LMF – Buying a Mansion Flat and the need for a surveyor
When you buy a Mansion Flat always remember that the solicitor will not visit the property and therefore will rely on your surveyor to make an onsite appraisal of the property.
Many Mansion flats are sold leasehold. Any leasehold property, more common for a flat, is one that is effectively rented for a long period of time from 99 years to 999 years. What you are buying is the lease, which is the right to rent the property. The flat remains the property of the freeholder, to whom in most cases you pay an annual ground rent. This is often referred to as a peppercorn rent as it’s usually a nominal sum of an under £1 a year.
No two leases are exactly the same. It is your solicitor’s job to scrutinise the lease in order to establish that everything is as it should be and you are aware of any small print stipulations. It is vital to find out how maintenance work is managed. Most blocks will operate on a service charge scheme, in which tenants contribute the same amount each year (subject to inflation) from which fund all maintenance work and ground work is paid for. Most tenants appreciate this funds as it minimises the work they have to carry out personally and it minimises the politics involved in funding for the shared building.
However, you may find yourself with a huge annual bill to carry out work that you don’t want. Residents of some of the grand blocks pay maintenance towards communal gyms or swimming pools that they don’t use, car parking spaces they don’t need etc.
On the other hand, if you need to get some work done the minimal annual payment may end up covering extensive maintenance work.
Find out whether utility bills are included in the service charge as they often are. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how much energy you consume. In a small number of mansion blocks tenants cannot control or access their own heating on demand.