Question: I've had my offer on a two-bedroom flat in London accepted. When I saw the property the estate agent confirmed it had a 162-year lease but now my solicitor has established the lease only has 62 years left.
The sellers say they are looking to extend the lease but have done nothing yet. The estate agents ignore my calls. I have already had a survey done and paid for solicitor's costs. Should I just find another property? And can I get compensation for the expenses so far?
Answer: Most lenders require the unexpired term of a lease to be at least 70 years at completion for them to grant a mortgage. A very short lease often means a property is worth less. The length of a lease should be provided by a selling agent to a potential buyer, and it may be worth checking what information was provided on the sales particulars.
Consumers are protected from misleading statements under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. The selling agent is under a duty to provide you with material information to help you make an informed transactional decision. Failure of the agent to do so could risk civil or criminal sanctions by Trading Standards or the Advertising Standards Authority.
If your solicitor can obtain confirmation from the seller's solicitors that the lease will be extended at no extra cost to you and with no undue delay, you may wish to proceed. If that is not the case, ask your solicitor to pursue the selling agents on your behalf for your losses.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email firstname.lastname@example.org 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 partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (withyking.co.uk).