Glossary of terms

Apartment owner

The apartment owner owns the lease of the apartment.

Assignment

The transfer of the ownership of a lease or an insurance policy.

Commercial purposes

A general terms explaining the usage of those parts of a property not used for residential purposes.

Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002

This Act of Parliament permits apartment owners to assume the responsibility for running their block in a property.

Communal parts

The communal parts (or common areas) are the areas that all residents have the communal use and enjoyment of, such as the landscaping, play areas, roads, lighting, entry systems, plant, drainage, waste treatment systems and communal utility supplies for a private estate. For a conversion or apartment building, it may also include hallways, stairwells, lifts, the roof and general fabric of the building as well as parking areas, entry systems or landscaping.

They do not include any area that is demised to the leaseholder or the individual plot for a freehold unit owner. There may also be areas which are communal but not managed by us as an agent as these may be adopted or controlled by another body, for example the local council or a parking control company.

Company secretary

A company secretary is legally accountable for the right to manage company's adherence to company law. They can also be a director of that company.

Competent landlord (in the context of lease extensions and freehold purchase)

The landlord with a sufficiently superior interest in the property as to be able to grant the 90 year extension - that is, they have an interest of more than 90 years longer than your present lease. In most cases this will probably be your immediate landlord if they are the freeholder or if they are a head lessee with a lease which is sufficiently long.

However, in some cases your immediate landlord may be a head lessee with a lease only a few days, or a few years, longer than yours and therefore you need to identify the landlord with sufficient interest to grant you the new lease.

To identify the competent landlord you will need to know the details, especially length of term, of any intermediate landlords who may be between you and the freeholder.

Condensation

The lack of adequate ventilation in a room causes an accumulation of moist air, which, when it meets a cold wall or window, deposits moisture in the form of condensation. It can easily be cured by an increase in ventilation and improving insulation.

Conveyancing

The legal work involved in the buying or selling of a property.

Covenants

The rules and regulations relating to the property, which are contained in its lease or title deeds.

Deed of variation

If the lease is very badly drafted, the leaseholder may have to obtain a deed of variation to get permission from the freeholder to change the original terms of the lease.

Deeds

The legal proofs of ownership, held by the Lender.

Defective lease

A badly drafted lease. If this is serious, the vendor may have to obtain a deed of variation, getting the freeholder's permission to change the original terms of the lease.

Development

A general term used to describe either modernised and renovated existing property or a newly built property.

Dilapidations

Any decay, damage, or disrepair in a property.

Encumbrance

A liability imposed on the owner of a property, which is then binding on subsequent owners.

Excess

The initial sum paid on an insurance claim.

Financial obligations

Financial obligations identify those obligations to be paid on behalf of all the owner(s) in a property, and typically cover maintenance, insurance, and repairs.

Flying freehold

Occurs when first-floor accommodation forming part of one freehold is located over ground floor accommodation forming part of another freehold. The first floor freeholder does not own the land beneath the property, and is then said to own a flying freehold.

Freeholder

A freeholder is an individual or company that owns the freehold of a building. For example, a freeholder will own an apartment building, while the apartment owners own their apartment on a lease from the freeholder. In this case, the freeholder is responsible for the maintenance of the exterior and common parts of the building and will often appoint a managing agent to take on these responsibilities on their behalf. On a private housing development, a freeholder (usually) owns the freehold of their house. In some cases, these freeholders are still required to pay towards the maintenance of the common parts of the estate.

Fire Risk Assessment (FRA)

An FRA assesses the factors within a building that determine the likelihood and consequences of a fire as well as the hazards. On average, FRAs are carried out every 18 months and a report is submitted highlighting any areas that need to be addressed, for example the removal of personal items from common areas or faulty fire doors.

First-tier tribunal (FTT)

As a leaseholder, you have a right to take any disputes or issues to the First-tier Tribunal – Property Chamber (Residential Property) (FTT). For example, to appeal charges that are not ‘reasonable’.

Freehold

Where the ownership of the property by the owner has no time limit.

Ground rent

Ground rent is an annual charge paid to the freeholder for the land on which your property stands. The amount of ground rent is set out in your lease.

Intermediate landlord

An intermediate landlord (often called a head lessee) may be the person to whom you pay ground rent, as the intermediate landlord holds a finite leasehold title (as you do) they, in turn, will have to pay ground rent to the Freeholder. An intermediate landlord may make profit from their title if the ground rent they collect from all the leaseholders in the block exceeds the ground rent they have to pay the freeholder.

IRPM

The Institute of Residential Property Management.

Land Registry fee

Payable to the Land Registry to register ownership of a property.

Lease

Your lease sets out the rights and responsibilities of the freeholder/RMC and the apartment owner (leaseholder). Your lease will usually be for a fixed term (length of time). It will include covenants, which are effectively the rules and regulations for both freeholder/RMC and leaseholder. Leases will differ from property to property, and could cover a range of things from payment of ground rent, conditions around sub-letting and a freeholder’s responsibility to maintain common areas, to restrictions on alterations to your apartment.

Leasehold

Leaseholds show that the ownership of a property is determined in a lease.

Leaseholder

A leaseholder is someone who has bought a lease allowing them to occupy the apartment for a fixed number of years. A leaseholder is sometimes also known as apartment owner, lessee or tenant.

Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993

This Act of Parliament allows those leasehold apartment owners who meet the necessary qualification criteria to acquire an extension to their lease.

Leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT)

The formal name given to the body appointed to make decisions on various types of dispute relating to residential leasehold property. The LVT is an independent decision-making body which is completely unconnected to the parties or any other public agency. The tribunal will look at the matter of the leasehold dispute for the property following an application to the tribunal.

Major works

Major works describes any work to a property or development that forms part of the planned maintenance (see below) or will cost more than £250 per leaseholder and therefore comes under Section 20 (see below).

Managing agent

A managing agent is a company or individual appointed by the freeholder or residents’ management company of a building. The managing agent is responsible for the management of the property in line with the terms of the lease and any other statutory or legal requirements.

NHBC (National Housebuilding Council)

A non-profit making, independent body approved by the Department of the Environment, which lays down standards for housebuilders who are registered with them. The council issues 10-year certificates on new-build properties, which allow for the remedying of any serious defects developing during that time. It is unlikely that a mortgage lender will grant a mortgage on a new property that does not have either an NHBC guarantee or an architect's certificate.

Non-residential

Any part of a premises or development not used for residential purposes

Ombudsman

An independent organisation that investigates professionals, such as managing agents, when complaints are made by their customers.

Party wall

A wall which separates the properties of two adjoining owners, each of whom have certain rights over the wall.

Peppercorn rent

A nominal rent where the landlord does not receive an annual payment in cash. When the owner of land or property wishes to grant a lease, they must charge a rent as an acknowledgement of the existence of the lease. Where the owner does not want to charge any rent but simply wishes to establish the lease exists, they can ask for a peppercorn each year as a token payment. In practice, this is not generally handed over!

Planned maintenance

Also known as planned preventative maintenance (PPM), planned maintenance is a programme of planned maintenance that is designed to prevent the serious degradation of the building. Planned maintenance takes place, on average, every five years and a review of the development may be carried out more regularly. Planned maintenance helps to maintain the underlying value of the development and reduce the need for emergency, reactive repairs.

Premium

The monthly payment on an insurance policy.

Public liability insurance

Insurance which covers injury to, or death of anyone on or around a property.

Quantity surveyor

Someone trained in construction costs and contract procedures. They undertake feasibility studies, advising the client on selection of contractor, prepares contract documents such as the bill of quantities, controls costs, provides financial statements during building and helps to settle the final account.

Reinstatement cost assessment (RCA)

An RCA is carried out by a surveyor every three to five years. It provides an indication of the costs required to rebuild the property, including any associated car parks, roads, bin stores, etc. This figure is then used to calculate the amount of buildings insurance required.

Resident management company (RMC) or right to manage (RTM) company

Sometimes known as an RTM (right to manage) company, an RMC is registered with Companies House and takes on responsibility for the management of an apartment building or private estate. The RMC is led by a board of directors made up of volunteers who are owners of properties within the development. The board will usually appoint a managing agent to take on the day-to-day management of the development. The managing agent takes directions from the RMC board of directors with both sides working closely together for the benefit of all residents.

Reserve fund

Your service charge may include a contribution to a reserve (or sinking) fund. The reserve fund is held in trust on behalf of the development and used to pay towards any major works or planned maintenance. The use of a reserve fund means that the cost of major works can be spread out over a number of years, making it more affordable for owners. However, not all leases allow for a reserve fund.

Restricted covenant

An obligation restricting the use of land which is binding on subsequent owners, for example not allowed to keep animals on the premises, or a house builder may put a covenant on a property forbidding extension without their approval.

RICS

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Right to manage (RTM)

RTM allows leaseholders of flats to form an RMC to take over certain aspects of the management of their building from the leaseholder. There are certain conditions that need to be met and you can find out more on the LEASE website here. Unfortunately, the right to manage is not available to house owners.

Section 20

Section 20 forms part of the Landlord and Tenant Act. Put simply, if a leaseholder or RMC (or their managing agent) is planning to undertake any qualifying works that may cost an individual owner £250 or more per apartment, then all owners must be consulted on the proposed works and costs. This consultation period takes several months to complete before works can start. You can find further information on the LEASE website here.

Service charge

The service charge are the monies collected to cover the costs of maintaining the building and common parts, as well as any services provided. Find out more about the service charge here.

Tenure

A collective term which relates to the nature of the owner’s title to a property, i.e. is it freehold or leasehold.

Title deeds

Documents showing the legal ownership of a property, which are normally held by a property owner's mortgage lender.

Transfer deeds

Transfer deeds are documents from the Land Registry that transfer legal ownership to the buyer from the seller.