How Fridays sold a property with an absentee freeholder

Back in May 2007 Mrs Hughes came to Fridaysmove having been  recommended by her cousin.

 Mrs Hughes was most upset.   She wanted to sell her property but the agents were advising her that as she had an absentee landlord there would be a very restricted market place for her property and they would only advertise her property to potential cash purchasers.   Mrs Hughes was concerned that this would very much restrict the market to which she was selling and wanted to double check with a conveyancer as to whether or not the information the agent was giving her was correct.

She said that she had no difficulties whatsoever when she had purchased the property 15 years ago and that the lack of  freeholder had not impacted her enjoyment or use of the flat in any way whatsoever.  

The leasehold conveyancing team at Fridaysmove advised her that the agents were only partially right.   Whilst it is true to say that lenders will not lend on properties where there is an absentee freeholder, many lenders would be prepared to lend provided that there was absentee landlord indemnity insurance in place and that the remaining term of the lease was more than 65 years (in this case there were 89 years remaining under the Lease).  

We sought to reassure Mrs Hughes that all was not lost and she should not despair.   The first bit of advice was to sell the property through another agent.   By all means she should tell the new agent that there is an absentee landlord but she should further explain that she had conveyancers in place that were resolving the situation.   The reason for this was that the existing agents had already set in their mind that they could not sell a property with an absentee freeholder and therefore she should get a new agent that would be enthused about taking on her property.  

Mrs Hughes was keen to sell the property as she was emigrating to Australia to live with her daughter and son-in-law.   She did not have either the time, money or inclination to deal with going to the Courts to have the freeholder transferred into her and her neighbours’ names – by way of a Vesting Order.   We arranged for Absentee landlord indemnity insurance to be put in place and also for her and her neighbour to sign various Statutory Declarations  confirming the efforts that have been made over the past few years to try and track down the freeholder.  

We also obtained Land Registry documentation showing the freeholder title  and took various courses of action to trace the freeholder ourselves, all of which came to nothing as the freeholder was indeed missing.  

Whilst Mrs Hughes was marketing her property we prepared all the legal paperwork so that the situation could be presented in the best possible light to a prospective purchaser’s conveyancing solicitor.   The pack included an Absentee Landlord indemnity insurance, Statutory Declaration as well as an undertaking on Mrs Hughes’s part to assist any future purchaser with any application that a purchaser may make in the future to the County Court for a Vesting Order.   It was explained to Mrs Hughes that there was of course the possibility that a number of purchasers may not be prepared to proceed once they discovered that there is an absentee freeholder and she should adjust her expectations accordingly.   We were, however, hopeful that there was a strong chance that one buyer would proceed, notwithstanding this particular legal problem.  

Fortunately, we were proved right.   Mrs Hughes struck lucky first time and the purchaser who was looking for the property as a buy to let investment was more than happy with the state of the conveyancing paperwork prepared in advance for Mrs Hughes and agreed to proceed notwithstanding the absentee freeholder.