If you own a leasehold residential flat in England or Wales you may wish to make contact with your freeholder (referred to as a ‘landlord’ in legal parlance) for a whole range of reasons. Possibly you want to extend the age of your lease, possibly you and a group of people want to purchase the freehold, maybe you have issues with the management of the estate plus the freeholder controls the repair or possibly you have an issue with the ground rent.
It should be effortless to find your freeholder but now and then it is not. Possibly you don’t know the details and don’t know where to start looking. Your flat’s lease document might not be the best place to start. It will detail the original parties to the lease plus will tell you the original freeholder, but this might have changed.
If you have been getting ground rent demands, then these will have all the freeholder’s particulars. The demand needs to be in a standard format so almost without doubt you should have all the data you need on there. But surprisingly often freeholders either overlook sending the demand because it is rarely for a large sum, or the freeholder is no longer actively involved in their ownership.
If you don’t hold any of the above, therefore you can easily obtain a Title from the Land Registry online (not the same as the lease but it ought to show the details of your freeholder). The Land Registry charges £4 at the time of writing (December 2010) for anyone to search for the freehold title. You can also buy the leasehold title just for your apartment or the freehold title should list all the apartments in the block for which the freeholder has title. Go to www.landregistry.gov.uk as well as look for the Find a Property section plus you can go to the Title Registry section plus download a copy of the freehold title.
If you know the name of the freeholder as well as some extra details you may still not have the contact details. This is where you mayneed to do some detective work. There are a massiveamount of online sources including social media, online directories and first-rate search tools that might be able to locate your missing freeholder.
The primary thing to remember is that the law is on your side. The second thing is, if you have tried every potential way to contact the freeholder, there is usually a means that the system allows you to get the result that you want, be that a lease extension, freehold acquisition or Right to Manage (RTM). You will need an enfranchisement solicitor plus/or surveyor to help here in addition to you can find vetted local practitioners at their web site www.alep.org.uk.
Maybe the freehold is owned by an individual and they may have died. Alternatively they have moved and not informed the Land Registry of their new address, as is their obligation. An alternative option is that you have not been offered the “right of first refusal” when a freehold title was sold. This is illegal and for 18 months you have the right to overturn the sale or acquire it yourself.
Having found the freeholder is sometimes only the beginning of the journey for someone wanting to extend the lease or buy the freehold. We deal with unresponsive landlords in a separate article.
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