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Why can't I buy common freehold with just my upstairs neighbour?

(35 Posts)
ThatWasMyFavouriteDressNow Sun 30-Nov-14 09:39:56

I live in a block of four maisonettes. They are just like two semi detached houses but split into two levels, IYKWIM.
The people that live above us want to buy the common freehold and so do we but both neighbours on the other side are not interested.
We know that we can buy the freehold for the four properties but we cannot afford it.

Have taken legal advice in the past and again recently. We are always told that the freehold can only be sold as a whole block of four.
I accept this advice but when I ask why this is the case, none of the solicitors can tell me or give an explanation, they just look a bit confused or annoyed at being questioned. They just say this is the way it has to be. This inability to explain makes me lose a bit of faith in them.

I do accept their expertise and maybe they feel it is too complicated to explain to me. Maybe it is obvious and I am being stupid but I just want to understand.

What I don't understand is while I see a single 'block' of flats has to have the same freeholder or shared freehold, a pair of semi detached houses can have different freeholders.
Our upstairs neighbour and us have no shared land, pathways, entrance halls, gardens etc. with neighbours in maisonettes on the other side. We just have adjoining walls and roof and guttering. Just like a pair of semi-detached houses.

We actually only share land etc. (paths, some garden, driveways, front gate, some wall) with the block of four maisonettes opposite which are detached from us. This block bought the freehold for their 'block' a few years ago as three of them were in agreement and one of them bought the freehold of the one that wasn't , as well as his own.

I hope this all makes sense.

Why can't the two of us buy the freehold for just the land our property is on?

What am I missing?

Quodlibet Sun 30-Nov-14 09:47:06

I don't have expert knowledge on this area, but in my experience of dealing with a different, less common freehold/leasehold issue, not many solicitors actually understand the intricacies of freehold/leasehold law, as they mainly just do basic conveyancing. Have you hunted down a specialist? I imagine the complexity would be that you'd have to redraw the deeds/titles for all four properties, but surely it must be technically possible??

tribpot Sun 30-Nov-14 09:58:17

This feels like it could be a good candidate for one of those advice columns like in Guardian money or something - I agree with you, I can't see why you can't buy the freehold for your half of the building. The lack of explanation from the solicitors also makes me doubt that the advice is completely sound.

Sallyingforth Sun 30-Nov-14 10:05:09

IANAL but I can see all sorts of practical difficulties because this block with have shared facilities - water supply, drainage etc. And possibly a common roof space.
Splitting the responsibility for these may be very difficult.

Sallyingforth Sun 30-Nov-14 10:05:42

will have

lucidlady Sun 30-Nov-14 10:15:19

Donyou mean you only want to buy two shares, and leave the other two shares with the existing freeholder? If so then legally I don't think you can do this. A freehold can only have one owner - when we bought the freehold in our block, we had to set up a company to purchase it, and the flat owners all had shares in that company. Not all flat owners participated, those who didn't remained leaseholders but the company owned the freehold relating to those flats, if that makes sense.

titchy Sun 30-Nov-14 10:23:32

What lucidlady said - there is only one freehold. I guess you could ask the freeholder to split it in two, and then sell you one, but this sounds expensive, and the freeholder probably wouldn't agree - not much in for them.

MrsSquirrel Sun 30-Nov-14 10:33:14

I suggest you contact the Leasehold Advisory Service
They have a tetelephone helpline and will be able to give more detailed expert advice than you will get on here.
I suspect that you may be out of luck if you can't afford to buy the whole freehold. However it was a bit crap ofyour solicitor not to answer your questions in a way you could understand.

vettles Sun 30-Nov-14 12:34:46

Have you spoken to the freeholder?

ThatWasMyFavouriteDressNow Sun 30-Nov-14 19:36:37

Thanks for your replies.
I have been unexpectedly busy today. This is my first chance to get back.

I have spoken to the freeholder. He just says to contact his solicitor.

Sallyingforth - this block with have shared facilities - water supply, drainage etc. And possibly a common roof space.
We have oour own water supply and share drainage and roof space with the flat above only. And roof space. Nothing else shared with other side that wouldn't be shared with the other side of a semi-detached house IYKWIM.
I suspect it is what titcy and Quodlibet are thinking, in that it should be technuically possible but would need the will of the freeholder to do it.

As others have said, the lack of answers from not one but several solicitors make me doubt there expertise in this.
They just say "you have to buy all four together" and seem dumbfounded when asked why.

There are 24 maisonettes in my road. We have recently received a letter from the freeholder stating that he is selling the freehold.

He is selling it in two halves. Each twelve is being sold for £150, 000.
So could end up with two freeholders.

lucidlady - a pair of semi-detached houses share the same or even more. The frustrating thing is the properties that we we share a lot with (front gate, pathway to front door, communal garden, driveway to garages, front wall and ransom strip at edge of road, have been able to buy the freehold without us but we have to buy the freehol with peoplenwe share nothing with except what a pair of semi-detahed houses would share. But a pair of semis can have a different freeholder.

OhBuggeringBollocks Sun 30-Nov-14 19:40:55

Is it to do with insurance? I know that part of the issue with my freehold (in a small block of flats) was that the insurance had to be taken out and held by the freeholder - as obviously building insurance couldn't be broken down into units.

Would this be an issue?

Thehedgehogsong Sun 30-Nov-14 19:42:04

The land all four maisonettes are built on is the freehold land. It will be registered under one freehold title, and would still exist as one freehold even if the building wasn't there.

To treat the building as two semis, the freehold would need to be re-registered as two separate plots of land. That is how semis are registered. The owner of the freehold is the only person who could apply to do that.

You could buy the freehold title, split it in two, and sell the other half.

You can't force the owner to split it.

HTH smile

ThatWasMyFavouriteDressNow Sun 30-Nov-14 19:46:19

I think it is technically possible but would be hard to work practically.
Starting to understand it now but very frustrating that several solicitors may be giving me the correct advice without really knowing why.

I find it quite annoying that the quite a large amount of money I am paying them (large for me) for their expertise is not value if they do not have the required expertise is this area.
Surely they should be able to rxplain it to me.

ThatWasMyFavouriteDressNow Sun 30-Nov-14 19:49:57

OhBuggeringBollocks - good point.Thank you. I never thought of insurance. That could be a factor. Buildings insurance fornthe same building. But again it is the same for a semi.
And shouldn't my solicitors have mentioned this to me?

Lindy2 Sun 30-Nov-14 19:50:16

I own a ground floor maisonette in exactly the same block of 4 set up you have. When I bought it about 15 years ago the lease was quite short. Myself and the maisonette directly above purchased the freehold for our side. I don't know if the other side purchased their freehold or if they stayed leasehold. They weren't involved at all.
It can be done.

ThatWasMyFavouriteDressNow Sun 30-Nov-14 20:02:49

Thehedgehogsong - Thank you. What you said makes sense. It is becoming clearer to me.

Althogh the way the freeholds are being sold seems illogical, it is easier tfor the freeholder to do it this way. Like how he has split up the road into two to sell freehold in two halves.

ThatWasMyFavouriteDressNow Sun 30-Nov-14 20:45:21

Lindy2 - that is good to hear that it can be done. My lease is very short also.
Frustratingly it would be cheaper to buy one quarter of freehold than to extend the indidual lease.
But because 2 neighbours either side are not interested, we would have to buy the freehold for all four with our upstairs neighbour.

I suspect it could be done easily without costing freeholder anything but it is in his interest to sell the four together.

We pay 6 guineas (£6.15) a year in ground rent and no service charge.

I think the freeholder wants to sell but sell in blocks as it would be cheaper and easier for him.
We probably can't force him to sell it like this,
It would be good to know the facts though.

Very frustrating that if this is the case, solicitor after solicitor fails to understand this and charges me a weeks wages for a 9 minute interview and one letter.
Don't mind paying this amount for qualified expertise but I feel they
Really don't understand the subject themselves and are perhaps to lazy to reserch it. I can get better explanations on MN for free.

caroldecker Sun 30-Nov-14 20:46:58

The freeholder could split it up and sell however he likes. Your right to buy is under the Commonhold and leashold reform act 2002 - a guide here and here.

Based on this, I think the freeholder has to offer to sell to you first - I think you need specialist advice

OhBuggeringBollocks Sun 30-Nov-14 21:07:56

The freeholder can't split it up as he likes, the same freeholder has to own the top and bottom of a building. Otherwise the top flat/maisonette would have a freehold over thin air effectively.

I did extend the lease on my flat and used a lease specialist to do so, I am in the west mids if that's any use to you. He was very good. I would certainly call one and see what they can tell you.

Quodlibet Mon 01-Dec-14 12:12:27

Just wanted to make the point that you don't have to pay solicitors for this kind of exploratory advice. Many of them will be happy to have a chat with you for free (I got 4 different ones to advise me while I was buying my share of freehold before commissioning one of them).

Carelesstalkcostslives Mon 01-Dec-14 13:15:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Carelesstalkcostslives Mon 01-Dec-14 13:21:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

caroldecker Mon 01-Dec-14 19:34:29

careless they freeholder could split the 2 semis into 2 freeholds - I am not sure he/she can be forced to

ThatWasMyFavouriteDressNow Tue 02-Dec-14 07:38:40

Thanks agin for all your replies.
I am aware of course that me and any flats above me or below me are on the same land so can't split the freehold. But I am asking why do we have to share the freehold with properties that we share no land or communal spaces with at all.

I would think a freeholder can split the freehold of his land however he wants to.

If a developer bought a plot of land he would own the freehold to it. If he then built 2 semis on it he could split the freehold in 2 and sell 2 seperate houses with 2 seperate freeholds. As developers have done all the time when building whole streets. One of the only reasons he couldn't would be in the case of flats which share the same ground.

There are 24 maisonettes on our road, built in 1957 and sold with 99 year lease, with one freeholder.

When the law changed he had to let owners buy the common freehold. He didn't have to sell the whole freehold split into 24 shares in one go, he was able to split it up and sell in blocks of 4 as has happened to a couple of blocks.
He has now split the road in half and is selling each half with 12 maisonettes on for £150,000 each, we have been offered it first but as we cannot get more than 2 or 3 of us out of the 12 interested, we just cannot afford it.
One block of this 12 already have bought their common freehold to the land their buildings stand on but their buildings are still included in the strip of land he is selling freehold of. There is shared pathways driveways etc. still.

It seems he could split it up how he wants as any developer/builder/landowner could. Why can't he just split mine and my upstairs neighbours up to the land that our flats stand on?

I feel solictors and everyone are just thinking it's one blodk so has to be sold as one block and not really thinking about it.

If it can't be split, I still haven't found a reason or explanation why not.
I am just told it can't be done without being told why or told any reason that makes sense to me.

titchy Tue 02-Dec-14 07:53:51

Well it could be done, by the current freeholder, if he wanted to. But why should he if he doesn't want the hassle or cost! You can't dictate what he does with his land, or feel aggrieved because he wants to sell the lot and avoid the hassle of splitting it into smaller parcels. He'll probably get a better price keeping it as 2 parcel of land which contain 12 flats.

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