Many properties in the centre of Oxford are flats and may be bought on a long lease. But, when there are two or more separate dwellings within a building, a leasehold arrangement is usually in place. It is difficult in English law to enforce the performance of positive obligations (such as carrying out building maintenance) against successive owners of freehold property, whereas a lease creates obligations between landlord and tenant which can be legally enforced.
When acting on the purchase of a leasehold flat or apartment in Oxford, the Conveyancing Solicitor will check and advise on the provisions of the lease. In particular they will check the length of term remaining as many leases were originally only granted for terms of 99 years. Mortgage lenders now usually require that a substantial length of term is still remaining when lending on a property, so if the term is close to the limit, it will be necessary to find out from the Property Lawyer whether the lease term can be extended. Sometimes the seller will be required to initiate steps to serve a statutory notice for a Lease Extension on the landlord, so that the benefit of this can be assigned on completion.
Service Charges for Oxford Flats
Flat owners in Oxford also need to know what level of service charges are levied by the landlord and if they carry out regular property maintenance. This could include payment for lighting and heating common areas and gardening.
Where a flat is situated in a larger block, such charges can be significant, so the building manager or management company will be asked to provide copies of the accounts for previous years, as well as an estimate of likely costs for the current year. Enquiries will also be made as to whether any substantial works, such as exterior decoration or roof renewal, are planned for the current year, in case the buyer might find after completion that the service and maintenance charges are unexpectedly high.
Property Lawyers will make arrangements on completion to apportion the rent and service charges, so that each party only ends up paying for the period when they have owned the flat. In some cases it will be agreed that one of the Solicitors will retain a sum of money to cover outstanding liabilities, because the final amount of service charges for any one year will not be known until the year-end accounts have been completed.