Land and property ownership in England and Wales is categorised in one of three legal ways: freehold, leasehold and commonhold. This ownership, or tenure, will dictate the type of conveyancing you require when you buy or sell.
A freehold property is one where the owner has absolute ownership of the land and all buildings that stand on it. This is known as “title absolute”. A freehold property usually imposes no obligation on the land owner. You will not have to pay ground rent on the land, but you will be responsible for maintaining the fabric of the building and any land attached to it.
Most houses are freehold, while most flats are leasehold. A recent current trend is for new-build properties to be sold as leasehold, but the Government has recently announced that builders and developers will be banned from selling new-build houses as leasehold, except in exceptional circumstances.
Standard conveyancing procedures apply on freehold properties. When buying, your solicitor will initiate several searches that will reveal information about the property, including a local authority search, water and drainage search, and environmental search. Your solicitor will also apply to the Land Registry for a copy of the title (or ownership), carry out identity and bankruptcy searches on you and anyone you are buying with, and the other essential elements of purchase conveyancing. You can read more about what steps are involved here.
Flying freehold refers to a situation where part of the freehold land or property you own or buy overhangs or lies beneath another person’s freehold land or property. For example, a bedroom in one property may be above the living-room of a neighbouring property or overhang a path between two houses. The phrase only applies to a part of a building that can be occupied – overhanging drainpipes and guttering, for example, are not flying freehold. Each owner is obliged to maintain and insure their part of the building to protect their attached neighbour.
When buying or selling a freehold property with flying freehold, your solicitor or specialist conveyancer will check the property deeds outline all the necessary responsibilities and obligations on each party.