A – When it is a freehold house!
No, this is not some dreadful joke out of a cracker – in fact the situation to which it refers is no joke at all to Conveyancing Solicitors and their clients. But it does highlight why if you are selling your home you should contact their Solicitor when you first put the property on the market, and not wait until you have a buyer.
Conveyancing Solicitors are regularly asked to act for people selling what they think is a leasehold flat – but then finding that what they are really dealing with is one flat in a freehold house which is subject to the lease of another flat in the same house.
In other words, the seller owns the freehold of the whole of the house, but only occupies one flat –another flat in the house belongs to someone else under a long lease, and the seller is their landlord.
And if this is only discovered after a buyer has been found, it is likely to cause delays.
This situation commonly arises when someone buys a house and converts it into two flats. They then keep one flat for themselves and sell the other one. Their Conveyancing Solicitor will have drawn up a lease of the flat which was sold, but not for the one that is retained. The owner will keep the freehold title for the whole house, but the land registry title will show that it is subject to the lease of the flat which was sold.