Almost all leaseholders have the right to extend their lease under the 1993 Leasehold Reform Act but extending your lease can be a long and complicated process.
Here are a few FAQ’s to help you get started:
Q. The lease of my flat has 80 years or less left to run. Can I do anything to make it longer?
A. Certain tenants have a right to require their landlord to grant them an extension on their leasehold term under the Lease Reform, Housing & Urban Development Act 1993 (the 1993 Act).
Q. What are the qualifying criteria?
A. To qualify:
Your lease must have been granted for a term of 21 years or more (a long lease).
Your property must be a flat.
You must have held the lease for a continuous period of 2 years or more.
Your legal advisor will be able to assist with finding out whether you qualify.
Q. What if I haven’t held the lease for a continuous period of 2 years or more?
A. You will either have to wait until you have or if you are thinking about buying the flat with a short lease, the seller can extend the lease before you buy. This is something you will need to discuss with the estate agent before you make an offer. The seller may expect you to be responsible for the costs of the lease extension.
Q. I qualify, what do I do next?
A. Some landlords are willing to grant an extended lease voluntarily outside the 1993 Act. An approach to your landlord or your landlords agent will establish this. Your legal advisor can do this on your behalf.
In almost all cases it is easier to extend the lease this way as the 1993 Act lays down a very strict procedure and timescales to follow.
Alternatively, your legal advisor will serve a notice on the landlord under the 1993 Act containing various key points. Many lease extensions start with service of this notice, but are then taken out of the Act and proceed voluntarily.
Q. What will I have to pay to extend the lease?
A. You will have to pay the landlord a premium representing the cost to the landlord of extending the lease. If the lease is extended under the 1993 Act, the premium is calculated according to a statutory formula. If the lease is extended outside the 1993 Act the tenant and landlord will decide the price to be paid and other terms of the extended lease.
In addition to the premium there will be professional costs, the administrative costs of any mortgagee whose consent will be required, and the landlords costs and land registry fees. There may also be stamp duty land tax where appropriate.
Q. What if we cannot agree terms?
A. If you and your landlord cannot agree terms of the extended lease, you always have the right to apply to the court to impose terms. This is used only as a last resort.
Q. Earlier you mentioned surveyors fees, are they really necessary?
A. There is no legal requirement to have a formal valuation but this is recommended. A specialist surveyor should be used as this is not something lawyers can advise on.
Q. I have received a notice from my landlord telling me the building where my flat is, is being sold and I was asked whether I would like to buy it. What should I do next?
A. The most important thing to do is to take legal advice as soon as possible to discuss your next move to ensure you don’t miss the deadline in the notice. You might also want to talk to your neighbours as they will have received the same notice and might be interested in buying the building with you. In which case, all those interested could take legal advice as a group.
Q. I want to buy the building where my flat is but my landlord doesn’t want to sell. What are my options?
A. Your first step should be to seek legal advice to ensure you are able to do this. Your legal advisor will then be able to tell you your next steps.
Joanna Nixon is a Solicitor with Spire Solicitors LLP of Holland Court, The Close, Norwich, NR1 4DY. Joanna specialises in lease extensions and other leasehold enfranchisement.