Question: My mother's flat is one of two in a converted house and subject to a criss-cross lease, with each flat owning the other's freehold.
© Merrily Harpur (harpur.org)
When the other flat was sold, the freehold to my mother's flat was not included and we cannot trace the people who still own it.
Is there any way we can purchase it? The other flat owner lives abroad and has no interest in getting mum's freehold back.
Answer: These schemes are quite common where a house has been divided into two flats and generally they work well.
As you say, each flat owner owns the freehold of the other flat and this provides the necessary machinery by which all expenditure on the fabric of the building is shared.
The scheme will not work with your mother owning her own freehold. It is in the other flat owner's interest to sort this out, as it will be difficult to sell their flat without the freehold to your mother's.
The Land Registry will have the names of the people who still own the freehold and an enquiry agent should be able to trace them. As they still have all the obligations as the landlord of your mother's flat, it is also in their best interests to put things right.
Unfortunately, you cannot force either the current or former owners to take action and you should instruct your own solicitor to write to the other flat owner to negotiate a way forward.
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Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.