In this three-minute read, we look at England’s new leasehold reform package.
What will the new leasehold reforms, announced last week, deliver for leasehold property owners? Here’s what we know so far.
Now, ‘leasehold reform’ may not be the sexiest of subject matters, but if you are one of the 4.3 million people in England who owns a leasehold property, don’t doze off as these changes could significantly impact you.
England’s medieval leasehold laws are loathed by leaseholders who have dubbed them ‘fleecehold’ laws. Key gripes include:
- The cost of lease renewal or freehold purchase. This can be tens of thousands of pounds, or even more. If negotiations with the freeholder break down, the leaseholder can go to a tribunal, but this takes time and can be expensive.
- Escalating ground rents. In the worst cases, the ground rent on a leasehold house doubles every ten years, leaving the leaseholder with an ever-growing bill and making it impossible to sell the property.
- Exorbitant service charges for maintaining communal areas and gardens at apartment blocks.
- Freeholds being sold off to a cash-hungry third party.
Here’s a rundown of the proposed reforms.
No 1: Owners of leasehold homes or flats will be given the right to extend their lease by a maximum term of 990 years at zero ground rent. (Currently, leaseholders of houses can only extend for 50 years with a ground rent while leaseholders of flats can extend as often as they wish at a zero ‘peppercorn’ ground rent for 90 years.)
Benefit: In theory, the change would provide security and eliminate ground rent. However, it’s not yet clear how much it would cost to secure a 990-year lease so it’s impossible to do a cost versus benefit analysis.
No 2: Owners of leasehold flats in apartment blocks will be able to shift to a Commonhold Agreement model.
Benefit: Flat owners could take control of the upkeep of their building, ending rip-off maintenance charges. Getting all the relevant parties to agree to move to a Commonhold Agreement may be difficult though.
No 3: Introduction of an online calculator to simplify determining the cost of buying a freehold or lease extension.
Benefit: This would take some of the hassle out of the negotiation process but much depends on the formula used to calculate costs.
No 4: The abolition of ‘marriage value’.
Benefit: ‘Marriage value’ is a rather cumbersome rule that has probably caused a few divorces in its time. It means that if a lease falls below 80 years, the cost of renewing it shoots up.
When will these changes be introduced?
Legislation regarding change No 1 will be brought forward in the upcoming session of Parliament. The rest will take longer to realise.
To learn more about the leasehold changes and how they could affect the value of your property, please get in touch.
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