Travel: The mystery of the missing freeholder

Robert Poray and his girlfriend, Lyn Greenwood, planned to sell their London flats and buy a place together. That was two years ago. Ms Greenwood sold her flat, but Mr Poray is stuck with his, in Finchley, north London. It isn't that he has had trouble finding a buyer. In fact, he found two. The trouble is that he cannot find his freeholder.

This may sound like a bonus rather than a problem - no ground rent to pay, no bumped-up bills for repairs. But a solicitor will not recommend a buyer takes on a property where the freehold is in dispute. So in order to sell, Mr Poray needs to find his landlord.

Mr Poray has been searching hard. According to the Land Registry, the freehold of the house has changed hands several times since he bought one of the three flats there in 1989. As a leaseholder, he had a legal right to be informed of this, and to have first refusal on the freehold.

The current freeholder, according to the Land Registry, is a Mr Matthews of Stamford Hill, north London. The registry has tried unsuccessfully to contact him. Even Mr Matthews' solicitor says she cannot reach him by telephone, and her letters go

unanswered.

A number of demands from different property management companies have been sent to the flat over the years. Some are for the ground rent of pounds 75 a year; others are for buildings insurance premiums, although no insurance policy has ever been produced. (Mr Poray has been insuring his flat himself as a precaution.)

Mr Poray's solicitor suggested his client try to buy the freehold of the building. At least two- thirds of leaseholders must be party to any attempt to buy out a freehold, so he needs another flat to join in. But the occupants of the ground-floor flat cannot afford to participate, and the ownership of the second-floor flat is unclear. What is Mr Poray to do?

Last week a couple with a similar problem used the new Leasehold Reform Act to try to get a response from a recalcitrant freeholder. Charles Waitt and Jean Burkin, of Friern Barnet, north London, were the first to take a case before the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. They are now awaiting the outcome.

Peter Haler, of the Leasehold Enfranchisement Advisory Service, says that under section 11 of the new Act, Mr Poray can issue an information notice which requires the freeholder to disclose details of ownership of the freehold. If the freeholder fails to reply, Mr Poray can go to court for an order requiring him to respond. If that is ignored, the freeholder is in contempt of court and a summons can be issued.

The tactic works as a warning shot and may flush the freeholder out to the satisfaction of prospective buyers of Mr Poray's flat.

If that fails, however, the couple will have to go through the costly and risky procedures of applying for either a lease extension or purchase of the freehold. And no matter how badly their freeholder has behaved in the past, they will still be liable for his costs.

The Leasehold Enfranchisement Advisory Service: 071-493 3116.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test