Consumer rights: Can I extend the lease on a part-owned flat?

Problems with shared ownership of a property when time begins to run out...A sofa company refuses to refund delivery charges on a wrong order

I bought my flat six years ago under a shared ownership scheme. I own half and the housing association owns half. I can also buy a bigger share as and when I can afford it.

However, my solicitor at the time didn't tell me that the lease had less than 79 years left to run. Because of something called the "marriage value", it will be very expensive for me to extend the lease and the shorter the lease becomes the harder it will be to sell my share. I've complained about this to the solicitor who says he's done nothing wrong. I've taken the complaint to the Legal Complaints Service but am not happy with the outcome. Is there anything I can do?



I sent your question to Chris Kennedy, a property solicitor and partner at Howes Percival LLP, and he agrees that as it stands your lease is a "wasting asset". As the length of the lease decreases, the value of the property will fall. An extension reverses that so the full value of the flat can be realised when it's sold. However, the cost of extending the lease goes up as the length of the lease shortens.

You mentioned the "marriage value". When a tenant is given an extension to a lease, the value of the landlord's interest in the property usually goes down and the value of the tenant's interest usually goes up. But the value of the tenant's interest often increases by more than the amount by which the landlord's interest goes down – which means that the total value of the property increases. That increase in the total value is the marriage value. The longer the unexpired period of the existing lease the lower the marriage value.

Under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993, a tenant has the right to be granted a new lease for a term equal to the unexpired period of the existing lease plus 90 years. The tenant has to pay a premium for the extended lease. Where the unexpired period is 80 years or less when the tenant requests an extension, the premium will include half of the marriage value. If the lease was more than 80 years there is no marriage value to pay. Your premium will include half of the marriage value and that makes it so expensive for you to extend your lease.

However, because you don't own 100 per cent of the lease you don't qualify for a lease extension. That's probably why your solicitor didn't tell you about the marriage value rule. If you owned the property outright, you could then request a lease extension. But Mr Kennedy says it may be in the housing association's interests to consider extending the term of the lease so he advises you to try negotiating with them.

As far as the complaint against your solicitor is concerned, from what Chris says there seems to be little you can do. The question is: can you expect a solicitor to tell you about a rule that doesn't apply to you at the time of a transaction? As the Legal Complaints Service has found your solicitor advised you correctly, your only recourse is to contact the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman –

We bought a sofa in a shop and liked it so much we ordered a second one from the retailer's website. The colour looked identical to the sofa that we already had and had the same name. But when the second sofa arrived it was a different colour. The retailer is refusing to take the second sofa back unless we pay £120 in delivery charges. What can I do?



If you go by the appearance alone of a colour on a website it may not turn out exactly as you expect. However, as you were going by the name as well as the appearance you should have been fairly safe. You could have both sofas taken away and start again with another company. If you do that make it clear that you expect to have your delivery charges refunded as well as your money back as this was no fault of yours. If the firm withholds the delivery charges you could make a claim for it in the county court. You could ask for both sofas to be re-covered in another colour. Or you could ask for the first one to be re-covered in the same material as the second. Choices two and three give you matching sofas but not in the original choice of colour. Before you decide, talk to Consumer Direct on 08454 040506,

Do you need help with a consumer complaint?

Write to Julian Knight at the Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF