Question: We are trying to buy a penthouse, but our solicitor is having difficulty getting the leasehold enquiries.
The building is managed by reputable agents, but our surveyor says planning and building regulations consent and the consent of the freeholder should have been obtained for significant works carried out to the flat.
The sellers say none of these consents were needed and have mentioned indemnity insurance. What happens next — and can we still get a mortgage?
Answer: If your solicitor cannot obtain the necessary information, he may advise you not to proceed. If he does not have enough information to provide your lender with a certificate of title, then your lender will not release mortgage funds to you.
The leasehold enquiries are probably the Leasehold Property Enquiries, which your solicitor would have sent to the sellers' solicitor, who should have forwarded them to the managing agents to complete.
Most leases require the prior written consent of the freeholder for alterations. Your solicitor should be able to advise you on the terms of the lease. However, if it is unclear, you could ask the seller for written confirmation from the freeholder that such consent was unnecessary.
Similarly, ask the sellers to provide written confirmation from the local authority that planning and building regulations consent were not needed.
If the sellers do offer indemnity, then take advice from your solicitor as to the suitability of such insurance. You also need to question why the sellers and/or their solicitor are not being forthcoming with the usual information and replies to enquiries.
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email email@example.com or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a legal director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey (www.footanstey.com).