Understanding Leasehold Properties: A Comprehensive Guide

Home Understanding Leasehold Properties: A Comprehensive Guide
Sunny Avenue
Online Estate Agents Sunny Avenue
31 May 2024

If you're in the market for a new home, you may come across the term "leasehold." But what exactly does it mean? In this insight, we will delve into the world of leasehold properties, explaining what they are, how they differ from freehold properties, and what you need to know before considering a leasehold purchase.

Whether you're a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, understanding leasehold properties is crucial to making informed decisions about your future home.

Key Takeaways

  • Leasehold means you can live in a property for a fixed time period, with an agreement with the owner. Freehold means you own the property and land forever.
  • Leasehold properties have limitations. You don't own the land, and you may need permission for changes. Freehold properties give you more control.
  • Before buying a leasehold property, carefully read the agreement. It covers things like rent, charges, maintenance, and rules. Get legal advice if needed.
  • Leasehold properties can be flats, converted houses, or maisonettes. Lease lengths vary. Short leases can affect mortgages and selling. Extensions can be complex but possible. Consider the costs.

What is Leasehold?

Leasehold refers to a type of property ownership where you have the right to live in a property for a fixed period of time. Unlike freehold properties, where you own the property and the land it sits on outright, leasehold properties involve a lease agreement with the freeholder or landlord.

This agreement specifies the number of years you will own the property, after which ownership reverts back to the landlord. While leasehold properties are commonly associated with flats, they can also include maisonettes and houses, particularly those bought through shared ownership schemes.

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Leasehold vs. Freehold

Understanding the difference between leasehold and freehold property is essential when considering a property purchase. With a freehold property, you own both the building and the land it stands on indefinitely. You have complete control over the property, allowing you to make changes and renovations without seeking permission from anyone.

On the other hand, leasehold properties grant you the right to live in the property for a fixed period of time. You do not own the land or the building itself, but rather have a lease agreement with the freeholder. This means you may need to seek permission for certain alterations and renovations, and you may be subject to paying ground rent and service charges.

The Leasehold Legal Agreement

When purchasing a leasehold property, you enter into a legal agreement, known as the lease, with the freeholder. The lease outlines the terms and conditions of your ownership, including the number of years you will own the property. It is crucial to review the lease carefully, as it will determine your rights and responsibilities as a leaseholder.

The lease agreement also specifies the obligations of both the leaseholder and the freeholder. It typically covers aspects such as ground rent, service charges, maintenance responsibilities, and any restrictions or permissions related to the property. It is advisable to seek legal advice to ensure you fully understand the terms and implications of the lease before proceeding with the purchase.

Leasehold Property Types

Leasehold properties can encompass various types of residential dwellings. While flats and apartments are commonly associated with leasehold ownership, other property types can also fall under this category:

Purpose-Built Blocks

These are buildings specifically constructed to contain multiple flats or apartments. Each unit within the building is typically owned on a leasehold basis.

Converted Houses

Former houses that have been converted into flats or apartments may also be leasehold properties. In such cases, each individual unit will have a separate lease.


Maisonettes are properties that have their own separate entrances and span multiple floors. They can be found within purpose-built blocks or above commercial premises. Ownership of maisonettes is often leasehold.

It is important to understand the specific type of leasehold property you are considering, as this may impact the terms and conditions of ownership.

Lease Length and Extensions

The duration of a lease can vary, but typically, a new lease starts with a term of around 99 to 125 years. However, it is not uncommon to find leases that last up to 999 years. It is crucial to ascertain the length of the lease when purchasing a leasehold property, especially if it is an existing lease that has already begun to run down.

A shorter lease, particularly one with less than 80 years remaining, can affect your ability to obtain a mortgage and may have implications for future saleability. It is generally recommended to aim for a lease with at least 83 years remaining, as this provides sufficient time to live in the property and potentially extend the lease if desired.

Extending a lease can be a complex process, but it is often possible for leaseholders to negotiate an extension with the freeholder. The cost of extending the lease will depend on various factors, including the remaining lease term, property value, and ground rent. Seeking professional advice from a solicitor or surveyor experienced in leasehold matters is crucial when considering a lease extension.

For more information on lease lengths, read our insight: Is a 125 Year Lease Long Enough?

Ground Rent and Service Charges

Ground rent and service charges are key financial considerations for leasehold property owners. Understanding these costs is vital to avoid any unexpected financial burdens in the future.

Ground Rent

Ground rent is a fee paid by the leaseholder to the freeholder as part of the lease agreement. Traditionally, ground rent was a nominal amount, often as low as £1 per year. However, in recent years, some property developers have introduced higher ground rents, including clauses that allow for doubling the rent every ten years. Sometimes, ground rent exists, but in the form of Peppercorn Rent, this is where the agreement is in place, but the rent is negligible so is often not paid at all.

When purchasing a leasehold property, it is crucial to review the ground rent terms outlined in the lease. Ensure that the ground rent remains reasonable and affordable throughout the duration of the lease. If you have concerns about onerous ground rent terms, seek legal advice to understand your rights and potential remedies.

Service Charges

In addition to ground rent, leaseholders are often required to pay service charges. These charges contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of communal areas and shared facilities within the property. Common examples of areas covered by service charges include gardens, hallways, elevators, and building insurance.

Service charges can vary depending on the property and the level of maintenance required. It is important to review the lease to understand what services are covered by the charges and how they are calculated. Leaseholders should also inquire about any planned works or major repairs that may impact future service charge costs.

Leaseholder Rights and Restrictions

Leasehold ownership comes with certain rights and restrictions that leaseholders should be aware of. These rights and restrictions are typically outlined in the lease agreement and may vary depending on the specific property and freeholder.


As a leaseholder, you have the right to:

  • Occupy and use the property for the duration of the lease.
  • Seek permission for alterations or improvements to the property.
  • Be informed about major works or repairs that may affect your service charges.
  • Challenge service charge amounts or dispute the quality of services provided.


Leasehold properties may also come with certain restrictions, which can include:

  • Prohibitions on keeping pets or making excessive noise.
  • Requirements to seek permission for structural changes or renovations.
  • Restrictions on subletting the property.
  • Compliance with any covenants or regulations outlined in the lease.

It is important to review the lease carefully to understand the specific rights and restrictions that apply to your leasehold property.

Pros and Cons of Leasehold Ownership

Leasehold ownership has both advantages and disadvantages, and it is essential to consider them before committing to a leasehold property.

Pros of Leasehold Ownership:
  1. Shared Maintenance Responsibility: In a leasehold property, the freeholder is typically responsible for maintaining the communal areas, easing the burden on individual leaseholders.
  2. Access to Shared Amenities: Leasehold properties often include access to shared facilities such as gardens, parking areas, or gyms.
  3. Easier Entry into the Property Market: Leasehold properties can provide a more affordable entry point into homeownership, particularly for first-time buyers.
Cons of Leasehold Ownership:
  1. Ground Rent and Service Charges: Leaseholders are responsible for paying ground rent and service charges, which can increase over time and impact affordability.
  2. Lack of Control: Leaseholders may have restrictions on alterations, renovations, or even owning pets, limiting their freedom to customise their home.
  3. Lease Extension and Costs: Extending a lease can be a costly and complex process, requiring negotiation with the freeholder and potentially affecting the property's value.

Understanding the pros and cons of leasehold ownership can help you make an informed decision about whether it is the right choice for you. Before you proceed consider more disadvantages of buying leasehold property.

Legal Considerations and Seeking Professional Advice

Given the complexities and potential pitfalls associated with leasehold properties, it is crucial to seek professional advice from solicitors, surveyors, or leasehold specialists. They can guide you through the purchase process, review the lease agreement, and ensure you understand your rights and obligations as a leaseholder.

Additionally, it is advisable to conduct thorough research on the reputation and financial standing of the freeholder. Understanding the freeholder's track record, approach to maintenance, and financial stability can provide valuable insights into the future management of the property.

What To Look Out For When Buying a Leasehold

If you are buying a leasehold, most of the time you will not encounter any issues. However, it's important to enquire about the following to avoid any complications later on down the line:

  • Ground rent review terms that are not clear. For example, terms that are renewable every 5 years.
  • A Ground rent of more than £250 outside of London, and £1,000 inside London.
  • If the remaining lease is low, especially if it is less than 85 years remaining.
  • A Ground rent that doubles every 'x' amount of years. However, indexed linked increases are ok.
  • Service charges that are not reasonable. Or, in line with similar developments.
  • An unknown freeholder
  • Cladding problems
  • Leases with unreasonable sinking fund agreements. For example, a contribution of sale price.

If all of these factors seem clear and reasonable, and you are able to check these, it should help to prevent any issues with mortgages or additional fees in years to come.

Why Are Flats Leasehold?

Flats are leasehold because they often share common areas and maintenance costs. Leasehold agreements allow for shared ownership, management, and legal structures in multi-unit buildings, ensuring collective responsibility and control over common spaces and services.


Leasehold properties offer a unique form of homeownership, providing an opportunity to own a property for a specified period of time. While leasehold ownership comes with its own set of considerations and obligations, understanding the terms, rights, and restrictions outlined in the lease is crucial. By seeking professional advice, conducting thorough research, and carefully reviewing the lease agreement, you can navigate the leasehold property market with confidence and make informed decisions about your future home.


Stuart is an expert in Property, Money, Banking & Finance, having worked in retail and investment banking for 10+ years before founding Sunny Avenue. Stuart has spent his career studying finance. He holds qualifications in financial studies, mortgage advice & practice, banking operations, dealing & financial markets, derivatives, securities & investments.

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