Many leaseholders in the UK at some point will need to trace and locate a current address for the freeholder of a property if they are not in contact with the freeholder. Whether it is to renew the lease or some other matter it can be very frustrating when an absentee lease holder is not contactable.
Of course the land registry records may have an old address for the free holder of the property but normally this information is old and out of date with a very historic address and you will need to utilise a specialist tracing service to trace the freeholder to a current and contactable address so you may proceed to contact the absentee freeholder.
The problem of an absent freeholder tends to arise most often where houses have been converted into flats. With such conversions, the freeholder would have sold off the flats on very long leases typically, thereby capitalising on the value of his or her interest.
Whilst remaining technically as freeholder, the freehold value is minimal when compared to the long leasehold interests sold off. In such scenarios, the freeholder may lose interest or even forget about owning the freehold, he or she might have moved to a new address or even passed away.
These situations can continue for many years, especially because many of the flat owning leaseholders may not see it as a major issue. They don’t tend to pay service charges and may even be ignorant that the freeholder will typically have the role of arranging buildings insurance for the overall building, and then seeking reimbursement from the leaseholders.
Some leaseholders may also, in some ways, see the lack of involvement of the freeholder as advantageous in that they may be tempted to make changes to the flat which would require freeholder consent without worrying about it, on the basis that a lack of a freeholder reduces the risk of action being taken for breach of lease covenant. Unfortunately, this approach can prove to be short sighted.
The ultimate resolution of an absent freeholder situation is to apply to court. The necessary form of application will be for Vesting Order in the County Court.
It is a prerequisite for an application for a vesting order that as leaseholder you have made sufficient attempts to try and contact and locate down the freeholder such as using a specialist freeholder tracing agency.
For any advice on tracing a freeholder call us on 01273 252539