Lawyer advises on leasehold and freehold titles in Barnet

Barnet is one of the London Boroughs on the northern outskirts of the greater London area, and Conveyancing Solicitors encounter a wide range of residential property types in the borough. Among other localities the borough incorporates Edgware, Finchley, Mill Hill and Hendon, and stretches down to Golders Green in the south.

There is a wide variety of flats in Barnet, which will be held on leasehold titles. Conveyancing Solicitors will invariably look for a leasehold title on flats, as under traditional English property law that is the only way to ensure legally-enforceable arrangements to ensure proper management of the building in which the flat is situated, and for individual flat-owners to pay their share of maintenance costs and comply with covenants not only with the freeholder but with the owners of other flats in the building. Such covenants include the usual restrictions not to do anything to cause nuisance to other owners.

Some years ago the government passed legislation which enabled a new type of property title for flats, known as commonhold. This means that the whole building is registered and each flat is registered with a separate title, with a commonhold community statement and articles of association which create the framework for flat-owners rights and duties and management of the building. This arrangement has to be set up for a whole block, it is not possible to have both leasehold and commonhold flats in the same building. The commonhold scheme did not meet with favour from many mortgage lenders, and consequently has been rarely used.

Share of Freehold in Barnet

Flats in Barnet are sometimes offered ‘with share of freehold’ which can be a source of confusion to buyers. When Fridaysmove recommended Conveyancing Solicitor Jas Lotay was acting for the buyer of a ground floor flat in The Fairway, Mill Hill, NW7, she found that the sellers’ owned the leasehold title for the flat and garden, but also owned the freehold title jointly with the owner of the upstairs flat. The flat was a self-contained purpose-built ‘maisonette’ type property, and the original lease had been granted some years ago. It was necessary for Jas to make sure that at completion of the purchase, the sellers transferred not only their leasehold title to the flat, but also obtained a transfer of the freehold which had to be signed by the owner of the other flat as well as the sellers.

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In that case the sellers did have a share of the freehold, but did not own a freehold flat. The leases required the owner of each flat to maintain their own part of the building, and the purpose of each flat having a lease is intended to ensure that the respective flat-owners can enforce mutual obligations. For example the owners of the downstairs flat can force the owner of the upper flat to repair the roof, which obviously benefits both flats.

Sometimes flat-owners do not actually have a share in the freehold title as such, but have a share in a company which owns the freehold. This is the more common arrangement where there are more than 4 flats in a block. When one of the flats is sold, the buyer’s Conveyancing Solicitor will have to ensure that the buyer becomes a member of the Company after completion, this normally requires the seller to hand over their share certificate together with a signed share transfer form. Unfortunately, many such companies are not properly managed, and the company fails to lodge annual accounts or other documents required by Companies House. This can lead to the company being struck-off the register, causing problems for both buyer and seller when a flat is sold.

Any Conveyancing Solicitor recommended by Fridaysmove will be fully conversant with residential property conveyancing in Barnet, whether freehold house or leasehold flat.