The freehold management company Hightrees Court Management Limited has resolved to permit lease extensions to any leaseholders using our approved format of lease extension. Broadly this will involve:
- Extending the lease term from the present term to 999 years from 1st January 2018.
- The rent under your lease will formally be reduced to a peppercorn (nil).
- Amendments to the lease to mirror those in the amenity lease (see below).
Is there a cost for the extension?
The freeholder will not charge you a premium for extending the lease but you are responsible for the legal fees.
Due to the friendly nature of the transaction the company has arranged for a firm of solicitors to deal with the lease extension on behalf of the freehold company and the owner of the flat. By keeping the matter under one roof then can offer a low flat fee for dealing with the whole process which is detailed below.
What is the charge for the legal work?
The fee structure is based on a fixed fee.
The charge is £750 plus VAT plus disbursements.
If you have a mortgage on your property you may need to pay your mortgage lender an administration fee. This varies according to lender – some do not charge but other typically charge up to £105.
The disbursements comprise of £6 for a copy of your title, £3 for your lease and £40 to register the lease extension. These are all Land Registry charges.
Can you tell me which mortgage lenders will charge an administration fee?
Most lenders do not charge for example Nationwide, HSBC, TSB and Halifax/Bank of Scotland. Santander charge £105 and NatWest £85. It is rare for the charge to exceed £100.00 although this charges can sometimes exceed this for commercial lending or some non standard buy to let lenders (for example Paragon who charge £195 or CHL who insist on their own solicitors charge £400-500 plus VAT)). These charges do however alter over time.
Will the fees change?
The fees are fixed but there are a few limitations:
- The fees are fixed for 5 years (from 1st July 2018) and thereafter they will rise after this period in line with the Retail Price Index.
- VAT may increase or decrease over time.
- The disbursements depend on the current fee structure charged by Land Registry (these can go down or up over time).
- The costs only relate to a single mortgage – if you have a second charge (with a different lender) then a further fee of £100 plus VAT will apply. This will not affect most people.
- If there is a fundamental change in the procedure required to deal with lease extensions the lawyer has reserved the right to review the charge. However this is very unlikely to happen as the procedure has not changed in the last 25 years or so.
Why would I need to extend my lease?
Lenders have become more cautious since the financial crisis. Where a share of freehold was purchased pre 2008 the lender would generally not be concerned with the length of the lease. However now they take a more critical view because they realise that they cannot put their mortgage onto the share of the freehold and only have security over the leasehold title. This has caused them problems when they come to repossess and sell.
Because Lenders have become more cautious this has affected advice lawyers give their client’s about purchasing a lease with a share of freehold and even some estate agents are advising flats owners with a share of freehold to extend before they attempt to sell.
Do I have to do it now?
No. You do not have to. The offer is open indefinitely. The current lease length may be sufficient for your needs but when you come to sell or remortgage you may find that the position is different from when you purchased. You could deal with the lease extension at that stage as we have agreed a long term deal with the lawyer so that you can extend now or in the future.
However some people will want to avoid the worry of dealing with it later or the potential delay to any sale if they left it to that stage. We would therefore encourage flat owners to take this offer up now.
Is there any qualification requirement for the new lease?
No provided you own the flat and hold a share in the freehold you can extend without cost.
Do I have to wait 2 years from when I purchased the flat to extend the lease?
No you can extend as soon as you purchase.
How long will the process take?
This depends on whether you have a mortgage or not. If there is no mortgage then normally the lease could be completed within 2-3 weeks. If there is a mortgage it will be around 4-5 weeks.
The Land Registration process after completion of the lease is quite slow at present – 2-3 months but we can speed this up if there is a pending sale or remortgage.
What changes are being proposed to the lease?
The ground rent is being reduced to a peppercorn. The ground rent varied over the term of the lease and currently serves no function. It would have been profit or income for a third party landlord. As the residents collectively own the freehold they stopped collecting this rent some time ago.
As may have been explained to you there are unusual arrangements for the leases in this building where the long leases of the flats are accompanied with a separate “amenity” lease which provides each flat owners right to use the Amenity Areas i.e. the forecourts, accessways staircases, landing and entrance hall of the building in which the flat is situated. The service charge is bound up into this amenity lease and the management company has agreed to maintain certain parts of the amenity areas – the roof and foundations and internal staircases being part of that.
From our experience this type of arrangement is not usual and as the amenity lease does not have a separate Land Registry title – you cannot therefore be clear whether the amenity lease was assigned correctly each time the flat was sold. This can cause problems for enforcement of those obligations between the flat owners and the management company.
The agree proposal is that as well as extending the length of your lease to 999 years we also address the issues of the separate amenity lease by drawing in those key provisions and adding them into the lease extension deed. This will include the rights to use the amenity areas, the obligation on the company to maintain those parts of the structure which are outside the flats, the insurance of the amenity areas and service charge. This means that the old leases and new leases will have the same basic structure and there will be no conflict between the two types of lease.
Although there will be a lot of changes to your lease in the lease extension deed these merely mirror the provisions in the amenity lease. As these provisions will be bound into the flat lease the rights and obligations will run with the title to the property more easily on resale. It will also remove the need for the amenity lease at all and this will be formally surrendered as part of this process.
These changes were proposed based on an initial sample of leases and consultation with the freehold management committee. This may however change if variations in the leases are discovered as the process goes on.
Who are the solicitors you have recommended?
kenneth elliott + rowe (KER) in Romford Essex will deal with the transaction. The primary contact there is Mark Sadler (direct line 01708 707860 / switch board 01708 757575 or email firstname.lastname@example.org ). Mark is a partner in the firm. If he is not present then Fred Rylah, also a partner, will cover during absences and holidays. He has two assistants Vicky Mayes and Diane Leiser who also may be able to assist.
KER specialise in lease extensions in similar situations. We have acted on many hundreds of these types of transactions and offer a fixed price. It was important to the committee that they chose a specialist firm to deal with the extensions.
The firm are also a Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) approved firm by the Law Society. KER are regulated by the Solicitors Regulations Authority (SRA) and hold £10,000,000 indemnity insurance cover.
What is the full address and contact details of the firm?
Kenneth Elliott & Rowe Limited Solicitors
18 Eastern Road
Telephone (Switchboard) 01708 757575
Fax: 01708 766674
Contact Mark Sadler (direct line 01708 707860 or email email@example.com ).
How do I start the process?
You need to complete and return the Lease Extension Questionnaire (download below) to the solicitors with copy of your identification. This can be by email, fax or post. They will then do the rest.
Do I need to speak to the lawyer before proceeding?
No. The lawyers are aware of our needs and you can simply return the form to Mark. This can be scanned with a copy of your identification, faxed or sent in the post. If however you wish to discuss any issues with him beforehand or ask him a question either call or email (direct line 01708 707860 or email firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Will I have to send any original documents to the solicitor?
No. They will obtain a copy of your title deeds and lease. They will, due to the nature of the matter, work on copies of your identification and carry out their own electronic Money Laundering checks as they require. These documents can be sent in the post or scanned and emailed (to email@example.com) or faxed to 01708 766674) with the questionnaire.
Can I see the terms and conditions on which the firm is to be engaged?
Yes. Please see the link to the client care letter giving details of the charges and their terms and conditions below. They are regulated by the Solicitors Regulations Authority. They will send you a copy of their client care letter and terms and conditions when you return the form if you wish.
When do I pay their bill?
The bill will be sent to you when you have the final documents to sign in readiness for completion i.e. the lease extension deed and mortgage documentation (if any). It can be paid by cheque, card or electronic payment.
Can I use my own solicitor?
If you want to obtain your own representation then you are free to do so however you will still have to pay for our solicitor to draw up the lease and act for the freehold company. Their fee will still be £450 plus VAT. Any disbursements would normally be incurred by your own solicitor.
What will happen to my title deeds?
The Land Registry moved to an electronic system many years ago. You may not have realised this but there are no longer any paper deeds. Documents that you may have stored in your bank or with your solicitor are not the actual title deeds any more. Our lawyer will not need to disturb the whereabouts of your existing deeds to progress.
This also means when your lease extension has been completed and registered then the Land Registry will retain an electronic copy. An official copy can then be obtained by your lawyer when you sell at the press of a button for a fee of £3.00. The advantage is that the deeds can never be lost. KER will send you copies of the title deeds at the end of the process showing the updated lease details.
What if I have any further questions or queries?
Please call or email Mark Sadler (direct line 01708 707860 or email firstname.lastname@example.org ). Please mention the property address in any email.