Enfranchisement of Leasehold Property

We can act for Landlords or Tenants in this complex area of law and co-ordinate with the relevant additional professionals such as surveyors to achieve the desired result.

According to official statistics, there are nearly one million houses that are owned leasehold (rather than freehold), and nearly two million flats which are owned leasehold. As the building of blocks of flats has become an important feature of housing development in this country, the numbers of leasehold flats will continue to increase.

Residential leasehold law is a notoriously complex subject. Surveyors have to consult the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 for house leases; Part I of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 for flat leases; the Landlord and Tenant Acts 1985 and 1987 for other features of leasehold management, and the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 for occupation rights at the end of a long lease. An additional source of complications lies in the numerous statutory amendments made to all of this legislation.

Decades after the legislation was enacted, the courts and the tribunals are still frequently asked to adjudicate disputes often involving very complex valuation and legal issues.

However well-drafted leases may be many leaseholders would prefer to have a greater degree of control over their homes, either through acquiring the freehold or, as the lease gets shorter, the ability to extend that lease. Landlords faced with a claim by a leaseholder to acquire the freehold, or a new lease, also need expert advice on questions such as whether the leaseholder is following the correct procedures and whether the leaseholder’s proposals on price and costs are fair and reasonable.

In the most general of terms, the current position so far as residential leases of houses and flats are concerned is simple: the holder of a qualifying lease has a right to enfranchise and in many cases the right to a new lease. With limited exceptions, there is no residence test and a lease usually qualifies if it was originally granted for a term longer than 21 years.


House leases

The Leasehold Reform Act 1967 is now more than 40 years old, however it still serves as the benchmark for legislation for enfranchisement claims. In this legislation a qualifying leaseholder on any house was granted the lawful right to purchase the freehold (a process which is now known as Enfranchisement), as well as the right to extend the lease of the property by 50 years or more over and above the current term.

The Leasehold Reform Act 1967, unlike later leasehold legislature was controversial as when originally enacted, it applied only to the qualifying leases of properties classed as lower value (once known as rateable values). Higher value properties were excluded from the legislature altogether.