Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Beware Minefield When Buying a Flat; Former Homemaker House Doctor Peter Fall Returns to Bring Home Owners More Expert Advice on Buying and Maintaining Property

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Beware Minefield When Buying a Flat; Former Homemaker House Doctor Peter Fall Returns to Bring Home Owners More Expert Advice on Buying and Maintaining Property

Article excerpt

IT'S interesting how the market swings one way then the next, especially my market of building surveys. After carrying out a string of surveys of large houses I then found myself inspecting lots of flats.

Last summer I was busy with surveys of "student flats" as one lot of landlords offloaded some of their poorer stock on to another set of aspiring landlords and now it's owners of large homes taking the opportunity to downsize and save costs.

I could go on all day about the effect of absentee landlords on our property stock. Not today. Instead, I need to deal with a subject I haven't covered since 2008, responsibility for repairs when you "buy" a flat.

I say buy a flat, but you don't actually buy the flat. You only buy the right to occupy that flat for a set number of years and when those years expire, the property reverts back to the freeholder and you the leaseholder are left with nothing.

So if you buy the property with a 60-year lease and live there for 50 years, instead of it going up in value it will go down because in just another 10 years you will have to get out of the property, hand it back to the landlord and they will pay you nothing for the pleasure. It's because of this that most mortgage companies will not lend on a flat with fewer than 70 years to run on the lease.

You might say that if it reverts back to the landlord then, just like the old council tenancies, the landlord should be responsible for any repairs.

Unfortunately it's not like that. The comfy landlord just sits back, receives any ground rent and watches the clock tick down to the end of the lease.

You and your fellow flat owners must get on and organise the repairs in accordance with the lease.

If you don't repair the flat as the lease requires the landlord wins again, as they could repossess the flat at no cost to them because you haven't fulfilled your obligations.

So what are these obligations? Regrettably they can vary from lease to lease - there isn't a standard lease that we can all refer to. There are three basic arrangements but there can be many permutations of different bits of these.

Frequently and, I think, the best |one is where the individual tenants are responsible for everything inside the flat together with the window panes, while a management company is responsible for the outside of the block the internal structures such as floors, internal loadbearing walls and passageways. …

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