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Conveyancing in Bristol: How Free is Freehold?

View profile for Paul Hajek
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Update: this blog has now been updated, and you can view it here.

When you are moving house and having your Conveyancing in Bristol, you may come across an unusual phrase “freehold and free”.

The Estate Agents particulars should give you guidance of what type of property you are buying and whether it is freehold or leasehold.

If you are buying a freehold house (and by the way, there is really no such thing as a freehold flat) does that mean it is free of restriction?

There may be other rights and benefits, restrictions, reservations and covenants affecting land. But in this context “freehold and free” refers to a freehold house in Bristol which is not subject to the payment of, what is known as, a Rentcharge. 

A Rentcharge is a peculiarity of Conveyancing in Bristol (in Manchester these additional payments were known as Chief Rents) 

A Rentcharge was a device which permitted an annual payment to be continually levied on a freehold property in Bristol after it had been built. 

Rentscharge (yes that is the correct plural) was a payment payable to a third party, sometimes but not always the original builder.

Rentscharge caught on in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as, without putting too fine a point on it, a bit of a scam. A ruse for income to be obtained from the property after it had been sold. 

Luckily, inflation has taken the sting out of the payment which typically were between £2 to £5 pounds per annum with the most expensive at around £12.60

A law passed in 1977 allowed existing freehold owners to buy out these rents and barred the creation of new Rentscharge from 1977 onwards subject to very few exceptions. 

The good news for sellers and buyers alike, is that such restrictions are unlikely to affect the value of the property being sold or purchased.