ALEP's Guide to choosing a Leasehold Legal Expert

If you are thinking of purchasing a leasehold property, there is some important information you should gather about the property you are thinking of purchasing before contacting a solicitor:

  • Address of the property including postcode
  • Lease length: remember if you end up owning the property for a long time, you might have to extend it.

Please note that it costs more to extend your lease or buy your freehold once the lease falls below 80 years, as marriage value becomes payable to your freeholder. For just £3 you can download the leasehold title from the Land Registry website which will show you the exact lease length without having to take anyone else’s word for it.

  • Ground rent payable, this is typically an annual charge
  • Approximate property current value or value of the last property sold in your block

Freeholder’s details:

  • What is the freeholder like? It’s worth ringing neighbouring door bells, making sure you talk to owners, not tenants, and ask questions, for example:
  • Do they send out statements of service charges paid and what it’s being spent on?
  • Is the work they carry out, e.g. cleaning, of a good standard?
  • Do you have to pay for repairs and major works upfront or after the work is done?
  • Have they sent any surprise bills to leaseholders? What were the payment terms?
  • Do they return phone calls and fix urgent repairs in a timely manner?
  • How is the building managed? Are the communal areas well maintained, light bulbs working, garages painted, garden areas kept neat and tidy etc?
  • Questions to ask when appointing a solicitor to carry out the legal work for your lease extension/share of freehold purchase transaction:
  • Are they a member of ALEP?
  • What is their website like? Can they communicate clearly and effectively? For example: How quickly will they return your phone calls or emails? Do you talk to the solicitor or one of their support staff?
  • Do they have a clear fee structure? (Fixed fee or hourly rate?) Does this fee include VAT?
  • Are they experienced in the geographical location of the property?
  • Do you need to attend their offices in person in order to provide the ID required to comply with money laundering regulations?
  • Are they specialists in dealing with leasehold matters (enfranchisement), i.e. do they have an established department?
  • If you appoint them, will you be allocated a particular solicitor or dealt with by a team?
  • If a dispute between leaseholder and freeholder cannot be resolved, the matter can be referred to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). If this happens, do they have sufficient court and tribunal experience to argue and represent your case?
  • Do they act predominantly for leaseholders or freeholders?
  • Are they prepared to provide any initial advice over the telephone free of charge?

About ALEP
Formed in 2007 and now with 215 member-organisations, ALEP is a not-for-profit association that brings together barristers, managing agents, project managers, solicitors and valuers working in the residential leasehold sector.

ALEP promotes best practice by vetting individual barristers and organisations to ensure they have significant expertise in leasehold enfranchisement. Membership of ALEP acts as a badge of assurance so that flat owners and freeholders can be confident that they are employing professionals with the right level of expertise in handling potentially complex transactions.

For further information about ALEP or to find an ALEP professional, please visit www.alep.org.uk, call 0845 225 2277 or follow ALEP on Twitter @ALEPofficial.