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There are different tenures of residential ownership of property in England and Wales. The most widely known are freehold and leasehold ownership. The information contained in this section is mainly concerned with long leasehold properties, where the lease was first granted for more than 21 years. Communities and Local Government has policy responsibility for residential leasehold issues.
Most house owners will be freehold owners owning the property and land outright. However, it is possible to buy the leasehold of a house. It is also possible that a form of ground rent is paid on a freehold house, otherwise known as a Chief Rent or Rent Charge. This is an annual sum charged on, or issuing out of, freehold land for the purpose of making a landowner's personal covenants enforceable by the rent owner such as securing payment for the provision of services or the carrying out of maintenance and repairs by the rent owner. Some, but not all rentcharges can be redeemed through Government Office for the North West.
Generally for leasehold, the building and the land are owned by the freeholder (otherwise known as the landlord/lessor), who grants someone else the right to live in and use the property for a specified number of years (a lease). The person the lease is granted to is called the lessee, leaseholder or the tenant.
Leaseholders' have a number of rights regarding their property which have been improved over the years. Information about these rights can be found under Contacts and further information.
As part of the most recent improvements a new tenure known as commonhold was introduced. This came into effect in September 2004 as an alternative to leasehold and is for interdependent properties such as flats, allowing the flat (or unit) for example, to effectively be held on a freehold basis.
The way that commonhold works is fundamentally different from leasehold. Advice on this tenure should be sought from: Ministry of Justice, Land Law Team, 102 Petty France, London, SW1H 9AJ. Tel. 020 3334 3555.
The Department seeks to ensure that there is a framework in place that allows residential leasehold to work effectively.
The Department publishes statistics on leasehold properties as part of The Survey of English Housing, which merged with the English House Condition Survey in April 2008. Statistics on leasehold can be found in the owner occupiers section of Housing in England 2007/08 published September 2009.
Free initial advice and information on residential leasehold issues can be obtained from:
The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE)
2nd floor, 31 Worship Street
Telephone. 020 7374 5380 (local rates: 0845 345 1993)
Fax. 020 7373 5373
Website. www.lease-advice.org (external link)
LEASE is a body funded by Government to give free initial advice on a wide range of residential leasehold issues and is staffed with officers with legal training.
Other queries on residential leasehold can be addressed to Communities and Local Government at email@example.com.
Key words: Residential leasehold, Commonhold, service charges, administration charges, ground rent, enfranchisement, lease extension, forfeiture.