We provide services to nearly 500 leaseholders who have bought their property. Leaseholders are people who have purchased a flat which used to be owned by us or the local authority, through either the right to buy or right to acquire schemes.
As a leaseholder your rights and responsibilities are set out in your lease. If you have any queries about your lease, please in the first instance contact your local area housing office.
Selling your home
You have the right to sell your home at any time. When you do this, you will assign the lease to the people you sell it to. Please contact our commercial services team via your housing office and advise us of your intention to sell.
There are rules for passing on a flat when you die, depending on whether or not you have a will. You should get your own independent legal advice on how to do this.
As a leaseholder you have an obligation to pay a share of the costs of maintaining and managing the building and the estate (if any) in which your home sits.
This payment is known as the service charge and every year we will send you an invoice for this charge for your property, as well as the things you are being charged for.
Service charges relate to a number of different items. Not all items will be charged to every property and you will only be charged if your home benefits from that service. These may include:
- Buildings insurance
- Communal electricity
- Grounds maintenance
- TV aerial rental, maintenance, electricity
- Window cleaning
- Lighting maintenance
- General repairs
- District heating
- Lift servicing
- Management fee
- Any major or cyclical works carried out at the block throughout the year
The costs are shared equally among all the flats in the block (unless a cost belongs only to one flat or to part of a block).
How to pay your service charge bill
You can pay the full amount of your service charges bill within 28 days or by monthly instalments. You can pay by:
- Direct Debit - through your bank or building society. This is the most popular way to pay and a growing number of leaseholders prefer it
- By Standing Order – if you wish to pay by standing order you will need to complete an instruction and pass it directly to your bank.
We have a legal duty to charge you your share of the service costs, and you have a legal duty to pay them. If you find you cannot pay your service charge bill straight away, don’t ignore it!
If you do not pay your service charge you are breaking your lease agreement and we may take debt recovery action against you. Ultimately this might result in you losing your home.
If you are on a low income, you may be entitled to various benefits, depending upon your circumstances. Contact your local authority for more information.
Extending your lease
As a leaseholder you have the right to extend your lease for an additional 90 years.
The Housing Urban Development and Leasehold Reform Act 1993 (as amended) grants you this right. However, your ability to do this is subject to a few conditions, the main ones being that you:
- are a qualifying leaseholder
- have a long lease on the property; this is a lease that was for at least 21 years when it was taken out
- have owned it for the past two years.
We also have a voluntary process where you can extend your lease.
For more information please see the relevant section in the Leaseholders Handbook. Alternatively contact your area housing office.
Lodgers and sub tenants
A lodger is someone who shares your home, usually for payment. A sub-tenant is someone who rents the whole or part of your flat when you are not living there.
You have the right to take in lodgers. You do not have to ask our permission but you should let us know. Lodgers have different rights from you. So if your mortgage lender repossessed your flat they could be evicted.
You have the right to sub-let the whole or part of your flat but at all times, you should ensure that your tenant does not breach the lease in any way, as the breach will be your responsibility. If you have a sub-tenant, you become their landlord and you could be creating a tenancy. You could have great difficulty making your sub-tenant leave if you wanted your flat back. You could also have difficulty selling your lease if you have a sitting tenant. Whenever you sub-let you should take legal advice to prevent such difficulties. Ask a solicitor or an advice agency how to make sure you are legally protected.
Whether you sub-let or take in a lodger, you should make sure your home does not become overcrowded.
If at least two thirds of the residents in your block are leaseholders, you can apply jointly to buy the freehold of your block and manage it yourselves. This is called enfranchisement. If you and your neighbours qualify under the enfranchisement rules, we cannot refuse to sell you the freehold. However, there are some things you should consider:
1. You would own your flat in common with your neighbours and you would need to form a management committee for the block. As we would no longer be your landlord, you would be jointly responsible for the maintenance and management costs of your block.
2. You would no longer be able to call on us if you had problems with your neighbours (unless they were our residents) If you get on well with your neighbours, you would have more say in the way the block is managed and the money that is spent on it.
If the block still had at least one of our properties, we would be represented on your management committee. You would charge us for our share of management and maintenance costs.
You can only apply for enfranchisement if at least two thirds of the flats in your block are leasehold. If you are interested, you should discuss it with your neighbours and get independent advice from a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The Leasehold Advisory Service also provides useful information and guidance.