What is in a lease?
A lease will contain many paragraphs setting out what the leaseholder can or cannot do. Some of these relate to items which are not likely to affect you but here are the most important ones. For more details go to reading a lease.
The lease should describe the flat in some detail with reference to a plan, usually showing the flat edged in red. It may also show a parking spot or a garden area also edged in red.
it should show any access routes which you must check carefully and if necessary go back to the property to make sure it is accurate. This is really important, as if any mistakes have been made that you do not notice, you could have serious problems later.
Rights of way (known as easements) should be shown on the plan, by reference to areas coloured in. In the example on the right the hallway and stairs are shown green and the outside areas yellow are for cars to access the property.
Unfortunately some older leases do not have a good plan and the extent of the flat is not clearly shown and the accessways and common parts are not clearly defined but this is not usually a problem as they are clearly visible on site, and not usually subject to disputes.
The lease should detail any service charges related to the property and you should always pay service charges when demanded but state that you are paying under protest if appropriate.
All leases will have a clause stating that there is a right of “support shelter and protection”. This is to make sure that the owners of each flat do not carry out any work which would damage the structure or roof of the building (not a common problem, but I have seen it happen where the owner of the ground floor flat decided to remove a supporting wall and the fire brigade arrived with pit props just in time!). Similarly the owner of the top flat must not allow the flats below to suffer as a result of their actions. This is particularly important if the owner of the top flat is responsible for the roof and guttering (although this is unusual – it would normally be the freeholder’s responsibility).
For more detailed analysis see Reading a Lease.
It is important for you to appreciate the restrictions that it imposes on your use of the property. Whilst a lease is difficult to understand you must be aware of certain items in the sections headed covenants, restrictions or regulations.
The lease will set out what the freeholder is responsible for: buildings insurance, maintenance and repairs of the structure, the roof, drains and accessways, cleaning and decoration of the common parts, gardening, and maybe lift maintenance. The cost of these items will be met by the leaseholders as service charges usually in the proportion set out in the lease.