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/ 27 Mar 2020

Lease Extension in the Case of an Absent Landlord

Owners of long residential leasehold properties may be aware of the option of lease extension, either through informal negotiation with their landlord, or through the provisions of the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (‘the Act’).

 

Jack Glover

Solicitor

Property Litigation & Dispute Resolution

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However, what happens in the case of an absent landlord or one whose identity cannot be ascertained? This article takes a brief look at the process involved in applying for a lease extension in such circumstances.

Evidently, the informal route mentioned above will not be available. Notwithstanding this, the Act does provide an alternative means for a leaseholder to apply for a statutory lease extension.

In the first instance, the leaseholder must qualify for a statutory lease extension. In brief, the original lease must have been granted for a term of more than 21 years. Furthermore, the current leaseholder must have owned the property for at least 2 years.

Provided these requirements are met, the leaseholder must then take all reasonable attempts to contact or ascertain the identity of the Landlord. The landlord must be unlocatable or unidentifiable – it is not enough that they are uncooperative with the leaseholder’s request for a lease extension. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the circumstances. Reasonable steps could include, but are not limited to the following:

  • visiting the last known address for the landlord;
  • providing a copy of the absent freeholder indemnity insurance; or
  • obtaining up-to-date official copies from the Land Registry.

Once these initial steps have been taken, an application for a Vesting Order must be made at the County Court. In short, this application must demonstrate the leaseholder qualifies under the Act and that all reasonable steps to locate the landlord have been made.

Before granting the order, the court may require the leaseholder to take further steps to locate the landlord. The Act states this may be by way of advertisement or otherwise as ‘the court thinks proper for the purpose of tracing the person in question’. What is ‘proper’ will be dependent on the particular situation.

The Vesting Order has the effect of surrendering (or ending) the current lease and granting a new lease on terms to be determined by the First Tier Tribunal (FTT). It also dispenses with the need to give the landlord notice of your claim for a lease extension under the Act.

Once the order is granted, the proceedings in the County Court are stayed (or in effect paused), pending the culmination of the matter in the FTT. The FTT will determine the premium payable, and any other variations to lease terms. The premium is paid to the County Court, along with any other sums the FTT determines are payable. For instance, any outstanding rent or service charges.

If you require assistance in relation to the above, or any other property related matter, please get in touch with our Property Litigation team, who will be more than happy to assist. The can be reached at 020 7228 0017

Lease extension in the case of an absent landlord - Hanne & Co London's Jack Glover explains what to do

Jack Glover is a Trainee Solicitor in Hanne & Co’s Property Litigation & Dispute Resolution Department

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