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Short, Sharp, Shock Guide to Buying A Flat

View profile for Paul Hajek
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conveyancing guide to buying flat or appartment

Update: this blog has now been updated, and you can view it here.

Buying a flat, or an apartment, as Developers like to call them, differs from buying a normal house or freehold property.

Leases are used where there is one building or a block with
multiple owners.

The legal proof of ownership will be by way of a Lease. You
will be known as a Leaseholder or Lessee or Tenant
(terminology varies as to what was fashionable a the time of
the original Lease).

Under a Lease you will own the leasehold flat only for the
remainder of the period stated.

The length of a Lease will vary
from 99 to 999 years.

Be aware! -You will have difficulty obtaining mortgage finance if
the number of years remaining on the Lease is fewer
than 60 years

Leases are complicated and often lengthy documents.

There will still be a freehold and a freeholder owner; the
Landlord, who will either be non resident or better still one of
the residents who all form part of a management company
specifically formulated to run the management of the whole
building or block.

There are however, professional management companies who
will run the management of the building (often when a
Developer is selling).

Your responsibilities and obligations will be governed by the
terms of the Lease.

Ground rent and service charge

A lease is similar to a Tenancy so you must pay a rent to the
Landlord. At best this will be a peppercorn (legal speak for
nothing) or may be several hundred pounds.

Service charges are levied to cover the maintenance of the
whole building.

Even if paid in advance, service charges are often subject to
adjustment when the actual expenditure for the year has been


You can challenge the amount of a service charge in certain
circumstances. The law is complicated however and you will
need to speak to your Conveyancing Solicitor in more detail

Past alterations.

If the flat seems to have been altered or extended since date
60 of the original lease, your Conveyancing Solicitor will need to
check if the alterations have occurred in the recent past and
that necessary consents were obtained both form the Local
Authority as well as any consents required under the Lease.

Alterations, extensions, improvement and renovations

Please note that if you plan any alterations to the flat
after you move in:

• External alterations or extensions to a flat will
generally be impossible or impracticable, and even
internal alterations may need:
_ (a) Building Regulations Consent
_ (b) (If the building is listed or in a
area) Listed or Conservation Area Consent
_ (c) Consent under the flat lease and any other
covenants which affect the property
_ (d) The consent of your mortgage company

Building Insurance

The Building in which the flat forms a part will be insured by
the Landlord. You, as the leaseholder should arrange contents
insurance in the normal way.

You should always report and seek advice from
your Conveyancing Solicitor on anything
unusual from your own inspection or
conversations with the Seller of the flat.

Paul Hajek