Archive Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Archive brought to you by Cross Stitch UK

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Leasehold - an introduction

Most flats are leasehold, houses can be too and usually are if you bought your home through a shared ownership scheme. If you're a leaseholder, you’ll have an agreement with the landlord (a ‘lease’) and certain rights and responsibilities. Find out what these are and how to settle a leasehold dispute.

Leasehold - the basics

If you own a leasehold property, you own it for a fixed period of time. You’ll have a legal agreement with the landlord (sometimes known as the ‘freeholder’) called a ‘lease’. This will tell you how many years you can live in the property. When the lease comes to an end, ownership of the property returns to the landlord.

Leaseholder responsibilities

Check your lease to see what conditions you have agreed to. For example:

  • if you need permission to rent out your home or make alterations
  • how much you’ll pay towards maintaining the property, known as a ‘service charge’
  • other things you might have to pay for – for example, building insurance
  • if you or the landlord have responsibility for repairing leaks/damp and dealing with communal hot water or noisy neighbours

As a leaseholder, you should pay any rent or charges on time and follow any conditions of the lease. If you don’t, you might have to go to court or pay for any damage.

It is very rare that the landlord can terminate (end) the lease and evict you. However, there are certain circumstance/leases that allow them to do this, sometimes known as ‘forfeiture proceedings'. They need to send a formal written notice and get the court’s permission. Get professional advice if the landlord is trying to evict you.

Leaseholder rights

Find our more about service charges, ground rent and insurance

Service charges and other expenses

Service charges cover your share of the landlord’s costs for maintaining or running the building. Other expenses include administration charges, ground rent and insurance.

The landlord should consult you if you're expected to pay more than £250 for building work or £100 a year for services lasting more than 12 months. This is known as a ‘Section 20 consultation’.

You can appeal about the reasonableness of a charge, the standard of work it relates to and your ‘liability’ (if you should be paying it at all) to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT).

Extending a lease

As the number of years on your lease decrease, it can become harder to sell your home or more expensive to extend the lease.

You can ask the landlord to extend the lease at any time. But you might also qualify for the right to extend the lease on a flat for 90 years and on a house for 50 years. There are different rules depending on whether your home is a flat or a house.

Buying the freehold (enfranchisement)

The freehold for enfranchisement is the external structure of your home and the land it’s built on. Owning the freehold can increase the value of your property and allows you greater control over things like alterations and repairs.

You can ask the landlord to sell you the freehold at any time. But you might also qualify for the right to buy it. There are different legal steps and rules depending on whether your home is a flat or a house. For example, if you own a leasehold flat, you have to buy it collectively (together) with the other leaseholders.

If you live in a leasehold flat and the landlord wants to sell the freehold, they usually have to offer you and the other leaseholders the chance to buy it first. This is known as your ‘Right of First Refusal’.

Ensuring good management

If you live in a leasehold flat and you're unhappy with the management of your building you could:

  • take over the management responsibilities, known as your ‘Right to Manage’
  • ask the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) to appoint a new manager

The LVT is an independent legal body that can settle certain types of leasehold dispute. If you apply to the LVT you must prove bad management. You don’t have to prove bad management if you qualify for the Right to Manage.

Access to information

You have the right to information about service charges or insurance and confirmation of the landlord’s (freeholder’s) name and address. You might also be able to get the landlord’s details from the Land Registry.

Changing the lease

You can negotiate certain changes to the lease, known as ‘varying the lease’. For example, changing how service charges are worked out. If you can’t come to an agreement with the landlord, you could ask the LVT to vary the lease. However, if you live in a leasehold house, the LVT can only vary what the lease says about building insurance.

Settling leasehold disputes

If you're unhappy about a leasehold issue, there are ways of settling the dispute without going to court. You could:

  • speak to the landlord
  • use an independent mediator
  • appeal to the LVT

Examples of the type of disputes the LVT can handle include:

  • the cost of buying the freehold or extending the lease on a flat
  • the reasonableness of a charge, the standard of work it relates to and your ‘liability’

Getting help and advice

You can get free advice from the Leasehold Advisory Service, Citizens Advice and Shelter.

Additional links

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Access keys