Q&A: How do we buy our flat's freehold?

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The Independent Online

Q. We have owned a leasehold flat in a converted block of four flats for eight years and would now like to buy the freehold with at least one other freeholder.

Q. We have owned a leasehold flat in a converted block of four flats for eight years and would now like to buy the freehold with at least one other freeholder. We have an absentee landlord, however, whom we have never seen nor paid ground rent to. We would like to know how and where to start the process of buying the freehold. What do you suggest?
PA, by e-mail

A. You should carry out an on-line search at the Land Registry ( www.landreg.gov.uk) to see who they have registered as the freeholder - this will cost £2. You should then try and contact the owner by letter. If you do not receive a response, the owner may have died and left the property to someone else or, if the owner happens to be a company, it may have gone into liquidation.

If there is no beneficiary, ownership of the freehold under English Law will revert to the Crown and you would have to contact the Treasury Solicitor for further action ( www.treasury-solicitor.gov.uk for information).

If you still cannot trace the owner, you would have to apply to the County Court for a Vesting Order to start the process of buying the freehold. You would be wise to seek specialist legal advice and contact the Leasehold Advisory Service on 0845 354 1993 for free information.

Q. I am in the process of buying a house and my solicitor says the local search has revealed a Tree Preservation Order on a tree in the front garden. What does this mean?
TK, by e-mail

A. You will be responsible for the maintenance of the tree and must inform the council before carrying out any work so that it can be approved. If you cut down, uproot or wilfully damage a protected tree, or lop or top the tree and seriously damage or destroy it, then you could be given a hefty fine. If the tree dies or is blown over in a storm, you must inform the council as soon as possible before taking any action. Trees in conservation areas are automatically protected.

Q. The owner of the block of flats opposite me has just added an extra floor to the top, and the apartments are now being sold as penthouses. Could the same thing happen to my flats? I own a flat on the top floor.
BH, by e-mail

A. You should read your lease carefully to see if the freeholder has "reserved rights", which would allow this development. The freeholder would still have to obtain planning permission before carrying out the work, however, and you would be informed of the application and have the right to lodge any complaints.

If you would like a query answered, e-mail: propertyq&a@independent.co.uk. Only those questions featured will be answered. Any advice given will not be legally binding

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