Leasehold/freehold explained

Freehold

As a freeholder you own your property outright and the land that it’s built on. Except for shared ownership properties, most houses are owned on a freehold basis.

Your name will appear in the land registry as 'freeholder', owning the 'title absolute'.

As a freeholder, you won’t have to pay annual ground rent or deal with a landlord. Being a freeholder puts you in control of how you manage your own property. You will be able to maintain your property yourself without having to seek permission from a landlord. However, bear in mind that significant alterations will probably be subject to local planning laws and you will be responsible for seeking planning consent.

Whole houses are normally sold freehold – there is no reason for a stand-alone house to be leasehold. However, there is an increasing trend for houses from some larger builders to be sold leasehold so check before you buy. Whether you are buying leasehold or freehold should be made clear as part of the process of conveyancing and you should make sure you are happy with this.

Leasehold

Under a leasehold you only own the property for a fixed period. Put simply it is a long tenancy, typically 99 years. Normally, you will have a legal agreement with the landlord which tells you for how many years you own the property. Most flats are leasehold. Houses bought under a shared ownership scheme can also be leasehold.

As a leaseholder you have the right to:

  • Be consulted on maintenance and running costs including service charges, ground rent and building insurance if these apply – a stand-alone house bought as a leasehold property will probably not have any of these issues apart from ground rent.
  • Know the landlord’s name and address.
  • Challenge certain charges.
  • Ask the landlord to extend your lease at any time.
  • Extend your lease by 90 years on a flat or 50 years on a house if you qualify.

The Leasehold Advisory Service’s (LAS) lease extension calculator gives you a guide to the costs of extending the lease of a flat. You can find it here.

You might also have the right to buy your house or flat outright, so that you own the freehold. This is called ‘enfranchisement’. While there are complicated legal procedures and legal costs involved this process of enfranchisement can be invaluable. Again, the law depends on whether you have a house or flat. Ensure you get professional advice and assistance.

To acquire the freehold the property must be a house held under a long lease. In addition, the house must have been owned by you for more than two years from the date of registration at the Land Registry.

The Homeowners Association has more information on leasehold and freehold property tenure.

 

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Freehold and leasehold are the words describing the terms under which you hold the title to your home. We help you to understand these terms.