The Absentee Landlord Service that we have developed has been created from the fact that we have extensive experience in property litigation and enfranchisement which has enabled us to simplify this very complex area of law and allows us to offer a very cost effective, streamlined and efficient procedure. We believe that it is unjust for you to be disadvantaged by the fact your landlord is missing and be burdened with the problems that this entails so we use the law to its full effect to redress the imbalance.
If your landlord is missing then there are two alternative procedures you can use to acquire the freehold. The two options are:
Option 1 (Non Fault-Based) Apply to acquire the freehold under the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (if you have a flat) OR the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 (if you have a house).
Option 2 (Fault-Based);Apply under the missing Landlord provisions under Part III of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987.
Option 1 is a non-fault based application to the County Court so there is no evidential threshold to overcome and the outcome is certain.
In contrast Option 2 has an evidential threshold to overcome in that you have to prove to the Court you have been prejudiced by the absence of your landlord. Therefore the application under Option 2 is more risky. Having said that the Court with Option 2 is likely to award you a cheaper premium to pay especially if your lease is now under 80 years.
The process of obtaining the freehold or extending your lease is relatively straightforward under the 1993 Act or 1967 Act. The first step is try to locate the current freeholders. To do this we will instruct search agents to carry out an address trace, advertise in Times newspaper and advertise in a local newspaper. If we do find contact details for the freeholders or they respond to the advert we will need to follow the usual procedure for obtaining the freehold (please ask us regarding our Enfranchisement Service).
Assuming that you are not able to locate the freeholder the next step is to make an application to the Court for permission to dispense with service of the initial notice (the formal notice invoking your right to acquire the freehold or new lease under the 1993 Act for a flat or 1967 Act for a house) and apply for an order transferring the freehold to you.
You have to prove that the landlord is absent and have to prove you qualify to acquire the freehold which is relatively straight forward. The Court can order you to carry out further searches for the freeholders if it is not satisfied with the searches carried out. If a vesting order is granted it will be conditional upon the First Tier Property Tribunal determining the premium you will need to pay.
Once the Tribunal has determined the premium you have to pay it into Court and the Court signs the transfer of the freehold to you on behalf of the missing freeholders.
As an alternative you may be able to acquire your freehold under Part III of the Landlord and Tenant 1987. The procedure is roughly the same as the above but what you have to prove to the Court is different.
You have to apply for an order dispensing with service of a Notice of claim and prove that the landlord has been absent as above. However in addition you have to demonstrate to the Court that you have been prejudiced by the missing landlord and provide evidence to substantiate your claim. In practise we will read the provisions of your lease to establish that the covenants (promises) made by your landlord as to what they would be undertaking through the duration of your lease (usually insuring the building and carrying out repair and maintenance) and liaise with you to establish the prejudice that has been caused as a result of your landlord being absent.
If your lease is under 80 years the valuation method will be different under Option 2 compared to the valuation method used in Option 1. This is largely because under the valuation method inOption 1 if your lease is under 80 years you have to pay “marriage value” which increases the premium you pay under Option 1. Marriage value is essentially the increase in value your flat will receive after you extend your lease and you pay your landlord 50% of that uplift. Marriage Value can add quite a considerable amount to the premium you have to pay in Option 1. However with Option 2 you only pay a market value for the freehold and there is no specific requirement (as in Option 1) for the Tribunal to require payment of marriage value. The potential saving in using Option 2 can therefore be considerable if your lease is under 80 years.
In either Option 1 or Option 2 you should obtain from the outset a valuation providing how much the premium is likely to be, so that you know what you are letting yourself in for before embarking upon the procedure. We can recommend Chartered Surveyors to carry out the valuation. Ultimately the First Tier Property Tribunal will determine the price you have to pay for your freehold and it is likely that your surveyor may have to represent you at the valuation hearing. Please note that you will be responsible for your own surveying costs and they are not included in our service. It is very likely however that we can obtain an Order from the Court allowing you to deduct your costs from the premium due.
Although we ask for an on account payment to cover the disbursements (monies we pay out on your behalf which includes title searches, the cost of advertising and Court fees) you will not have to pay us any legal fees which will be taken out of the premium paid into Court.
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org for an Absentee Landlord Service Information Pack.