Question: My husband and I have a leasehold maisonette. There is one other flat in the building, owned by a lady who lets it out. The freeholder owns a ground floor office and does nothing to maintain the property.
© Malcolm Willett (www.willett-ink.co.uk)
We have offered to buy the freehold but he says we’re not entitled to because it contains business premises. The other flat owner appears not to be interested in purchasing the freehold. What can we do?
Answer: The freeholder can sell the freehold, provided the freeholder gives everyone who has an interest in the building notice of first refusal. This means that if your freeholder decides to sell, then you must be given notice as one of the lessees.
Even if the freeholder does not want to sell, there are statutory rights that allow you to buy the freehold using a process known as collective enfranchisement.
This is a complex area of law and you should seek legal advice at an early stage but, basically, to qualify you must fulfil certain criteria. Where there are only two flats in the building, the criteria provides that both lessees must participate in the collective enfranchisement, so you need to convince the other flat owner to take part.
Another rule is that no more than 25 per cent of the internal floor area must be non-residential (this does not include areas like the stairs). As your property appears to have four floors, this may not be a problem for you.
Once you decide to pursue the collective enfranchisement route, a valuation should be carried out and then notice served on the freeholder of your wish to proceed with collective enfranchisement.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email email@example.com. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.
Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.