Your lease

Introduction

Here you will find general information to all our Shared Owners about how your lease operates. If you require specific information on any points please do not hesitate to contact your Housing Services Officer who, after referring to your lease, will be able to give you more detailed advice.

The lease that you signed when you purchased your property is a legal document and forms a contract between you and us. The lease sets out your rights and obligations as the owner (lessee) and our rights and obligations as the landlord (lessor).

The lease gives you rights over land and buildings for a certain period. This period is known as the term of your lease. Leases can run for up to 999 years however most Aldwyck shared ownership leases run for either 99 or 125 years.

Your lease will usually have a plan attached showing your property and the block in which it is situated together with gardens or out buildings included in the sale. The plan may also show the neighbourhood your building is in (the estate) and any communal areas that you may be entitled to use.

The original copies of your lease should be kept by you and your mortgage lender and can be obtained from them. If you are unable to locate a copy of your lease, please contact Customer Services who may be able to help.

Subletting

You are not permitted to sublet the whole or part of your property because renting out or letting your home while you live in alternative accommodation is prohibited by your lease. This is because your shared ownership home should be your sole or principal home and was offered to you as a method of entering onto the property ladder.

Structural alterations and improvements to your home

You have the right to carry out alterations to your home providing you have our prior written consent to carry out such works. You should not start any work until our written permission is given.

We would not unreasonably withhold consent and would only refuse your application on grounds such as it may make the property unsafe, contravene safety regulations, devalue the property, cost us money or is not in keeping with the area.

We may need to visit your home to discuss your proposal as well as ensure that you have obtained all of the necessary approvals, such as planning permission or building regulation approval.

Dependent on the nature of the improvement works it may be necessary for you to vary the terms of your lease. In these circumstances you will have to meet all the costs associated with the variation.

If your home is newly built, we may temporarily withhold permission to carry out alterations until the building defects period has expired. This period of defects liability is normally twelve months.

If you have an outstanding mortgage on the property you may have to get prior written consent from your lender before starting any work.

If you are getting a ‘second mortgage’ or additional lending on your existing mortgage to pay for alterations or improvements, your lender must obtain our prior written consent. We will have to approve any second mortgage or additional lending. Please note that any additional borrowing that is not for alterations or improvements to your home and is over and above your initial advance will not be covered by the mortgagee protection clause. Under these circumstances we will advise your bank or building society accordingly. If you would like more information regarding the mortgagee protection clause, please speak to your Housing Services Officer.

Finally, we will not reimburse you for improvements or alterations should you decide to sell your home; however our valuers will factor the improvements into their final valuation. If you wish to purchase further shares in your home these improvements will also be disregarded in the valuation process.

The right to succession

When you die, your property can be passed on to any person in accordance with your wishes and your shared ownership lease can form part of your will.

The person succeeding to your lease should notify us immediately so appropriate changes can be made to our records. They should also contact a solicitor to get good advice and ensure the correct legal procedures have been followed with regard to the lease and any outstanding or undischarged mortgage. Your insurers should also be notified of any changes in household composition.

Relationship breakdown

Where there is a dispute, we would recommend that both parties seek legal advice. In these cases only the Courts are able to transfer a lease to one of the joint owners. We therefore recommend that you consult a solicitor, Social Services, Law Centre or a Housing Aid/Advice Centre.

Operating a business

In accordance with your lease, and the grants we obtained to build your property, it states that your home is to be used for residential purposes only. However in certain instances we may permit you to run a business from your home; if you can demonstrate it is unlikely to cause a nuisance to your neighbours, does not result in traffic problems or entail the use and storage of dangerous materials. Prior to running a business from your home you must have our, your mortgage lender and building contents insurers’ written consent.

Condition of your home

It is your responsibility to keep the property clean, tidy, and free from vermin and pests. Please contact your local council for removal of bulk items; some provide this collection service free of charge.

You must not cause any obstruction or fire hazard in common areas. You must not store personal possessions in any common areas such as stairwells or leave any rubbish there or on the estate.

Please note that when Aldwyck removes items of rubbish from an estate costs will be passed on to residents. Please do not store any rubbish, flammable or dangerous items in your home or garden. We can remove these items and will charge you the cost of clearance. We will give you 24 hours notice before carrying out this work.

Our access to your home

If repairs are required or an inspection needs to be made of your home, you must let our employees or our agents and contractors have access. We will give you reasonable notice of this, normally in writing.

Summary of legal rights

As well as rights and obligations contained in your lease, there is some important legislation that can affect shared owners which is summarised for you below. Please note that we have only given an overview of the legislation here. For more comprehensive information please contact Customer Services on 0300 500 6262.

Right to challenge service charges

You have the right to challenge a service charge or any part of it by asking a Residential Property Tribunal (RPT) to decide if the service charge is reasonable or payable. The RPT has wide ranging powers and can determine whether a service charge (or part of it) is payable, the amount payable, by whom and to whom. It can decide such matters whether the leaseholder has already paid the service charge or whether the costs are yet to be incurred.

Right to information about service charge expenditure

You have the right to a summary of all service charge income and expenditure for a financial year. This should be provided within six months of the end of each accounting year.

Right to information about insurance

You can ask for a summary of the insurance cover held by us for where you live. We have 21 days to provide it. In addition, you have the right to inspect the actual policy document and proof of payment of the insurance premium or the right to be sent copies of these. Again, we have 21 days to comply and a charge may be made for copies.

Right to challenge management charges

Management charges are charges payable by you under the terms of your lease. These charges are not service charges or ground rent. Typical examples are charges for permission to alter or adapt a flat, to sublet and interest or fees for late payments. You have the right to challenge any management charge at the RPT and ask the RPT to decide if the charge

is payable and/or reasonable. You can challenge whether you have already paid the charge or not. If the management charge is calculated by a formula in the lease, you can ask the RPT for an order to vary the lease.

Protection against forfeiture

Forfeiture is a legal term for when a landlord seeks to repossess a home because there are arrears of ground rent and/or service charge. In the unlikely event we take this action; you have a number of rights. Forfeiture cannot be used for small debts under £350 or unless a debt has been outstanding for more than three years. Possession cannot be taken without an order from a court or RPT.

Purchase of further shares

Generally, you may buy further shares at any time after the first year of your initial purchase. Any subsequent purchases of additional shares may be bought after three months, providing the lease has been in existence for a year.

There are some leases which are exempt and do not allow for Shared Owners to staircase to 100%, often these are in ‘Rural Exemption Zones’. Please check with Lea Valley Homes for confirmation.

Staircasing

You may buy any size of share as long as the final outright purchase of your home is completed in four or less stages.

We need written notification that you wish to buy further shares and want a valuation of your property carried out. We will arrange for an independent valuation of your home by a RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) qualified valuer as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can instruct your own (RICS). This will be used to set the value of any extra share you purchase. You will have to pay for this valuation.

The valuation will work out the current market value of your home but will disregard any major improvements and alterations you have carried out. You may need to provide evidence that permission has been granted for these works.

Once we have received full payment of the valuation fee we will send you the valuation report in writing. You will then have three months to purchase any extra share and to instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf.

If you need an increased mortgage to purchase further shares you should contact your mortgage lender about the fees they may charge. We will have to approve any new mortgage offer or re-mortgage except in the case of final staircasing.

Stamp duty may be payable on the remaining shares depending on whether you paid duty in full when you purchased your initial share.

Where you are purchasing further shares but are not purchasing 100% of the shares in your property, this is referred to as ‘intermediate staircasing’. You do not require the services of a solicitor for intermediate staircasing.

Final staircasing

When you purchase all of the remaining shares in your property, obtaining 100% ownership, this is referred to as ‘final staircasing’. If you live in a house or bungalow you will be able to apply for the freehold. You would then cease to own the lease and would own the freehold upon completion. Your solicitor will be able to give you details regarding this.

Selling your home

You can sell your share of your home by selling the lease that you own. To do this you must contact us in the first instance. We then have six to eight weeks to nominate a prospective purchaser under the terms of your lease.

The price your share will be sold for will be determined by an independent valuation by a RICS qualified valuer. You will have to pay for this valuation. If we are not able to find someone to buy your home; by mutual agreement you are then free to sell your home on the open market through an estate agent, using our valuation.

If you are selling your shared ownership home the valuation will include all alterations or improvements that you have carried out. If we are successful in nominating a purchaser for you, you will need to pay a ‘sale fee’ on completion. This is subject to VAT. If we do not nominate a purchaser you will be liable to pay an admin fee for any enquiries.

You will also be required to pay solicitors’ fees for selling your share in your property. The purchaser will also be required to pay a Notice of Assignment fee and a Notice of Transfer fee, which are also subject to VAT.

Should you require details of these, any other charges or want advice on selling your home please call Lea Valley Homes on 0300 500 6262.

Useful Contacts

The Leasehold Advisory Service

Provide free legal and professional advice for all leaseholders.

Tel: 0207 383 9800

www.lease-advice.org

Residential Property Tribunal (RPT)

Provides a method of arbitration for both leaseholders and landlords.

Tel: 0845 600 3178

www.justice.gov.uk