Your responsibilities as a leaseholder, what the council is responsible for, looking after the property and what happens when you come to sell.
You need to be aware of what it means to be a leaseholder if you:
- are thinking of buying your council property under the Right to Buy scheme
- have purchased an ex-council property
If you buy a house, you will purchase the freehold, and will own the property outright.
If you buy a flat or maisonette, you will usually purchase a long lease.
This allows you and your successors to live in it for a fixed time, usually 125 years.
The council will continue to own the land and building, and will be your landlord.
The leaseholder's responsibilities
Your responsibilities as a leaseholder will be set out in your lease.
For example, you will be responsible for your own internal non-structural repairs and redecoration.
You will also be responsible for all repairs and servicing of gas appliances in your home. It is important that you arrange for your gas appliances to be serviced at least once a year.
You will have basic responsibilities to other tenants and leaseholders in the same block of flats - e.g. keeping hallways and communal areas, including gardens, free from obstructions.
You will be responsible for maintaining and repairing the following items within your flat:
- internal doors
- sanitary fittings
- plumbing and pipework
- fixtures and fittings
- electrical equipment
- individual heating systems
You will also be responsible for paying towards major works, paying your service charge bill, maintaining the allocated garden, giving written notice if you are going to sublet your property and checking your mortgage agreement for any conditions that may apply.
The council's responsibilities
Uttlesford District Council owns the structure of the flats and is responsible for upkeep of:
- external walls
- external fixtures and fittings
- window frames
- drying areas
- communal grounds
- roofs and gutters
- bargeboards and fascias
The council will also be responsible for the maintenance of communal areas, which may include:
- communal doors
- external entrance doors
- communal staircases
- communal passages
- communal lighting
- internal structural walls
The lease is a contractual document that sets out your rights, your obligations to the council and your responsibilities, as a leaseholder.
The lease also sets out the council's obligations to you - for example, the council will continue to maintain the common parts, structure and exterior of the building.
The services the council is obliged to provide will be detailed within the lease.
If you rent out your flat and it contains a gas appliance (such as a fire or a boiler), the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations Act 1994 applies to you. You must make sure the flat and its appliances are safe.
Appliances which burn gas, coal or oil can produce carbon monoxide if they have not been fitted properly or serviced regularly.
We recommend you install a carbon monoxide detector.
Carbon monoxide can be difficult to recognise because you cannot see, taste or smell it. You can also confuse the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning with those of other illnesses.
By law if you rent your property you must have your gas appliances checked for safety at least once a year.
Any faults must be repaired by a Gas Safe registered gas installer. If you do not you will be prosecuted.
You can get more help and advice from British Gas.
You can also phone Gas Safe on 0800 408 5500 for details of a registered installer in your area.
All council leaseholders have to pay the landlord a nominal rent (known as a 'ground rent') of £10 per annum which the council include with the annual service charge account.
As well as the ground rent there will be an annual charge for the cost of services provided by the council.
These could include:
- grounds maintenance
- lighting for communal areas
- management costs
Under the terms of your lease you are responsible for paying a proportion of these costs in the form of a service charge when buying the property. If purchasing under the Right to Buy the council must provide an estimate for the first 5 years' charges.
Estimates for these service charges are not binding and can rise by more than inflation, even during the first 5 years.
- in April you will get an invoice for estimated service charges for the forthcoming financial year
- in September or October you will get a statement showing the actual cost of providing the service and the estimated cost already invoiced the previous financial year
Any differences, known as an 'undercharge' or 'overcharge' will be shown as an adjustment on your statement. This adjustment will be included in the following year's estimated account.
If you want to spread the cost you can choose to pay your service/sewer charge by Direct Debit.
Once you have completed the Direct Debit instruction the council can instruct your bank to deduct the instalments due on, or after the 10th of each month.
Before starting any improvements or alterations you should ask the council for written permission.
The details of your proposals will be checked, and an inspection of your property made.
It may also be necessary for you to get building regulations approval or planning permission - you will be advised if this is the case.
Types of improvement, which need written permission, may include:
- installing new windows
- removing partition walls
- installing central heating
- building a conservatory
- building an extension
- adding a porch
- building garden walls
- removing garden walls
The council will arrange for an inspection on completion of the job.
If you make any improvements or alterations without first obtaining written permission you will be breaking the terms of your lease.
The council may ask you to put your property back to how it was or insist that the alteration is of an acceptable standard.
If you have any queries regarding your service charge or major works bill you should contact the council in the first instance.
You can use a mediation service to help you and your landlord come to an agreement if you are in dispute about your lease. You can find information about the benefits of civil mediation and how to find a mediator on GOV.UK.
You might have to pay a fee to use a mediation service.
You can also get free advice from the Leasehold Advisory Service (LAS) on issues like:
- service charges
- extending your lease
- buying the freehold
Major works are large maintenance jobs necessary to your block of flats. These could include:
- repairs to or replacement of the roof, windows or staircase
- external decorating
- painting of internal communal areas
As a leaseholder you are responsible for paying a proportion of the costs for these works, which can sometimes be expensive.
You will be invoiced separately for any major works necessary to your block of flats.
Before commencing any major works the council must provide you with copies of the two lowest quotes obtained for the works.
A period of consultation will then take place before any works are started.
When buying under the Right to Buy (RTB), the council must provide an estimate for the first five years' major works charges. These estimates are binding and can only be increased in line with inflation.
Uttlesford District Council has to insure the whole building.
You are recharged a proportion of the insurance costs relating to your flat.
This charge appears as an item on your annual service charge.
The building insurance policy covers loss or damage caused by :
The council can provide you with more detailed information on request.
Building insurance is not the same as contents insurance.
⚠ You should take out a home contents insurance policy to cover your personal belongings in your flat.
Your lease will allow you to sell your property but you will have to repay some or all of any discount received under the terms of the Right to Buy scheme.
It is important that your solicitor advises the council's Home Ownership team of the sale of your flat so that the correct apportionment of the current year's service charge can be calculated.
You will be responsible for paying the service charge due up to, and including, the day before the sale completes.
The council cannot advise leaseholders on the future selling potential of their property.
You should seek advice by speaking to existing owners or local estate agents who may be able to advise you if you could have difficulty selling in the future.
Advice and questions
For advice please contact our Customer Service Centre on 01799 510510 or the Home Ownership Officer, Claire Maidstone, on 01799 510497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For repairs to council properties:
- during office hours call 01799 510510 press 5 for Housing Services and then press 2 for Uttlesford Norse
- outside office hours call 01799 510510 and then press 2 for Uttlesford Norse