Buying a leasehold property

What does it mean to be a Leaseholder?

A leaseholder is normally where your home is a flat or maisonette which is part of a larger building that is divided into individual units. There will usually be some communal elements within the structure, such as roof, stairways, halls and landings together with other residential and/or commercial units.

The shared parts of the building are maintained and renewed for the benefit of all the occupants of the building. The cost of looking after the communal areas is shared amongst the residents in the proportions given in the leases. The Council pays the cost of the works and you are required to contribute towards this cost.

The Council still owns the block, or freehold of the block that you live in, and you have purchased the right to live in your property for the length of the lease, technically you are a ‘long lease tenant’.

What is the lease?

The lease is a legal agreement between you ‘the leaseholder’ and the council.  It contains details of the flat and will normally include a plan showing your home, the building it is in, the estate the building is on and any garden, shed or garage included in the sale. The lease will also explain your and our rights and responsibilities. Because your flat is part of a block, you must pay a share of the costs of maintaining the building and any communal areas and services provided such as cleaning and lighting of corridors and stairways

How long is my lease?

A standard lease is 125 years from when the property is first purchase under the Right to Buy (RTB).  When sold on the open market it will be the remaining number of years since the original purchase date (e.g. purchased under RTB in 2002, sold in 2013, years remaining = 114 years).

Leases for Dover District Council are based on when the date the first lease was granted in the building and when this expires and any subsequent leases expire on the same date. These are called coterminous leases.

What is a service charge?

The costs to maintain the building and grounds around the building are called service charges and listed below are some of the services you would be likely to contribute towards.

  • Ground rent
  • Grounds maintenance and cleaning
  • Routine repairs, services and maintenance
  • Electricity charges for any shared areas, for example, lighting, power to lifts and door-entry systems
  • Administration charges/Management fee
  • Major works and improvements (eg replacing roofs, structural – these can result in very large service charge bills)
  • Building insurance

How is the service charge divided when I buy? 

We provide details of how much the service charge is and how much has been paid. Any outstanding amounts need to be paid as part of the sale. We do not get involved in how you agree with the person you are buying from how you will settle any outstanding charges. Please note there may be money owed for the previous year that have not yet been invoiced and these will be invoiced to you as the new owner of the property.

How are you notified when the sale has been completed?

Your solicitor acting on your behalf should notify us and provide a copy of the assignment once the sale is completed.

What does the building insurance cover?

The buildings insurance policy covers your flat and the block it is in. You must pay your share of this insurance.  The buildings insurance policy does not cover your furniture or personal belongings.  So in addition to this you must make your own arrangements to insure these items (contents insurance).

Where can I get further information on being a leaseholder?

Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) - The Leasehold Advisory Service provides free advice on the law affecting residential leasehold properties.