What happens to our lease if we can’t contact the freeholder?

We have to pay £5.75 a year to rent our house but the owner has passed away and we can’t contact the new one: what can we do and will it stop us from selling?

  • The lease requires a small fee, but also means we need permission to renew
  • We used to pay a collection agency, but now we have a new owner
  • We can’t contact the new owner so we don’t know who to pay

I have a problem with my rental property. I have lived in my current home for 20 years and I own it completely. However, the house comes with a leasehold.

When we first moved in, we paid the annual fee to a collection agency. After a few years they let us know that they would not collect it anymore, because the leaseholder had passed away.

I managed to find the family member who took over the lease. We wrote to them requesting to buy the lease, the person we contacted told us that her brother would handle the lease.

We never heard anything else from either of them, that was about 10 years ago, we tried again a few years ago without being victorious.

The rent is £5.75 per annum, so not a huge sum, which of course we should have in our account to cover if the leaseholder ever decides to collect.

The problem is that if we decide to do extensions, install solar panels or other things, we theoretically need the tenants’ permission, which we can’t get.

And if we decide to sell our property, would this issue affect the sale? We still want to buy the lease but don’t know how to go about it. PY

Our lease requires us to pay a small annual fee, but what happens now that we have a new owner that we can’t contact, will it affect the sale of our home?

MailOnline Property Editor Myra Butterworth replies: Being a leaseholder can be challenging – something that can be made more difficult if you can’t find your leaseholder.

The owner’s name and address are on your rental contract and should be on any service charge request if the owner manages the property. You can also contact the Kadaster to find out who the registered leaseholder is.

However, your situation is complicated by a change in ownership that doesn’t seem to communicate with tenants.

Hopefully, you have a written record of all previous communications and from here keep track of every step you take to resolve the issue.

We speak with a trustee of the Leaseholder Knowledge Partnership about how best to proceed.

Liam Spender, a trustee of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, explains: It is not clear whether the property is owned or leased. It sounds to me that it is a leasehold property that is owned without a mortgage. The problem seems to be that the ground rent has not been collected.

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Assuming it is a leasehold property, it is possible to get a 90-year extension for a premium. This can happen even if the landlord can’t be traced, but it’s a more complicated process.

Depending on what has been said in the communication about the outstanding leasehold – and hopefully written down – it is also possible that the new landlord has stopped collecting or has waived the right to collect the outstanding payments.

When it comes to tracking down the absentee claimant, that means placing an ad in a local newspaper and calling in a tracking agent so you can prove in court that the landlord is untraceable.

As for finding an investigative agent probably best left to a lawyer who will handle the lease renewal.

The current situation would likely affect a sale. Provided it is well advised, a buyer wants to know that there is no overdue ground rent or any risk of forfeiture as a result of default in payment in the past.