When you buy a flat or maisonette, you do not buy the flat itself, however you do buy what is called a long lease from the landlord (the freeholder) which is usually the Council. The long lease allows you to live in the property for a set period of time (a typical long lease will be for a period of between 100-125 years). So, if you buy a council flat, the Council (the freeholder) owns the building and you become a leaseholder.
A leasehold property is generally part of a larger building that is divided into individual units. There will usually be some communal elements within the structure, such as roof, stairways, halls and landings together with other residential and/or commercial units. These areas are maintained, cleaned, and renewed for the benefit of all the occupants of the building. The Council manages these services and/or works and you, the leaseholder, are required to pay a proportion of the cost, which is called a "service charge".
Although, as a leaseholder, you will not have to pay rent on your flat or maisonette, you will have to pay a small 'ground rent'. A yearly charge which is separate to your service charges.
The lease is a legal agreement between you 'the leaseholder' and the council. It gives the right of possession of your flat, defines your building, estate and other areas to which you are entitled or pay a cost towards, as well as explaining your, and the Council's, rights and responsibilities.
At the end of the lease period, the flat will go back to the Council (the freeholder), unless you apply to extend the lease. Please read your lease carefully and seek independent legal advice if there is anything you are unclear about.
The costs to maintain the building, communal areas and grounds around your property are called Service Charges. Some of the services you may have included are:
For more details about making service charge payment see our Paying Rent web page.
The Council is responsible for maintaining the exterior and communal parts of the block. This may include inspecting, maintaining, replacing, decorating and cleaning the external paintwork, rainwater goods, entry systems, fire safety equipment, grounds maintenance, communal utility supplies, means of access, communal front doors and the structure of the block.
It will also normally include the replacement and repair of windows, unless you have signed a Deed of Variation specifying alternative arrangements. See My repairs web page for more information.
You are responsible for all internal items which may include things like taps, kitchen cupboards, all bathroom fittings, your keys, room décor and built-in cupboards. See My repairs web page for more information.
As a leaseholder it is a condition of your lease that you are responsible for maintaining and regular servicing of gas appliances. Failure to carry out these checks may result in a breach of your lease and affect the buildings insurance policy.
Call the National Gas Emergency Service immediately on 0800 111 999. If you can, please shut off the gas supply at the meter. You should open windows, extinguish naked flames and do not use electrical sockets or switches.
The Leasehold Advisory Service provides free advice on the law affecting residential leasehold properties. They advise on issues including service charges, extending your lease, buying the freehold, right to manage and applying to the First Tier Tribunal.
If you are a leaseholder, you can appeal to the First Tier Tribunal if you disagree with changes to your lease, including service charges, extending a lease, buying the freehold and insuring the building. The tribunal is independent, and can decide if a charge is too high or unreasonable and payable by whom, or if changes to the lease are fair. Follow the link to the website Home - The Leasehold Advisory Service or call them on 020 7832 2500.
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