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Private Rented Team
Plymouth City Council
Plymouth PL1 2AA
Most of the information on this page is for use by leaseholders. However, freeholders will also find the information helpful.
The GOV.UK website has much information including the booklet 'Residential Long Leaseholders - A guide to your rights and responsibilities'.
The Council's housing stock has now been transferred to Plymouth Community Homes. This means that those who had leases in Council property will now be leaseholders to Plymouth Community Homes.
Residential leaseholds mainly apply to buildings that have been constructed as, or converted into, flats or maisonettes.
Many leaseholds only last for a fixed period of time, after which the ownership of the accommodation returns to the freeholder. This time period is set by the freeholder, he may sell a flat with a 99 year lease, which means that 99 years after this sale ownership of the flat will return to him. If the freeholder sells the lease of the flat to 'Mr Smith', who 10 years later sells it to 'Mr Jones', then Mr Jones (and his family) will only own the flat for a maximum of 89 years. This is the time remaining on the lease at the point of sale from Mr Smith. Although Mr Jones can subsequently sell the lease, its value may decrease as the length of the lease shortens.
The owner of a lease is responsible for the repair and maintenance of the property as described in the leasehold agreement. This agreement should also set out the responsibilities of the freeholder to maintain, service and insure those parts of the building which are outside the lease and defined in the freehold. In addition, the agreement will set out the payments that the leaseholder will have to make to pay for these matters.
The leasehold agreement is a contract between the leaseholder and the freeholder; it sets out the responsibilities of both parties and it may include actions that can be taken if the agreement is broken. The leasehold agreement is a civil contract, and can only be enforced by one party taking the other to court to obtain a judgement. A failure by a leaseholder to comply with the agreement may result in them losing the property.
Where a leaseholder lets the property to tenants, he has the same responsibilities as any other landlord. Please visit our landlords page for more information. However, these responsibilities are made more complicated by the need to liaise with the freeholder where problems fall outside the leaseholders powers under the lease.
Houses converted into flats are frequently houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). There are special legal requirements that apply to such properties, especially the common parts. Please visit our management of houses in multiple occupation page for more information.
Houses converted into flats, or built as blocks of flats, may have problems with the design and safety of the common parts. There may be issues such as lack of appropriate fire safety, unsafe stairs, poor lighting, lack of security. These are matters that are covered by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System is the new method of determining whether housing is suitable for occupation, and identifies the risk of accident, injury and ill health that might arise from housing conditions. Further information on this is available from our accommodation standards page. The freeholder may have duties to deal with such matters, and will usually be able to recover the costs from the leaseholders.
The freeholder of the building will usually be responsible for fire safety under the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order 2005. This requires that he carry out a fire safety risk assessment, and takes appropriate action. More information is available on the Communities and Local Government website.
The Government has introduced legislation to ban smoking; the advice given by Government agencies is that this ban applies to the common parts of buildings containing flats.
The leaseholders of a building may decide that they want to collectively buy the freehold of the property. If they do this, they may form a 'management company' which owns the freehold; each leaseholder becomes a member of this company, and therefore shares responsibility for the management of the property. Further information on enfranchisement is available in the 'Residential Long Leaseholders - A guide to your rights and responsibilities' leaflet on the Communities and Local Government website.
It may be possible to renegotiate the terms of the lease.
Problems in leasehold housing
- The freeholder does not carry out the repairs (etc) as set out in the leasehold agreement - Plymouth City Council’s Private Rented Team may be able to help by taking action against the freeholder to carry out repairs/improvements which may be necessary for health and safety reasons. The freeholder can recover the costs of such action through the provisions of the leasehold agreement. Further information on the role of the Private Rented Team is available on the tenants and landlords page. The team can be also be contacted by email at email@example.com.
- The freehold of the property is sold without giving the leaseholders the opportunity to purchase it.
- The freeholder is overcharging for repairs/insurance.
- The leaseholder is not paying the 'service charge', or is not maintaining their accommodation, as set down in the leasehold agreement.
The leasehold agreement is a formal contract between leaseholder and freeholder which can be enforced in law. Further information on all leasehold problems is available in the 'Residential Long Leaseholders - A guide to your rights and responsibilities' leaflet on the Communities and Local Government website.
Where can I get advice and help?
The Private Sector Housing Team may be able to advise you where the problems which relate to the common parts outside the leasehold, for example disrepair, unsafe housing conditions and poor management. They can be contacted on 01752 307075 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are having problems with a freeholder or are not sure of your rights, you may be able to get help from the Leasehold Advisory Service, a solicitor or an advice centre in your area.
The government leaflet 'Residential Long Leaseholders - A guide to your rights and responsibilities' available on the Communities and Local Government website provides further detailed information on the law applicable to leaseholds.
The Leasehold Advisory Service provides useful information when buying or considering buying private leasehold properties. They also offer more comprehensive information regarding conditions, management, disputes etc. in relation to leasehold questions.
The Shelter UK website also provides a useful overview over the area of leasehold.