A recent government announcement was presented by the media as the most significant milestone in property ownership in decades. The answer to the question in the title should therefore be an emphatic Yes” but is that a little premature?
The rights of leaseholders to extend a lease or to acquire the freehold are well established. The process is currently governed by the provisions of the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (as amended).
Further to the government announcement in January 2021 (following Law Commission recommendations), the statutory landscape in England will change.
The timing and to what extent however remains to be fully determined.
The primary changes proposed
Abolition of marriage value”, being a sum that is linked to the increase in value of the property after a lease extension and payable to the landlord where the unexpired term of the lease is 80 years or less.
The right to extend the term of the lease of both flats and houses to 990 years at a zero ground rent.
The valuation of the premium payable will be simplified and an online calculator introduced.
Leaseholders would be able to agree a voluntary restriction on their development of the property (adding a storey for example) in order to avoid payment of development value.
A right for leaseholders to buy out the ground rent without having to extend the lease.
The future ground rent in new residential leases to be zero
Should I act now or wait for the reforms?
The government announcement has undoubtedly placed landlords, leaseholders and buyers in a difficult position.
There is no timetable in place for the enactment of the proposals. There is no guarantee that the legislation will reflect the proposals. The proposals will inevitably be subject to scrutiny and challenge by freeholders on human rights grounds.
For example, there are freehold owning charities who rely on the income from ground rents and premiums (including marriage value) to fund charitable initiatives – how will this income be replaced?
A leaseholder with a lease that is approaching the 80 year mark ought to take urgent advice on their options as a decision to wait for the reforms could have significant financial implications.
Leaseholders of shorter leases ought to undertake a very careful analysis of the possible scenarios and the likely financial outcome of each.
For instance, the premium to extend a short lease in Prime Central London could be several hundred thousands of pounds (or more).
To delay an extension whilst awaiting the reforms could significantly increase the premium payable. If marriage value was to be abolished in the reforms this might negate the increase in premium.
There is however no certainty that the marriage value will be abolished entirely meaning there would be significant risk in deciding to wait for the reforms in such circumstances.
We would recommend that discussions take place at an early stage with an experienced lawyer and valuation surveyor to consider the various outcomes so that each route can be properly evaluated. There may also be opportunity for offers to be made to landlords who do not wish to wait for the outcome of the reforms.
There is a lot more to come in this story. Assuming the government does press ahead it could be 2-3 years before we know the extent of the changes to the statutory landscape.
Managing Associate in the Real Estate department at Ince and a specialist in leasehold reform matters.
Global Real Estate Associate
Thank you to David for his insightful piece, we certainly hear a lot of questions associated around the leasehold terms on London property, and it is undoubtably true that extensions add value to your investment. Whether this be to stabilise your pricing and market value for selling, or that its a cost you need to consider in your offer price when buying.
If this is a subject you would like to learn more about please get in touch to schedule a call with David or myself.
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The first quarter of this year has been extremely busy in the residential market, with our team agreeing significant sales on a weekly basis with both our locally based clients, and we have naturally also seen an increase in remote purchases from our international clientele.
As we head positively towards air corridors reopening and with a large backlog of interest from international buyers planning to fly in to London we are expecting a highly active Q2 & Q3 in sales.
If you have also been considering selling a property, now is the perfect time to begin the process with us.
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