If you have a leasehold flat or house, you may be unsure of where the responsibility lies when it comes to things such as repairs or building refurbishment.
The freeholder owns the property and the land on which it stands, while a leaseholder in effect rents the property from them on a long-term basis. Here, we look at both leaseholder and freeholder responsibilities when it comes to repairs and refurbishment to help you understand what you are and are not liable for arranging.
Who has to organise repairs?
While there are some repairs that fall under the remit of freeholder responsibilities, in general, the leaseholder is responsible for caring for and therefore arranging any repairs relating to the part of the building they lease.
A freeholder will normally be responsible for large-scale structural repairs, such as those affecting the roof and gutter. Any work required on communal areas or facilities such as lifts will also need to be organised by the freeholder. If the required work will cost more than £250 per flat to carry out, the freeholder has to consult with leaseholders before committing to any arrangements.
The responsibility for the majority of repairs then comes down to leaseholders – this means assuming liability for the paintwork, decor and furnishings in the property, as well as any appliances. They are also responsible for arranging repairs pertaining to plasterwork, flooring, wiring and internal plumbing. When it doubt, checking the lease agreement can help provide some clarity as to who is responsible for specific maintenance tasks.
Who pays for any repairs or building refurbishment?
When it comes to paying for repairs, it will be outlined in the lease agreement who is responsible, but in most cases this will be the responsibility of the leaseholder.
It is common practice for freeholders to charge annual service fees, which are used to pay for repairs as they arise. These fees are put into a sinking fund, a sum that accumulates through regular deposits. This money is then set aside to carry out major works and repairs such as structural restorations or servicing. It is often possible to offset some or all of the cost of the repairs against building insurance – for example, if the damage occurred as a result of a fire, flood or accident, it may be covered under policy.
It is always helpful to keep lines of communication open between leaseholder and freeholder to ensure that any repairs are dealt with swiftly and by the right person.
If one party assumes the responsibility lies with the other and vice versa, this can lead to damage becoming exacerbated to the point where even more work is required, and in serious cases it may result in injury or illness. If in doubt, always refer back to the lease agreement to double check whether the repair in question comes under the leaseholder or freeholder responsibilities, and keep a record of any requests for repairs in writing noting the date of the enquiry, too.