Having a missing freeholder is not a good position to find yourself in. It often means no insurance and no maintenance. It can also make selling your flat much harder.
If you're planning to extend your lease, the process tends to be easier, more certain, and result in cheaper legal fees if you can find your freeholder before you start.
That said, even if your freeholder is missing or unresponsive you can still extend your lease.
You need to do this through making applications to the county court or the First-tier Tribunal. This is not as daunting as it sounds and whoever you choose to help with your lease extension can do this for you.
We've written this article to give you an outline of the process.
Start by digging for a name and address
You can look for a name and address in the following places:
- invoices for ground rent or insurance
- if your freeholder is a company, check out their company records on Companies House
- search for your freehold title on the Land Registry
- ask your management company, if you have one.
- google them
If you find a name and address, then an official letter requesting more information can be sent to your freeholder.
You’ve found out who your freeholder is but they’re 'unavailable'
If your freeholder has died, gone bankrupt or is a company that has been wound up you can still serve notice. Who you need to send it to will depend on the situation. Read on to find out more...
Still can’t find your freeholder?
If you’ve not been able to get in contact with your freeholder you’ve got a few options to get things moving.
Route 1: Serve notice to an old address
All formal lease extensions start with an opening offer which is called 'serving notice'.
You can serve notice on the address given in an old ground rent invoice. But only if your freeholder hasn’t notified you that they’ve changed address since.
If they don’t respond you can get a government service called the First-tier Tribunal to step in and agree to extend the lease. Often in this case the price you pay will be the same amount you’ve suggested in your opening offer.
Route 2: Ask the county court
You can’t serve your freeholder with a notice if you’ve not got their address. In this case you can ask the county court to agree that you don’t need to serve a notice.
The County Court will probably refer the case to the First-tier Tribunal to decide how much you should pay.
The county court will want to see that you’ve made significant effort in finding your freeholder. This will include evidence that you’ve advertised in the local paper and put a notification in the public record, the Gazette.
With this is mind, it is worth keeping track of all investigating you do.
Route 3: Acquire your freehold
If your freeholder is missing, they’re probably in breach of their responsibility to maintain your building too.
In some cases, it is possible to ask the court to make an order allowing you to acquire the whole freehold.
This can be a better option than acquiring the freehold through the normal process because it is often cheaper.