When acting for house buyers, Conveyancing Solicitors in Pudsey expect to find that the seller’s title is registered under a single title number. However, it does sometimes happen that there are two or more titles, and hence enquiries will have to be made to determine whether the titles can be merged into one.
This situation arose when Conveyancer Katie Clark was acting for Mr and Mrs H on the purchase of a house at Springbank Avenue, Farsley, Pudsey, West Yorkshire LS28. The sellers’ Conveyancing Solicitors, Wilsons of 52 Town Street, Farsley, Pudsey, LS28 5LD sent Katie the proposed contract together with copies of two registered titles relating to the property. They also sent a copy of a lease of the house dating from 1959.
It appeared that when the house was first built by a Pudsey-based firm, it was sold on a 999 year lease. In the past it was not uncommon for houses to be sold on long leasehold titles, this enabled the developer to incorporate covenants of a positive nature which could be enforced against subsequent owners. However when the government passed the Leasehold Reform Act in 1967, owners of houses with long leases became entitled to purchase the freehold of their properties. Many such leaseholders used the machinery of the Act to enfranchise their leases, with the result that it is now rare to find houses (as opposed to flats) with long leasehold titles.
Having checked the two titles, it was apparent that they were both owned by the same person. However both titles had to be transferred to Katie’s client, so it was necessary for her to include both titles in the transfer deed. Although it might be assumed that the land registry would automatically close the leasehold title when the leaseholder bought the freehold, this is not the case. It is common for the owner to have a mortgage on the leasehold title at the time when the freehold is acquired, and in this case the land registry will not merge the two titles unless the mortgage on the leasehold title is simultaneously transferred to the freehold. As that will entail additional cost, and requires the mortgage lender to agree to the procedure, it is rarely done.
When the freehold is acquired subject to the existing lease, the land registry will include a note of the lease on the freehold title. If the property is subsequently sold, buyers (or their Conveyancing Solicitors) can apply to the land registry for the two titles to be ‘merged’ i.e. for the leasehold title to be cancelled, and the note of the lease on the freehold title to be removed. However the land registry will not do that automatically and a specific application has to be made. Unfortunately the law on merger of titles is quite complex, and the registry now will generally not close a leasehold title without clear evidence of merger. In particular they will ask for copies of both the original lease and the counterpart lease (that is, the copy of the lease signed by the original tenant, which would have then been held by the freeholder. ) As mortgage lenders now rarely hold any original deeds, it is unlikely that both the lease and counterpart will now be available. This makes it difficult to make a successful application for the two titles to be merged.
This makes little difference to homebuyers. As they own the freehold they will be their own landlord so far as the leasehold title is concerned, so from a practical point of view the leasehold title is an irrelevance. It remains a nuisance to Conveyancing Solicitors as it has to be dealt with every time the property is sold.
Katie’s other enquiries about the property were satisfactorily dealt with by the seller, so once the buyers had received a satisfactory mortgage offer Katie was soon able to proceed with exchange of contracts and the purchase was quickly completed. The seller's agents, the Property Showroom of 10 Town Street, Farsley, Pudsey LS28 5LD expressed their thanks to Katie for the prompt way in which she had dealt with the purchase.
Following completion, Katie did apply to the land registry for the two titles to be merged, and fortunately they were able to agree to this, so that in future there will be a single freehold title for this house. If you need Conveyancing in Pudsey undertaken, call us to instruct a Qualified Solicitor, or get an instant Pudsey Conveyancing Quote online.