“If in doubt, don’t” has held us in good stead since we got together over 28 years ago.
Another is ‘If there is doubt, doubt exists.’
There is a lot of information available on the internet regarding property, and for a small fee, you can download details from the Land Registry regarding ownership and tenure, though it is not a legal document as such.
As cash buyers, we could have waived official ‘searches’, but we are talking about a substantial cash outlay and would have been stupid not to have them done.
However, before parting with a payment of some four hundred pounds to engage the services of a conveyancing firm and cover the initial disbursement fees, Hubby logged into the LR to check that our property of choice was in fact FREEHOLD as stated.
What he found was that there was a charge against the property regarding a lease of some 39 years from 1996, and thus not due to expire until 2035.
Leasehold properties in short mean you may own the building but not the land it’s built on.
We foresaw a problem, and before parting with any money (other than the LR download fee) we asked the Estate Agent to investigate.
Meanwhile, we took legal advice from a boating friend who just happens to be a retired solicitor. He concurred we were right to be cautious.
We had asked at our viewing if this was an Executor’s sale, and when told it was, asked if Probate had been done. We were advised that all the paperwork had been done.
All good so far then.
Except the old lady was very much alive, though where she was residing was unclear.
She had given her four children ownership of her property as a gift, but put the lease clause in place to protect her occupancy (wise old bird).
We were told that the lease would be surrendered at exchange of contracts for the sale.
Whoa! We did not want to buy a leasehold property.
We could have forked out a fair bit of cash on a ‘promise’ and got to Exchange to find the old dear had changed her mind and wished to retain the lease.
And as such, could ask us for an annual fee at least until 2035, if not indefinitely.
Also, it may have transpired that we would incur an additional fee to have the deeds amended from leasehold to freehold before the ink on the sale was dry.
No, we were not happy, and on several counts:
a) The property was not Freehold as stated.
b) It was not an Executor’s sale
c) Therefore probate would not have been done as there was no deceased owner.
d) There was no suggestion to ensure the lease charge was removed prior to us proceeding with the purchase, only at exchange of contracts.
So we have withdrawn our offer.
It may seem a bit drastic and an over the top reaction, but we cannot afford to trustingly gamble on someone’s word. We’ve been caught before, though luckily it wasn’t property we were buying.
So, we have walked away from this one with mixed feelings of disappointment, annoyance and anger, plus another lesson learnt and a few pounds well spent.
Our solicitor friend thinks we have done the right thing, as do several other people we’ve spoken to.