Question: I live in freehold property. Last week I received a letter out of the blue from a company saying that it holds a “rent charge” over my home and that I have to make an annual payment. It isn’t very much money but what is it for?
© Merrily Harpur
Answer: A rent charge is an annual payment that is usually for less than £10. Rent charges have existed since the 13th century and traditionally provided a continuing income for landowners who allowed their land be used for development.
Basically, a rent charge, once it has been created, applies to all subsequent owners of the property and you have to pay it no matter how long it has existed.
If you have registered your ownership of the property the rent charge should have appeared in the charges register at the Land Registry, so its existence shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
You could contact the company and ask it if it will accept a payment from you to be released from the rent charge, or you could contact the Government Office for the North West (which is responsible for all applications for the redemption of rent charges under the Rent Charges Act 1977). It will work out the price for redeeming the rent charge and the owner of the rent charge will be obliged to accept this sum.
Sometimes this sum is less than the company would have demanded if you had contacted it directly; the disadvantage is that going through the Government Office can be a bit of a slow process.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.