Owning a leasehold property

Owning a leasehold property

What a leasehold is, your rights and responsibilities, how to make a complaint about a leasehold issue.

Our Guidance on leasehold document for leasehold owners: 

  • has advice on the rights and responsibilities of leasehold ownership 
  • explains some of the important terms you may come across as a leaseholder
  • has advice on what to do if you have a complaint

What leasehold is

A ‘lease’ is a type of contract that gives you the right as the buyer (or ‘leaseholder’) to occupy the property for a fixed number of years (the ‘term’).

The length of the term offered initially varies. It’s usually for 125 or 150 years, and can be up to 999 years. 

The ‘freeholder’ owns the land and buildings on it. Freeholders may be responsible for the repair and maintenance of the exterior and common parts of the building. However, the cost is usually passed on to the leaseholder.  

Read the Leasehold Advisory service definition of a freeholder.

The ‘landlord’ can refer to many different parties under a lease. They may be: 

  • the same person as the freeholder
  • a leaseholder with a long lease (without a right to possession of your flat), sitting between you and the freeholder

In the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, ‘landlord’ also means the party entitled to collect service charges from you and other lessees, under the terms of the lease. 

Read the Leasehold Advisory Service definition of a landlord.

The terms and conditions of the lease will have details of: 

  • your rights 
  • the terms you must follow 
  • your responsibilities as the leaseholder
  • what you can expect the landlord or freeholder to be responsible for
  • any payments you must make, for example for shared services or areas
  • what will happen if you do not comply with your obligations as set out in the lease 

Your rights as a leaseholder

Some of your leaseholder rights will depend on whether you own a flat or a house.  

As a leaseholder, you may have the right to:  

  • form a Recognised Tenants’ Association with other tenants and leaseholders in the premises 
  • challenge the reasonableness of service charges  
  • challenge the reasonableness of some administration charges 
  • ask for a written summary of the service charge costs incurred by the landlord in the last accounting period, and to see the documents supporting that summary  
  • set up a Right to Manage Company with fellow leaseholders, to take responsibility for the management of your block (flats only) 
  • apply for the appointment of an independent manager if there are serious problems with the management of the premises (flats only) 
  • ask to vary the terms and conditions of the lease 
  • apply to extend the lease 
  • enfranchisement, which means to buy your freehold (if you own a house) or a share of it (if you own a flat, known as ‘collective enfranchisement’) 
  • first refusal of the freehold, should the landlord choose to sell their interest in it (flats only, excludes housing associations and local authorities) 

The Leasehold Advisory Service has information on leaseholder rights and obligations as well as free, independent initial advice on leasehold matters. 

You should get independent legal advice on your options before taking action. 
 
Make a complaint

Check your rights at: 

Before progressing your complaint, you’ll need to: 

  • follow a company or entity’s own internal complaints procedure
  • allow them 6 weeks to deal with the complaint

If you believe that an estate agent, a developer or a seller of a leasehold did not share important information at the time of sale, they may have breached the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. You must make a complaint as soon as possible, as you can only do this within 3 years of the issue arising. 

Pressure tactics, deception or aggressive practices are also offences. Report them to Trading Standards through the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Helpline

You should get independent advice before considering legal action. 

See our Guidance on leasehold for more information on how to seek redress if things go wrong.