What is a Lease?
A lease is a contract between the leaseholder and the landlord giving the leaseholder a legal interest in the property for a fixed period of time.
It gives you and your successors the right of possession of your flat for 125 years (at first) provided you keep to the terms of the lease.
The property can be bought and sold during the term of the lease. The term is fixed at the start and then decreases in length year by year.
For example, after one year of a lease being available on a property the term will drop to 124 years or, if you buy a leasehold flat from someone you will take it over at the current length of its term.
The lease comes with conditions, to protect the rights of everyone with an interest in the building.
Before you bought your home, your solicitor should have explained your lease in full so you understand both your responsibilities as a leaseholder and those of Gateshead Council as the landlord.
If you have a mortgage on your property, your bank or building society will generally hold your lease.
However, you should ensure you receive a copy when you purchase your property.
If you require a further copy you can request this from Gateshead Council’s, Corporate Services and Governance Section on 0191 433 3000.
There will be a charge for providing this service.
Your rights as a leaseholder
There are several laws and acts of parliament protecting your rights as a leasehold tenant.
- Repairs and maintenance – You have the right to ask your landlord to keep the ‘common parts’ of your block in a good state of repair
- Major Works – You have the right to be consulted about major repairs for which you will have to pay a share
- Long-term agreements – You have the right to be consulted and make observations about agreements or contracts for services that the landlord wishes to buy in from outside of the company for a period of over 12 months. For example, for insuring the building
- Service Charges – You have the right to access information about service charges and to challenge how reasonable those charges are
- Making alterations – You have the right to make alterations to the inside of your flat, as long as you do not remove structural walls or cause damage to the outside or shared parts of the building. You must request permission from the landlord for any works which may affect the structure of the building or any common areas
- Management – You have the right to expect your landlord to deal with problems in your block, such as neighbour nuisance, antisocial behaviour, dirt and rubbish
- Quiet enjoyment – Under the law you have the right to the ‘quiet enjoyment’ of your home, to live peacefully in your flat without interference from your neighbours or the landlord, as long as you keep to the conditions of your lease
- Selling your flat – You have the right to sell your lease to anyone you want to. You can also leave it to someone in your will or give it as a gift
- Lodgers and sub-tenants – You have the right to take in lodgers or rent your flat to anyone you want to, however you must let us know.
If you are not sure of your rights, a solicitor can advise you or you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Your rights are explained more fully in other sections of this handbook.
You can also see copies of these acts online at www.lease-advice.org
Your responsibilities as a leaseholder
As a leaseholder you have a number of responsibilities. These are fully detailed within your lease.
- Pay your share of the costs of managing and maintaining your block
- Pay your ground rent and buildings insurance
- Meet the living costs of your property such as council tax, gas, electricity and water rates
- Keep in a good state of repair all internal fixtures and fittings and items used solely by your property
- Tell us as soon as possible of any disrepair or damage which the lease says we are responsible for
- Keep any garden areas sold with your flat neat and tidy
- Ensure water does not penetrate outside your flat
- Request landlord permission to keep any sort of pet
- Keep all passages, staircases, fire escapes and shared areas of the block clear of obstructions
- Use the premises only as a place of residence. You are not allowed to use the flat for any trade, profession or business
- Request landlord permission to put up any type of satellite dish or aerial
- Keep in good repair any boundaries which have been allocated to you. E.g. fences or walls
- Observe and comply with management regulations as specified, concerning for example: noise restrictions, reasonable behaviour and the disposal of rubbish
- Arrange for all gas appliances to be serviced annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer and send us a copy of your certificate
- Allow reasonable access to your property by your landlord and/or its agents to inspect or remedy defects or disrepair
- Ensure you or any family/friends do not use the flat/maisonette or any shared areas for anything which could cause damage or a nuisance to any other residents or the landlord
- Obtain any necessary licensing, permissions or consents for any improvements or alterations which you would like to make to your property.
- Tell us if you are sub-letting your property
- Tell us if you sell your property within 21 days of the sale taking place.
Our rights as the landlord
The Gateshead Housing Company, working on behalf of Gateshead Council (‘the landlord’), has the following rights.
To make decisions about and charge you for:
- The management of your block
- Repairs and maintenance of the structure and shared areas of your block
- Improvements to your block
- The buildings insurance cover for your property/block
- Other services provided to your block e.g. cleaning.
Right of entry
Under the terms of your lease we have the right to enter your property to carry out an inspection if we have reason to believe that the property is in a state of disrepair or if surrounding properties have been damaged, possibly as a result of problems within your flat.
However, we must give you reasonable notice that we intend to do this. Examples of this would be if you removed a structural wall, or if a leak in your plumbing was flooding the flat(s) below.
If any defect or disrepair is found we will inform you by letter of the repairs needed and give you notice to fix the disrepair within two months of the date you receive the notification letter.
If you do not meet the terms set out in the notice we will carry out the repairs ourselves and claim the costs from you.
In the case of an emergency we have the right to gain entry without having to give you reasonable notice.
We would therefore secure the property and do a temporary repair, for example, to stop a leak.
You would then be responsible for the repair within the property. If the leak was found to be from a communal pipe then we would be responsible for the repair.
If you live in a block of flats where there is a caretaker or concierge and you intend to leave your property empty for any length of time, you may find it useful to leave contact details with them, or if there is a relative we can contact on your behalf, in the case of an emergency.
Our responsibilities as a landlord
Your landlord, Gateshead Council also has responsibilities which are detailed fully in your lease, together with an obligation to comply with current legislation affecting leasehold property management.
As their managing agent we will carry out these duties on their behalf.
To summarise, in accordance with the terms of your lease, Gateshead Council must:
- Keep the structure and shared areas of the block in good repair
- Consult you about any works we intend to carry out, before entering into an agreement with a contractor
- Provide the services set out in the lease
- Insure the building.
Extending your lease
Under the 1993 Leasehold Reform Act (as amended) you have a right to extend your lease for a term of 90 years, plus the present unexpired term, all at a peppercorn rent (that is rent free).
To qualify you must have owned the property for more than two years, and you must have a ‘long lease’ (i.e. one originally granted for 21 years or more).
Full details of the process to extend your lease can be viewed at on the Lease Advice website.
- Service charges
- Consultation and major works
- Repairs and maintenance
- Alterations and improvements
- Selling or letting
- Estate management
- Compliments, complaints and suggestions