There are some 900, 000 leaseholders of houses in England and Wales, and over 1 million leaseholders of flats.
Leasehold tenure is heavily concentrated in particular regions: over half of all leasehold houses are in the North West/Merseyside so you are best advised to instruct a Merseyside Conveyancing Solicitor to advise you in relation to these leasehold properties.
Half of all leasehold flats however, are found in London and are therefore best handled by Conveyancing Solicitors in London due to their relevant experience.
Leasehold is a very long-established tenure for houses, and by the 1960s many house leases were approaching the end of their original term. But large scale leasehold flat-ownership is a relatively recent phenomenon, and, for 80% of flats, the lease still has 80 years or more to run.
To the ordinary home-buyer, the difference between buying freehold or leasehold may look like a minor technicality. If the lease has 80 years or more outstanding, the price will be much the same as that of a similar freehold home. For someone who wants to buy a flat, leasehold is the only option anyway: a freehold flat are very rare and lenders will not normally be prepared to grant mortgages on a freehold flat.
However, the difference between leasehold and freehold is in fact fundamental. Leasehold is a form of tenancy. The leaseholder has obligations to the landlord under the lease (and the landlord to him): breach of these will make him liable to forfeiture of the lease.
The leaseholder's investment loses its value rapidly in the later years of the term, and (ignoring for the moment the effect of recent reforms) the dwelling reverts to the landlord at the end of the lease, leaving the leaseholder
without a home.
The landlord can then sell a new lease of the dwelling. In blocks of flats, the freeholder is normally responsible for maintenance, repairs and insurance of the fabric and common parts, but it is the leaseholders that have to pay for these.