This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
Long leaseholders are in a landlord and tenant relationship
The vast majority of flat owners in England and Wales are long leaseholders. A minority house owners own their home on a long lease.
Long leaseholders are owner occupiers who do not own the freehold of their homes. This means they are in a landlord/tenant relationship with the freeholder.
The respective rights and obligations of the leaseholder and freeholder are set out in the lease agreement. The lease is the starting point from which most disputes between the parties should be approached.
Nonetheless, there are a number of statutory provisions which apply to leasehold housing.
There are plans to reform leasehold law in England and Wales. More information can be found on a separate page: Leasehold reform in England and Wales.
Where to go for advice
The Leasehold Advisory Service provides limited free advice on leasehold matters. They also publish detailed guides and online advice (see below). Constituents who are in dispute with their freeholder or managing agent are best advised to seek professional legal advice. Freeholders and managing agents are not currently subject to overarching regulation although agents do have to be members of a Government approved redress scheme. One way of raising an issue is to complain to the relevant redress scheme. For more information see: Lettings agents and property managers: which Government approved redress scheme do you belong to? (PDF 581 KB).
Leaseholders of social landlords (councils and housing associations) can use their landlord’s internal complaints procedure. If this does not achieve the desired outcome, they may, in certain circumstances, refer the matter to the Housing Ombudsman. Where disputes cannot be resolved informally, in most cases long leaseholders can pursue the matter at a First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) or Leasehold Valuation Tribunal in Wales.
These advice guides from the Leasehold Advisory Service cover most of the common questions asked by long leaseholders:
- Understanding your lease
- Summaries of rights and obligations – Service Charges – England
- Living in Leasehold Flats – A guide to how it works (Cymraeg – Welsh language)
- Living in Leasehold Flats – A guide to how it works
- Summaries of rights and obligations – Administration Charges – England (e.g. covers charges for giving permission for alterations to the home)
- Service charges and other issues
- Security of tenure when the lease runs out
- Right to Manage – leaseholders in privately owned blocks of flats may exercise a ‘no fault’ right to manage and take over management of the block
- Right of First Refusal – leaseholders in flats may have a right of first refusal where a freeholder intends to sell his or her interest
- Section 20 Consultation for Council and other public sector landlords – when a public sector freeholder intends to carry out major works or enter into a long-term contract for works they are required to complete a consultation procedure
- Section 20 Consultation for Private Landlords, Resident Management Companies and their agents – as above for non-public sector blocks
- Appointment of a Surveyor, Management Audits – leaseholders’ rights to appoint a surveyor and carry out a management audit at their own expense
- Lease Extension – Valuation – long leaseholders in flats have a right to buy a lease extension
- Lease Extension – Getting Started – for flat owners
- Houses – Qualification and Valuation – long leaseholders of houses have a right to buy the freehold interest
- Collective Enfranchisement – Valuation – long leaseholders in flats have a collective right to buy the freehold interest of the block
- Collective Enfranchisement – Getting Started – for long leaseholders in flats
- Application to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal – Wales – to resolve disputes
- Application to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) England
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
There is Government guidance for leasehold owners: How to Lease (PDF 838 KB) (updated July 2019). The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team published Guidance for consumers seeking redress for leasehold matters on 29 January 2019.
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.