Ask an Property Solicitor. Get an Answer ASAP.
Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.
Do you own all four flats at present please? Has the block been physically divided into flats?
Is the freehold held in your sole name? May I ask if you are married or have a partner?
yes owner yes divi ded in four
at moment in my and wives name wife passed away three months ago
Please accept my condolences. Are you considering selling any of the flats?
I only own one its a top flat
Thank you. Do you also own the freehold title to the entire block or does someone else own this?
no just the one apartment when will I get my answer please
Thanks. Sorry there are a few more questions - this is not straightforward based on what you are telling me. When did you buy the property and did a solicitor act for you?
we bought the flat four years ago its the only freehold flat in the block and I only own one flat the rest are leasehold and I want to know can I change to leasehold yes had a solicitor
Thanks. Lastly do you have a mortgage on the property?
Thanks. The reason I have asked so many questions is that this is a very unusual position. A freehold flat is technically defective as a title and generally cannot be mortgaged and therefore is difficult to sell. This is because there is lack of rights between you and the owners below you - e.g. if the downstairs owners decided to stop maintaining their properties this would effect your but as a freeholder there is nothing you can do about it. This is one example. This is why flats are leasehold in the main rather than freehold. What you have is a flying freehold and your solicitor should have advised you as to the implications of purchasing such a property and recommended caution at the very least.
If your solicitor failed to advise you of the implications of purchasing a freehold flat there may be negligence on their part.
As to how to change it to leasehold - you cannot grant a lease to yourself. In addition there would be no point in doing so as what is required is for there to be a joint freeholder of the entire block which in turn then grants out leases to each individual flat owner. This is potentially an involved process which may require negotiation with one or moore third parties to combine the freehold and simultaneously grant a lease to you. It is likely that there will be some not insignificant legal fees associated with the process without any guarantee of success.
Whilst the process is underway if you choose to pursue it you will wish to consider indemnity insurance to cover the flying freehold risk.
The above will no doubt appear highly technical and confusing - and in many respects it is. If the position is as you believe then this is something you should consider urgently reverting to your solicitor about asking why you were not advised of the potential issues involved in buying a freehold flat.
If you are not satisfied with their response you can make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman which can award damages. It may however be that the solicitor can explain somthing which perhaps you are not presently aware which will clarify the position.
For the sake of clarity what you should expect to have is a freeholder that owns the entire building out of which is carved four leases, yours being one of them. This is the correct arrangement and what your solicitor should have ensured was the case.
I have likely created more issues with the above than solved but if what you believe is the case is true I would strongly urge you to revert to your solicitor to investigate rectifying the position as soon as you can.
Is there anything else I can help you with?
no thank you for your advice