In recent years the property market has seen many large former family homes converted into city-centre flats all along the South Coast, from Brighton, Worthing and Chichester to Guildford, Portsmouth and Southampton – and in recent years property developers increasingly sold their new-build homes on leasehold terms.
So what can you do to extend the length of your leasehold, and why should you bother in the first place?
Many residential property leases are granted for lengthy periods of 99 years or more, so there is little chance the original leaseholder will outlive the lease on their home. But once a property changes hands, unless its lease has been extended beyond the original term, it will steadily decrease in value as the expiry date approaches. Not only that, but when eventually the lease end-date does arrive, legal ownership of property reverts to the freehold owner of the main building and the land upon which it stands. Without intervention your long-term security is limited and you will lose all rights of tenure over the home you thought you ‘owned’.
It is important, then, that as a leaseholder you take appropriate and timely action to protect the roof over your head. Most leasehold property owners have a legal right to extend their lease, and a long lease will boost the value of your home, increase your chances of selling now or in the future, and make it easier for a potential buyer to secure a mortgage against your leasehold property.
Engaging specialist residential conveyancing solicitors to extend your property lease will ensure the complex legal administration involved is carried out efficiently and within strict procedural deadlines.
Leaseholders who want to extend their lease must meet three major conditions: the leasehold property must be in residential use; it must have been owned by the applicant for at least two years; and the owner must hold a long lease entailing nominal ground rent (a ‘long’ lease is one that was set at more than 21 years when originally granted).
Some freehold landlords will be happy to agree voluntarily to case-specific lease extension terms without statutory intervention but if your landlord is not so obliging, you are entitled to exercise your legal rights under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act of 1993 by serving a Section 42 Notice outlining your claim, which will trigger your official application for a lease extension.
Following standard procedure, your landlord is likely to issue an official response acknowledging your right to acquire a lease extension, subject to the negotiation of specific terms and conditions. If your landlord does not respond or the parties cannot agree terms, you can progress via a court application.
Once terms have been agreed, your extended lease or an appropriate new lease contract should be completed within two months and the finalised document must be officially registered HM Land Registry.
If your application goes to court, you will need to supply a professional property valuation and, at this stage, you will certainly be required to instruct a solicitor.
However, there are often significant advantages to obtaining a conveyancing solicitor’s expert individual legal advice from the start. With an experienced conveyancer on your side, your best interests will be safeguarded throughout the entire process and, if matters do take a difficult turn, your specialist lawyer can bring their personal knowledge of your case to the negotiating table.
Our friendly team of expert property lawyers has helped many people in West Sussex and beyond with various aspects of tenant and landlord law, enabling them to enjoy financial security and peace of mind in their leasehold homes.
For individual advice on extending your lease and an estimate of the costs you may incur, call our Chichester-based legal experts on 01243 786668, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us directly using the details shown.
George Ide LLP. We’re on your side