It can often seem that the process of buying the freehold of your block (also called collective, leasehold or freehold enfranchisement or freehold purchase) is something very long and drawn out. There are however several distinct steps to the process.
On average, experience shows us that freehold enfranchisement usually takes about 12 months from start to finish, but as every case is different, timescales can vary. Depending on your particular circumstances, the timescale may be quicker – or longer.
But why does it take so long?
Do you have a question about enfranchisement? Call our specialist leasehold team on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 for FREE Initial Phone Advice.
Getting started with your Freehold Purchase– the Participation Agreement
Unless there are just a couple of flats in the block, our advice is always to start with a participation agreement. This binds all participating leaseholders to the collective enfranchisement, and it clearly sets out in writing what everyone is committed to. It avoids plenty of problems down the line. It’s absolutely essential with medium and large sized blocks.
Click here to read more about Participation Agreements.
To find out how much buying the freehold of your block will cost, we always advise our clients to instruct a specialist surveyor with plenty of experience of freehold purchase valuations.
The vast majority of surveyors rarely, if ever, deal with this area of work. And you really do need a specialist. That’s why we have developed a panel of our own, consisting of some of the relatively small number of chartered surveyors we trust in this area as experienced enfranchisement valuers. We are more than happy to put you in touch with them, and instruct them on your behalf, as part of our one-stop shop service.
Want to Know How Much Does It Cost to Buy Our Freehold? Click here
Buying Your Freehold – the initial notice
The first in the formal legal process for the leaseholders who wish to buy the freehold to serve a formal written notice of this to their freeholder. This document is called the Initial Notice or Enfranchisement Notice. The Notice lets the freeholder know that the leaseholders who are driving the freehold purchase process are going to take the legal path of forcing a sale of the freehold, and will also contain the price they are willing to pay.
Click here to read more about the Enfranchisement Notice.
The next stages in the process are governed by strict deadlines, so it is important to draw up a timeline at the beginning of the process to make sure you avoid any delay and keep things on track.
The freeholder has to respond to the Enfranchisement Notice within two months.
If they do not respond officially during that time, then the leaseholders are deemed to be legally entitled to buy the freehold right away – and at the price which they offered in the Initial Notice.
Usually, however, a freeholder will respond and will serve a Counter Notice.
In this they will probably acknowledge that the freehold purchase will go ahead. In some rare circumstances they may refuse to sell the freehold because they believe that the leaseholders to not qualify for leasehold purchase. If this happens they must give reasons.
If, which is far more likely, they accept that you have the right to buy the freehold, then they make a counter offer of a price at which they will sell.
Don’t be scared off by this price; it’s perfectly normal for a freeholder to suggest a much higher price than the one in the Enfranchisement Notice.
Buying Your Freehold – the Negotiating Stage
After the counter offer is received from the freeholder, negotiations can start.
You can negotiate directly with the freeholder, but particular with larger blocks, it is common for solicitors and surveyors to work together on the negotiations. We are happy to do that for you.
If the two sides reach a stalemate over the price of the freehold, and simply cannot reach a compromise, the leaseholders can then refer the issue to the First Tier Property Tribunal (previously known as the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal or LVT). The Tribunal will, if necessary, decide on the fair price to be paid for the freehold.
There are strict timetables for the Tribunal application process too. Any case must be referred no sooner than two months and no later than six months after the Counter Notice became due. If this doesn’t happen, the leaseholders are deemed to have abandoned their claim and the leaseholders must wait a full year before they can start the leasehold enfranchisement process again.
Getting a hearing in the First Tier Property Tribunal can take time, adding further delay to the process. On average, waiting for a tribunal hearing can take up to 12 weeks, though it can be more or less.
Once the Tribunal decision has been given (and unless the decision of the Tribunal was that enfranchisement cannot go ahead, which is rare), then things start to happen more quickly. The freeholder must draw up the contract of sale and send it to the leaseholders within 3 weeks of the Tribunal’s decision.
An appeal can be made by either side to the Lands Tribunal, but you will need written permission from the First Tier Property Tribunal if this is to happen.
Click here to read more about the First Tier Property Tribunal
Freehold Purchase – the Main Reasons for Delay
The most common reason for lengthy delays with enfranchisement of your block is the logistics involved with getting enough interested leaseholders to buy into the process in the first place.
This can be a difficult task, especially in larger blocks where getting numerous leaseholders to sign up for enfranchisement can prove difficult.
Care Must Be Taken
The process involved in buying your freehold shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, especially with medium-sized and large blocks.
Groups of enthusiastic leaseholders can and do make mistakes, and freeholders can seize on these mistakes to delay or halt the process.
Your chances of successful freehold enfranchisement are maximized if you work with an experienced enfranchisement solicitor, like those in our team, who have gone through this process many times before.
There are over 140,000 solicitors practicing in England and Wales – but only a handful like our team of experts routinely work on leasehold enfranchisement.