May 16

What Are The Disadvantages of Buying A Leasehold Property?


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Buying a home is a significant life event, but it can become complex when dealing with leasehold properties. My journey into purchasing a leasehold property revealed some unexpected challenges that accompany this type of ownership.

Leasehold properties come with disadvantages that can pose problems if not fully understood. Without proper awareness, you may find yourself facing unforeseen expenses and complications.

In this article, we explore the downsides of leasehold ownership, drawing from personal experiences to provide valuable insights for prospective buyers.


What Are The Disadvantages of Buying a Leasehold Property?

When purchasing a leasehold property, several drawbacks require careful consideration:

  1. Fire Safety Checks and Costs: Leaseholders may bear the responsibility for fire safety compliance, incurring additional expenses.
  2. Ground Rent and Service Charge Expenses: Ongoing payments for ground rent and service charges can significantly impact the property’s affordability.
  3. Lease Extensions: Extending the lease can be a complex and costly process, affecting the property’s long-term value.
  1. Shared Communal Spaces: Maintenance and upkeep of communal areas may require coordination among multiple leaseholders.
  2. Lack of Regulation for Freeholders: Freeholders’ actions may be less regulated, potentially leading to disputes or unforeseen costs for leaseholders.
  3. Less Flexibility for Letting the Property: Leasehold agreements may impose restrictions on subletting, limiting rental opportunities for leaseholders.
  4. Higher Conveyancing Fees: Legal fees associated with leasehold transactions may be higher compared to freehold properties.
  5. Noise from Neighbours: Proximity to other units in leasehold developments can result in increased noise levels and disturbances.
  6. Restrictions Imposed: Leasehold agreements may include various restrictions on property usage and alterations, limiting leaseholders’ flexibility.


When purchasing a leasehold property, you’re obtaining a lease agreement rather than ownership of the property and land. The freeholder maintains ownership of both the property and its land.

It’s a common misconception that leaseholders own the property and merely rent the land, which can lead to misunderstandings.

In extreme cases, failure to pay service charges and ground rent could result in the freeholder repossessing the property.

This risk highlights one of the significant drawbacks of buying leasehold property, as it could potentially lead to loss of investment without recourse.


Here are some of considerations of buying leasehold property:


Fire Safety Checks and Costs

Fire safety checks and their associated costs pose a notable drawback for leasehold property owners. These checks are essential for resident safety and compliance but can be financially and temporally demanding.

In cases where a building fails fire safety assessments, the implementation of a waking watch may be necessary. This entails hiring personnel to patrol the premises, adding to maintenance expenses.

Failed fire safety ratings can significantly impact property sales, particularly for buyers seeking mortgages. Lenders are increasingly cautious about financing properties with inadequate fire safety measures, reducing marketability.

Personal experiences with these checks have been challenging. My leasehold property has a B2 fire safety rating, necessitating remedial work. This has hindered sales and led to increased service charges to cover additional costs.


Ground Rent

Ground rent poses a significant challenge for leasehold properties, representing the fee for leasing the land beneath your property. As a leaseholder, you pay for the right to utilize this land owned by the landlord throughout your lease term.

While this practice is common and legal in the UK property market, the recent introduction of the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022 aims to reduce all ground rent to a nominal level on new leases. However, existing leases remain unaffected by this change.

When considering a leasehold property purchase, it’s crucial to examine the current ground rent rates and the method of calculating future increases. Additionally, an alternative form of ground rent, known as Peppercorn Rent, often involves negligible fees, sometimes as low as £10 per year, which landlords may overlook collecting.


Lease Extensions

A lease agreement is time-limited, typically spanning a set number of years. It’s essential to extend this lease before it dwindles to less than 80 years. The cost of such an extension can escalate significantly, often reaching tens of thousands of pounds, contingent upon factors like your freeholder and legal expenses.

Moreover, once the lease drops below the 80-year threshold, expenses tend to surge further due to what’s known as ‘marriage value.’ This entails the freeholder being entitled to 50% of the value added to the property through the lease extension.


When contemplating lease extensions, three key considerations come into play:


  1. Extend your lease early: Procrastination should be avoided when contemplating a lease extension. Acting promptly to extend your lease well before it dips below the 80-year mark is crucial. The upside is that any lease exceeding 80 years can be extended without incurring marriage value costs.
  2. Beware of delaying tactics: If you’re within a year or less of the 80-year threshold, exercise caution. Some freeholders and landlords might employ tactics to stall the process, deliberately allowing the lease to drop below 80 years.
  3. Act promptly if the lease falls below 80 years: Should your lease have already dipped below the 80-year mark, swift action becomes imperative. Delaying further only inflates the marriage value, making prompt action all the more essential.


Rising Service Charges

Service charges are a fundamental aspect of any lease agreement, encompassing property maintenance, cleaning, ad hoc repairs, and building insurance. However, these charges have a tendency to escalate over time, amplifying the financial burden associated with owning a leasehold property.


Shared Communal Spaces

Leasehold properties, especially in apartment blocks, commonly have shared communal entrances, which can result in disturbances and noise throughout the day. I’ve encountered issues firsthand, such as balconies above mine littering cigarette butts that often end up on my balcony due to the wind. Additionally, a neighboring child frequently throws bread for birds, leading to increased cleaning needs. While you can’t control your neighbors, these are challenges less likely to arise with freehold properties.


Lack of Regulation for Freeholders

Freeholders operate without regulation, allowing them to impose high fees on leaseholders without much accountability. Whether it’s for lease extensions, alterations, or pet permissions, these charges can be substantial. Prior research is crucial before buying a leasehold property to prevent future stress and financial burdens.


Higher Conveyancing Fees

The buying or selling of a leasehold property is notably more intricate and lengthier compared to a typical house sale, resulting in elevated conveyancing fees. Due to this complexity, some conveyancers may decline to handle leasehold transactions. Be prepared for additional standard checks during your purchase, which could incur an extra cost ranging from £100 to £250.


Noise and Disturbance from Neighbours

Residing in a flat block presents its unique hurdles. If you’re not on the highest floor, expect noise from neighbors above, particularly if the floor insulation is lacking. A simple fix for this issue could be investing in a sleep headphone mask.


Less flexibility if you need to let the property

Due to the added expenses like ground rent and service charges, it’s improbable for a leasehold property under a buy-to-let arrangement to yield profit. This limits flexibility if you need to rent out the property in urgent situations. Shared-ownership schemes often stipulate that the property cannot be let out as a condition of the mortgage.


Is it a Bad Idea To Buy a Leasehold Property?

The decision to buy a leasehold property hinges on various factors, including your personal situation and the property itself. While owning a leasehold property entails restrictions and financial commitments, careful planning and understanding can help sidestep potential drawbacks and enable informed decision-making. After weighing the downsides of leasehold properties, it’s essential to also consider the disadvantages of purchasing freehold properties. Seeking professional advice is crucial to ensure the best financial outcome for your future.


MORE Property blogs HERE: 

Buy To Let Defaults Surge with Rising Rates

Cashing Out of Buy To Let? Top Places to Make a Quick Sale

Buy-to-let Home Insurance UK

Why Are Buy-to-Let Mortgages Interest Only?

Is Buy-to-Let Still Profitable Today?

A Comprehensive Guide to Buy-to-Let Mortgages

First-Time Buyer’s Guide to Buy-to-Let Mortgages



Is it a Bad Idea To Buy a Leasehold Property?, What Are The Disadvantages of Buying A Leasehold Property?

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