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What happens if lessees can not find the freeholder?

03rd May 2011
By Leasehold Advice in Real Estate Law
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If one owns a leasehold residential apartment in England or Wales one may well want to contact your freeholder (referred to as a ‘landlord’ legally) for a whole variety of reasons. Possibly lessees would like to extend the period of your lease, maybe lessees and a group of neighbours wish to buy their flats' freehold , maybe flat owners have issues with the management of the development and the freeholder controls the upkeep or maybe one have an issue with the ground rent.

It is supposed to be simple to discover your freeholder but on occasion it is not. possibly you aren't aware of the details and aren't aware of where to start looking. Your flat’s lease may perhaps not be the best place to begin. It will specify the original parties to the lease and will tell to you the first freeholder, but this might have altered.

If flat owners have been getting ground rent demands, then these will have all the freeholder’s details. The demand should be within a accepted layout thus virtually certainly one needs to have all the information you require on there. Although surprisingly commonly freeholders either overlook sending the demand because it is seldom for a sizeable amount, or the freeholder is no longer actively involved in their ownership.

If one don’t possess any of the above, then flat owners can straightforwardly obtain a Title from the Land Registry online (not the same as the lease however it should reveal the details of their freeholder). The Land Registry charges £4 at the time of writing (December 2010) for anyone to search for the freehold title. Flat owners can additionally buy the leasehold title just for the flat or the freehold title is supposed to catalogue every one of the apartments in the development for which the freeholder has title. Go to the Land Registry web site and look for the Find a Property section and one can go to the Title Registry section and download a copy of the freehold title.

On the other hand maybe the freeholder is not answering your efforts to make contact with them. It is surprisingly widespread for leaseholders of residential property to phone, send a letter to or send an e-mail to their freeholder and to get no reply. A common point in time for this to be revealed is when buyers or sellers of apartments might want to provide proof of the buildings cover of their development. This is frequently arranged by the freeholder (check the lease document to confirm whose obligation it is) and it is their obligation to prove to a lender that the block is adequately insured.

If flat owners are aware of the identify of the freeholder and a number of other details one might still not have the contact information. This is where one might need to carry out a bit of detective work. There are a vast amount of web based sources including social media, web based directories in addition to first-rate search tools that may be able to locate your lost freeholder.

The first issue to keep in mind is that the law works in your favour. The second thing is, if one have tried every feasible way to contact the freeholder, there is usually a way that the system will allow for you to procure the result that one desire, be that a lease extension, freehold acquisition or Right to Manage (RTM). one will need an enfranchisement solicitor and/or surveyor to be of assistance here and flat owners can find vetted local practitioners at the web site of organisations such as the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners.

perhaps the freehold is owned by someone and they may perhaps have passed away. On the other hand they may have moved and not informed the Land Registry of their recent address, as is their obligation. A further option is that you have not been offered the “right of first refusal” when a freehold title was sold. This is unlawful and for 18 months you have the right to overturn the sale or purchase it yourself.

If your landlord tells one they offered the freehold to someone else, even though the original landlord’s particulars are on the Title, then legally they remain the landlord. It is their legal obligation to make certain the data is up to date.

One of the reasons flat owners might be struggling to get in touch with the freeholder is that the business may have ceased to trade, gone into bankruptcy, entered administration or even been struck off by Companies House.

You possibly will have found that the assets of the freehold company - if the freehold was held by a company - may have passed to the Crown. The Treasury Solicitor will subsequently virtually certainly be delighted to sell the freehold to you and your neighbours at the open market price, in other words the amount for which a freeholder could sell the freehold at an auction. The ultimate value would be down to one to negotiate.

If the company is in receivership or administration you can serve the notice on the administrator or official receiver. If bankruptcy applies then there will be a trustee upon which to serve the necessary notice or for flat owners to contact.

If your best labors throw up a blank and you and fellow lessees cannot find the freeholder - a situation known as an ‘absent landlord’ or ‘absentee landlord’ - then flat owners can think about obtaining a Vesting Order through a County Court.

To begin with one should buy a legally acceptable valuation of the freehold. Flat owners should make use of an qualified and credible surveyor with a specialism in Leasehold Enfranchisement. One may find issues with a different variety of surveyor and you can find a good, vetted and experience local valuer via the surveyor search on the web site of the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners (ALEP).

When you have the Vesting Order, one can after that apply to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) for them to ascertain the cost to flat owners to buy the freehold. The process is proscribed in Section 26 of the Leasehold Reform and Urban Development Act for freehold acquisition or Section 50 for lease extensions. You ought to be able to acquire the freehold much cheaper than if you COULD find your freeholder, because the LVT will take into account you ‘offer’ price. Since there is no counter offer, so long as your first offer is acceptable, flat owners can pay the relevant County Court the agreed sum and begin the process of purchasing your freehold. The money then goes to the freeholder in the event that they turn up.

One can ask a solicitor, surveyor or intermediary to undertake the detective work for flat owners. Be careful to use those with track records - their professional association is the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners . There is considerable leg work and you will save a lot of cash doing it yourself. Nonetheless, there are many pitfalls to negotiate so flat owners will need patience and determination.

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