Leasehold handbook

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First Tier Tribunal Hearing Decision and what it means for you

Leasehold handbook

The following Information is for residential leaseholders of Harlow Council owned buildings

1. Introduction

The Leaseholder handbook has been produced as a guide about your lease and your rights and obligations as a leaseholder, whether you have bought your home under the Right-To-Buy scheme or on the open market.

Once you have bought a flat and become a leaseholder, you have the right to live in your home without having to pay rent, except a small ground rent. As a leaseholder you buy the right to live in your own flat, however the costs for upkeep and repair are additional costs to you. The lease is the legal contract between you and Harlow Council and is a very important document.

Your lease will describe the flat you have purchased including a plan outlining your flat and any garden or shed you may also have, whilst also showing the block containing it. Harlow Council is responsible for the upkeep, repair, maintenance and improvement of the block as a whole and the estate.

It is important that you understand your lease and get appropriate legal advice if there is anything you are unclear about. Breaching the conditions contained in your lease could have serious legal consequences. Included in this handbook is a glossary defining some common legal terms (section 12).

Although this booklet covers many aspects of your leasehold ownership, it is only a general guide to the effect of the Council’s Right to Buy leases and related legislation. Also, individual leases differ and the relevant law may change from time to time.

In view of the above, this booklet may not cover your particular circumstances and must be treated with caution. It is NOT a definitive statement of the effect of your particular lease and relevant legislation. The rights and obligations of the Council (as landlord) and you (as leaseholder) are governed entirely by the actual terms of your lease and relevant legislation. Nothing in this booklet replaces, varies or affects your particular lease or any other legal document. Thus, if there is any inconsistency between this booklet and your lease, the lease will prevail.

You must not rely on this booklet when deciding whether to acquire a flat. It is essential to obtain your own legal and other professional advice before making any commitment.

Neither the Council nor anyone on its behalf can give any leaseholder or prospective leaseholder any legal or other professional advice. Unless stated otherwise, all references in this booklet to the Council refer to Harlow Council in its capacity as landlord. Nothing in this booklet affects any other function or role of Harlow Council, such as local planning authority. 

What is a lease?

The lease is a legal agreement between you (the leaseholder) and Harlow Council (the landlord). It gives you the right to possession of your flat for a long period as long as you keep to the terms of the lease.

The lease will say what parts of the building have been sold to you (called ‘the demised premises’) and areas over which you have rights. The plans attached to your lease will clearly show the demised premises and areas over which you have rights. You should check your own lease and plans to see which are relevant to you. For example, not all properties have the benefit of a drying area or parking space.

The lease sets out the conditions of your rights and responsibilities as the leaseholder and Harlow Council's rights and responsibilities as the landlord.

The lease and the law

There are several laws and Acts of Parliament, which protect your rights as a leaseholder, including:

  • Landlord and Tenant Act 1954
  • Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (schedule 10)
  • Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
  • Landlord and Tenant Act 1987
  • Housing Act 1985
  • Housing and Planning Act 1986
  • Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993
  • Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002
  • Housing Act 2004
  • Housing and Regeneration Act 2008

In summary some of the rights which these Acts of Parliament granted to leaseholders are:

    The right for most people with long leases to stay as tenants at the end of their leases
    • Rights in terms of service charges, consultation about major works and insurance of the property
    • Limitation of service charges within the first 5 years of purchase under the Right to Buy
    • Rights to information about service charges, and to challenge levels set
    • The right to set up a recognized tenants' association
    • The right to change their leases

    The collective right for most leaseholders to buy their freehold and the individual right to renew their leases

    When the Council could end your lease

    If you breach any terms of your lease, the Council, as the landlord, may have a right to end your lease and get back possession of the property. This could happen if you do not pay your service charges or ground rent, do not keep your property in good repair or you cause nuisance and harassment to your neighbours. Harlow Council is a responsible landlord and will only do this if it needs to protect the interests of the Council, its tenants or leaseholders. We will always try to sort the matter out in another way

    Contact the Home Ownership Team

    • Telephone: 01279 446424
    • Email: homeownership@harlow.gov.uk
    • Fax: 01279 446744
    • By post: Harlow Council Home Ownership team, Civic Centre, The Water Gardens, Harlow, Essex, CM20 1WG

    Alternatively, you can speak to the Home Ownership officer that deals with your area by calling their direct telephone number: