What is meant by the term "leasehold enfranchisement"?

This is the process of freeing yourself from a lease. The term applies only to residential property and there are various statutory provisions distinguishing the different rules for houses, individual flats and blocks of flats.

Is this connected with the term "right to buy?"

No. This term is used to refer either to those rights conveyed by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 or those rights applying to public sector accommodation. The 1987 Act is concerned with that situation where the landlord intends to sell his freehold reversion. In that event, he must give the tenants of the block a right of first refusal in matching the bid received from a third party.

What do you actually do?

We specialise in advising lessees on the likely price payable to acquire their freehold or extended lease. We also represent clients in negotiation with the view to reaching a satisfactory settlement and appear as expert witnesses before valuation tribunals and courts of law. In summary, we save people money.

How does your function differ from that of a lawyer?

These claims involve both legal and valuation issues. The lawyer can advise you on your legal rights and deal with the necessary conveyance. The surveyor is the one who acts as a valuer in advising you as to the correct price for the lease extension. He then acts as a negotiator in seeking to agree the best price with the opposing party. In those rare occasions where the matter is referred to the Tribunal, the surveyor must then act as an expert witness in presenting evidence at the hearing.

First, as a valuer we prepare a valuation to estimate how much it is likely to cost. In the case of claims under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993, it is necessary to propose a price in the notice and, following case law, that price must be reasonable. It is therefore essential to have valuation advice prior to serving a notice under the 1993 Act.

With claims under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, there is no requirement to propose a price. However, it is still advisable, as any statutory notice makes the claimant liable for the landlord’s legal and valuation costs, whether the transaction is completed or not. Therefore obtaining a professional opinion at the outset may avoid the possibility of the price subsequently proving unacceptable, resulting in the need to withdraw from the claim and incurring abortive costs.

If the client decides to proceed with a statutory claim, the procedure to establish a legal right is best dealt with by a solicitor with whom we will consult to ensure that a suitable price is proposed in the notice.

Once the landlord has admitted the claim, our function is that of negotiator and our aim is to reach a settlement at the best possible price. There may be issues relating to the form of the new lease which fall within our responsibility, but generally issues relating to the form of the new lease, or the terms of the freehold transfer, are best dealt with by a solicitor.

By far the majority of claims are resolved by negotiated settlement, but where this is not possible, the matter may be referred to Tribunal (in essence a mini-trial). In this event, our role is that of an expert witness. We will prepare the necessary proof of evidence, and consult with solicitors and counsel. We will then deal with cross-examination by the opposing counsel at Tribunal.

How long does it take to enfranchise a lease?

It can be anything between about two months and thirty months. Most range from start to finish at about four to six months. A typical series of events would be as follows:

  1. A statutory notice is served requiring a response within 2 months.
  2. 2 months later the notice is admitted (but it could be much sooner).
  3. As soon as the notice is admitted, it will then usually be possible to enter into negotiations with the landlords' surveyor. Those negotiations may endure for several months.
  4. After about six to eight months, if one of the parties has lodged an application with the valuation tribunal, a date for the hearing may be notified in circa two months time.
  5. Once the price is agreed or determined by the tribunal, the statutory regulations allow that the landlord cannot serve a completion notice for one month and that completion notice must allow one month - so that's two months in aggregate - and if completion has not taken place by the end of those two months, the landlord can serve a second notice requiring interest to be paid. If it has not completed by the expiry of those two further months - so that's now four in aggregate - the claim is deemed to be withdrawn, the landlord can claim their abortive costs from the tenant and the tenant is debarred from making another claim for three years.
  6. If either party lodges an appeal to the Lands Tribunal, it would delay matters by about a year.
What is The Party Wall etc Act 1996

Since the Party Wall etc Act 1996 came into force, home-owners in England and Wales have had a procedure to follow when building work has an effect on a Party Wall or party structure. We are expert Party Wall Surveyors providing Party Wall advice and Party Wall Awards.

All semi-detached and terraced houses have Party Walls. Apartments and flats have Party Structures. A Party Wall or Structure separates your and your neighbour’s property. If you are planning on starting work which will have an effect on the Party Wall you must serve notice under the Act on your neighbour. Usually this is in the form of document called a Party Wall Award prepared by a Party Wall Surveyor - you cannot act for yourself! Failure to follow the Party Wall etc Act 1996 procedures results in strict liability decisions by court and injunction risk.

The purpose of The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is to minimise disputes by making sure property owners use a Party Wall surveyor to determine how work is carried out. The act also protects adjoining property owners that may be affected by the work but at the same time prevents them from frustrating the process.

What is a Party Wall matter?

Works which commonly affect the Party Wall include, but are not limited to:

  • Building extensions
  • Internal or external structural alterations (e.g.removing walls and inserting structural beams)
  • Damp proofing

Excavation work to a level deeper than your neighbour’s foundations will also constitute a Party Wall matter if they are within 3 meters (or in some cases 6 metres) of the neighbours property / Party Wall. This is also applicable to detached properties. If your proposed building works involve any of the above you require the services of a Party Wall Surveyor to prepare a Party Wall Award.
The Act doesn't cover minor jobs which have little effect on your neighbour. We can advise whether your works require a Party Wall Award.

What to do if your work is covered by The Party Wall Act

If the planned work constitutes a Party Wall matter you must give a written Party Wall notice to your neighbour. This is generally two months’ prior to commencement or one month in the case of excavation works only. The Party Wall notice should go to the adjoining owner so if the property is tenanted you will need to find out the owner’s details. That includes the freeholder and anyone with a lease longer than one year.

It is usually better to speak to your neighbours in advance of serving the notice giving them as much information as possible about what you are planning.

The Act allows both owners to appoint their own Party Wall surveyor. The building owner’s Party Wall surveyor will draw up a document called a Party Wall Award which will be sent in draft format to the adjoining owner’s Party Wall surveyor. The Party Wall Award will include details of the work to be carried out, when and how it will be done and records the condition of the adjoining property before work begins. Once the contents of the Party Wall Award has been agreed by the Party Wall surveyors it is published and the work can commence. If both owners are in agreement a single Party Wall surveyor may be used - known as the Agreed Surveyor. Generally, the building owner who started the work pays for the Party Wall surveyor.

Why do I need at Chartered Surveyor to value my property

Chartered Surveyors are recognised as experts in valuing property.  We specialise in HMRC Compliant Capital Gains tax, probate valuations and Company Accounts.  We have provided hundreds of reports for submission to the Valuation Office and HMRC.

How do I know my surveyor is qualified to provide valuation advice

A Chartered Surveyor must be an RICS Registered Valuer in order to carry out Red Book Valuations.

What is a Red Book Valuation

The 'Red Book' is the RICS valuation standards bible. It is best to assume all valuations are Red Book, there are exceptions such as Litigation Valuations.