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Leasehold Services

Thinking of buying your council property under the Right to Buy scheme?

Or

Have you purchased an ex-council property?

If so, you need to be aware of what it means to be a leaseholder.

Information is provided in the following summaries - please scroll down the page or click on the following:

If you need further information on any of the above please contact the Home Ownership Officer - Eileen Evans - on 01799 510388. 

Other contact details

Leasehold Queries - Please contact our Customer Service Centre on 01799 510510 or the Home Ownership Officer, Eileen Evans, on 01799 510388 or email: uconnect@uttlesford.gov.uk.

  • Repairs: contact our Repairs section on 01799 510510.
  • Out-of-office Emergency Repairs: contact 01223 849755.
  • Payment queries: contact Revenues on 01799 510316.
     

What are you buying?

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. 
 

Responsibilities - yours and the council's
 

Leaseholder responsibilities

Leaseholder Services Booklet (PDF 104Kb) ►

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
  • wiring
  • 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.

Council responsibilities

Uttlesford District Council owns the structure of the flats and is therefore responsible for upkeep of the following:

  • external walls
  • external fixtures and fittings
  • window frames
  • drying areas
  • foundations
  • drains
  • communal grounds
  • roofs and gutters
  • drainpipes
  • bargeboards and fascias

The council will also be responsible for the maintenance of communal areas, which may include the following:

  •  communal doors
  • external entrance doors
  • communal staircases
  • communal passages
  • communal lighting
  • internal structural walls

Your lease

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. 

Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations Act 1994

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.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas. Every year about 40 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by faulty gas appliances.

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 CORGI registered gas installer. If you do not you will be prosecuted.

You can get more help and advice from British Gas - please look under 'Gas' in your local phonebook.

You can also phone CORGI on 01256 708133 for details of a registered installer in your area. 

Ground rent and service charges

Ground rent

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.

Service charges

As well as the ground rent there will be an annual charge for the cost of services provided by the council.

These could include: 

  • caretaking
  • grounds maintenance
  • lighting for communal areas
  • insurance
  • 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 flat and the council must provide an estimate for the first five years' charges.

Estimates for these service charges are not binding and can rise by more than inflation, even during the first five years. 

Statements and bills

Each year you will receive:

  • in April: an invoice for estimated service charges for the forthcoming financial year
  • in September or October: a statement showing actual cost of providing the service and the estimated cost already invoiced the previous financial year

The difference - an under- or overcharge - will be shown as an adjustment on the statement. This adjustment will be included in the following year's estimated account.

Home improvements

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. 

Disputes over charges

If you have any queries regarding your service charge or major works bill you should contact the council in the first instance.

Should you still feel the charges are unreasonable you can apply to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) to settle your dispute.

The LVT offers an alternative to court action. When there is a dispute over charges you will have to pay an application fee, which will vary according to the number of leaseholders represented.

Always seek expert advice before taking your case to the LVT. 

For more information contact the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal on 01223 505112.

Major works

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.

Consultation

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. 

Insurance

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 : 

  • fire
  • lightning
  • explosion
  • aircraft
  • storm

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.

Sub-letting and re-selling later

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 section 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. 

Need advice?

Buying your own home is a major financial commitment.

You should always get independent legal advice before buying your property.

Contact Housing

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