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Questions on Freehold Laws

Freehold is one of the two ways of holding land in England and Wales. The term Freehold (also referred to as Fee Simple) is the complete ownership of land and immovable property for an unlimited period of time. This is opposed to Leasehold, the second way of holding land, where property rights are granted for a temporary period. The owner with a freehold interest in a property may lease it for a fixed period of time, which creates a Landlord and Tenant relationship. Listed below are top questions on laws related to freehold answered by Legal Experts.

Would a British citizen acquiring freehold property in Florida, America as an off-shore investor require a U. S. attorney or would a British lawyer suffice?

U. S. laws vary significantly from British laws and, for this reason, you may need to hire a Florida licensed attorney who has experience in both real estate and international law. This would help conclude the property sale with all aspects of the law considered.

My U. K. based freehold bungalow is in a retirement community estate with communal land managed by a Trust. However, there are ‘For Sale’ signs being posted near my property without the permission of the Trust. How may I have this removed?

Typically, estate agents do not have rights to erect ‘For Sale’ boards on communally owned land without the explicit permission of any one of the joint proprietors who have the authority to remove these boards. Similarly, the local authority may remove such boards and fine the agent if they are erected on private or public grounds.

Where the land is owned by the Trust, as in your case, only the Trustees would have the right to remove the board. That is to say, you may not legally remove it. The Trustees may require direction from the owners, who may pass a resolution directing them to have the boards removed. Since you do not have the right to personally remove these boards—unless you argue that it causes enough nuisance to raise a common law action for removal in court — it may be sensible to take up the matter with the agent.

My father’s will grants freehold property in U. K. to my son with my right to enjoy lifetime tenancy. However, the solicitor has taken the property over and insured it. This means that I will not receive my rent allowance from housing benefit and my son cannot claim rent from me. What are my rights?

In this particular case, you would have to take two things into account. Firstly, as per your father’s will, you are entitled to live in the house in your lifetime. This means that your son may not collect rent from you. Secondly, housing benefit is not granted in cases where the tenant is a close family member of the landlord. For this reason, you may not claim rent allowance.

If the leasehold has not been merged with the freehold property, would the onus of doing so be on the purchaser or the seller?

Since there are no specific laws stating that freehold and leasehold estates should be merged at the time of purchase, it would be a question of what is the most legally sound action to take. In most cases, it is advisable to merge the leasehold with the freehold, where any leasehold interest may potentially interfere with your free and complete enjoyment of the property. For that reason, you may want to wait till the merger has been completed. If you pursued a mortgage, the lender may not permit the purchase without this merger in any case, as not doing so may lead to claims by leaseholders.

While it is in your interest to have both merged, you may urge the seller to merge the titles advising that any other buyer too would face the same problem and, therefore, it is ultimately in their interest to pursue the merger of the titles.

We jointly bought the freehold for a maisonette we own along with the couple who own the maisonette above. We have been told that to apportion the share of ownership, we are required to have a Deed of Variation to increase the length of our lease, which is in effect giving ourselves a lease. Is this necessary?

The Deed of Variation to extend the term of the lease is required to make the property more saleable. Also, in doing so, you would ensure that there are no potential problems in enforcing the covenants of both your lease and that of the owners above your maisonette. You would also need to register the Deed with the Land Registry.

Often, leasehold rights are mixed with freehold of the property. When buying a freehold of a leased property, you would need to consider several factors like the period of residence, additional costs involved, the legal formalities of making such a purchase, etc. In such situations, you may benefit from speaking to a Legal Expert to secure your interests.
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