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Can a flat be both leasehold and freehold tenure?

11th March 2011
By Leasehold Advice in Real Estate Law
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Common questions among those new to the concept of leasehold in relation to owning a flat are; How do I convert my flat to a freehold? / How do I buy a freehold instead of a leasehold flat?/ How do I make my flat freehold instead of leasehold?. The wording of these questions highlights a common and understandable confusion about the nature of the relationship between freehold and leasehold in private residential property.

In essence, a flat that is leasehold will always be leasehold. Any changes that you make will not “convert” it to freehold. There is an important exception in the form of Commonhold tenure which we will not deal with here. The main reason we can put it to the side is that it is an extremely rare form of tenure in the UK and difficult to amass the required number of people to make it work. We do however deal with it in a separate article.

While they can satisfy certain conditions, most owners of leasehold flats in England and Wales can buy their shares of freehold. If they do that, then they will simultaneously be a partial freeholder as well as a leaseholder. The lease does not get thrown away: it continues to govern the way people must behave who are responsible for the development.

Bear in mind that the lease is a legal document governing the relationship between the leaseholder and the freeholder. This outlines the rights and obligations of each party. It is a sensible document to have because it makes sure people living in close proximity behave in a way that is fair and considerate. Many flat owners want to get rid of leases because they oblige them to maintain their wooden windows, refrain from fitting satellite dishes or have carpets fitted instead of wood laminate floors. However, these stipulations often make communal living more considerate and help to maintain property values when properly applied.

So now one can see why the question ‘How can I convert to a freehold?’ is actually the wrong question. Nothing new is created or converted in reality. When acquiring a share of freehold a flat owner is buying the freehold for their part of the block from the current freeholder. The flat owner continues to be a party to the existing lease agreement. However, they almost become their own freeholder, bizarre as that may seem.

This is not as silly as it appears at first because it is uncommon in blocks of flats, where the neighbours club together to buy the freehold, for every flat owner to share the burden. These non-participants continue to be leaseholders but now their freeholder has changed. Usually, everything else stays the same as far as they are concerned and it costs the non-participants nothing. They also don’t take on some of the responsibilities that come with owning a share of freehold.

About the author
Andy Szebeni is part of the management team of the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners. ALEP has more than 100 members, each vetted before joining. They include leasehold solicitors, surveyors, intermediaries, managing agents and other professionals in England and Wales specialising in the field of leasehold enfranchisement. Have a look at the searchable list of vetted members at
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