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Buying a London Property

Large areas of London are owned by the old landed Estates, who have held them for centuries

london propertyExamples are the Estates of the Duke of Westminster, the Cadogan Estate and the Howard De Walden Estate. The English Church Commissioners also have considerable property holdings in London.

Their policy over the years has generally been not to sell their land outright, but to give a Head Lease of whole buildings. They plan to look after these Buildings for generations and are not thinking about the short term.

The Head Leases may be for a fairly short period e.g. 60 years. They will collect the rent during the term of the Head lease and at the end, will renew for another generation or so.

Meanwhile, these old houses have become too large and expensive for the modern life led by most peopleand lessees convert them into flats (with the permission of the Landlord Estate). Each flat is "sold on long Under Lease" and the terms of the Under Lease invariably reflect those in the Head Lease of the whole building. The Under Lease of the flat cannot end after the Head Lease of the whole building. As a consequence some quite short Under Leases can result. You will need to establish what happens at the end of the Under Lease.

In some areas of London, these short Under Leases can be expensive. They are usually in the more prestigious parts and the Buyers generally do not require to borrow money to buy them. Lenders are generally reluctant to lend on the security of a Lease or Under Lease with less than 65 years left to run.

There will be a lot of documentation to evidence the ownership of the flat including  ¦ the EstateŘs title, the Head Lease of the whole Building, the Licence to convert the Building into flats, the Under Lease of the Flat. This is just the beginning! Your Solicitor will check out all the above. You might be more interested in knowing about the management of the Building and its upkeep, in particular:

  • Are there any Major Works anticipated?
  • Is the Landlord committed to providing a Porter,  Underground Parking,  Lifts, Air Conditioning or any other amenity?
  • Does Insurance cover any accidental damage?
  • What happens if one of the neighbours creates too much noise?

There will, no doubt, be a financial commitment by you to pay a contribution ("the Service Charge") towards the provision of all these facilities. You will want to have the Accounts looked at with a critical eye.You might wish to use the Flat for a business or some other purpose. This may or may not be allowed under the terms of the Under Lease.

There is a huge amount of information to collect in, check and report on, so that you have peace of mind. Nevertheless, many English Solicitors are accustomed to handling such transactions at speed, for a reasonable fee and (with modern technology) for clients living abroad



Paul Adamson Stewart on 07956 288 328 or 

 0845 270 2511 to get a quotation