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What is Freehold?

It is possible to buy property in the UK as either:

A freehold means that you own the property as well as the land it is built on in perpetuity (it will never end). Traditionally, houses were sold as freehold, however more recently new houses are sometimes sold leasehold.

What are the advantages of being a freeholder?

Leasehold ownership is an agreement between the leaseholder and the owner of the property. The leaseholder does not own the land that the property is built on. Leases are granted for a set period of time (generally between 99 and 999 years), which decreases as time passes. The leaseholder has to pay a ground rent and a service charge. Therefore, subsequent sales of a house will be for shorter leases and this will decrease the value of the property. Leases with less than 80 years to run have various issues associated with them since it can be hard to obtain a mortgage and it can be very expensive to increase the term of the lease at this point.

Owning a freehold property means that the following apply:

  • The owner owns both the property itself as well as the land that it is built on
  • They do not need to pay any ground rent
  • The owner is responsible for maintaining the property and insuring both the building and its contents
  • Alterations can be made to the property (presuming the relevant planning permission is met), which means that they do not need to ask for permission to decorate or make other alterations to the house
  • Maintenance charges only apply to communal services shared with neighbours
  • The property is likely to increase in value

Being a freeholder grants you a lot more freedom to do what you wish with a property, albeit with the following restrictions:

  • You must comply with local planning laws and planning regulations
  • There may be restrictive covenants in the house deeds that restrict certain use
  • There may be restrictions due to the local area, for example environmental restrictions

Can you own the freehold of a flat?

It is possible for flat owners to purchase a share of the freehold of the building that incorporates their flat. A group of leaseholders can group together to buy the freehold as a collective enfranchisement.

The right to buy the freehold house

A tenant of a house can purchase the freehold using the formal or informal method. Whatever method is used, the transfer of title has to be legally recorded with the Land Registry.

Informal method

The tenant can approach the owner of the house and ask them informally if they would sell them the freehold. This can be a quicker process but there is no guarantee and no right of redress at the First-Tier Tribunal under this method.

Formal method

Except in certain cases, a qualifying tenant of a house has the formal right (called enfranchisement) to purchase the freehold under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 so long as certain requirements are met, including:

  • It is a long lease of at least 21 years of a house
  • A shorter lease with a right of perpetual renewal
  • The tenant must have been the legal owner for at least two years preceding the notice requesting to purchase
  • For a business tenancy, there must be at least 35 years left on the lease and the residency test is met
  • For a shared ownership lease, the tenants share is 100%

The owner has two months to respond and either agree or to deny the proposal with reasons. If it is denied, then the freeholder can apply to the County Court.

The freehold interest has to be given a value as if it were to be sold on the open market. The purchase price is either determined between the parties or by the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) if the parties cannot agree.

The market value of a property will generally increase when it is no longer limited by a leasehold. This extra value is known as the marriage value and is split between the tenant and the owner, unless there is more than 80 years of the lease remaining.

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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