its original layout, if they were to find out about the work at a future date. Again, changing the layout of the flat could impact on its value
- If you are purchasing a flat to let out, are there any restrictions on letting out the property in the lease. Leases can contain strict requirements for letting out, and occasionally can contain an absolute prohibition on letting
There are a number of other considerations, but these are just a few of the most common problems we come across when receiving initial instructions on flat purchases.
For general advice in relation to any residential property matters, including purchasing a flat, please contact Laura Finnigan at Thompson Smith and Puxon on 01206 217 020 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.