Buying a Flat: What You Need to Know as a Buyer

Paul Hajek | 16 Mar 2011

Day 16: Everything You Need To Know About Buying and Selling a House or a Flat in 31 Daily Bite-Sized Chunks -“Buying a Flat: What You Need to Know as a Buyer

Buying a flat, or an apartment, as Developers like to call them, differs from buying a normal house or freehold property

Leases are used where there is one building or a block with multiple owners.

The legal proof of ownership will be by way of a Lease. You will be known as a Leaseholder or Lessee or Tenant (terminology varies as to what was fashionable a the time of the original Lease)

Under a Lease you will own the leasehold flat only for the remainder of the period stated. The length of a Lease will vary from 99 to 999 years. You will have difficulty obtaining mortgage finance if the number of years remaining on the Lease is fewer than 60 years.

Leases are complicated and often lengthy documents.

There will still be a freehold and a freeholder owner; the Landlord, who will either be non resident or better still one of the residents who all form part of a management company specifically formulated to run the management of the whole building or block.

There are however, professional management companies who will run the management of the building (often when a Developer is selling).

Your responsibilities and obligations will be governed by the terms of the Lease.

Ground rent and service charge

A lease is similar to a Tenancy so you must pay a rent to the Landlord. At best this will be a peppercorn (legal speak for nothing) or may be several hundred pounds.

Service charges are levied to cover the maintenance of the whole building.

Even if paid in advance, service charges are often subject to adjustment when the actual expenditure for the year has been calculated.

Past alterations

If the flat seems to have been altered or extended since date of the original lease, your Conveyancing Solicitor will need to check if the alterations have occurred in the recent past and that necessary consents were obtained both form the Local Authority as well as any consents required under the Lease.

Alterations, extensions, improvement and renovations

Please note that if you plan any alterations to the flat after you move in:

External alterations or extensions to a flat will generally be impossible or impracticable, and even internal alterations may need:
(a) Building Regulations Consent
(b) (If the building is listed or in a conservation area) Listed or Conservation Area Consent
(c) Consent under the flat lease and any other covenants which affect the property
(d) The consent of your mortgage company

Building Insurance

The Building in which the flat forms a part will be insured by the Landlord.

You, as the leaseholder should arrange contents insurance in the normal way.

Are there any special problems?

Conveyancing Solicitors do not normally visit the property, so it is difficult to generalise

You should always report and seek advice from your Conveyancing Solicitor on anything unusual from your own inspection or conversations with the Seller of the flat. 

Be sure to sign up for a chance to have your Conveyancing carried out by Clutton Cox, free of charge. 

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