The experience of homeownership in the context of British law and current standards upheld by the UK’s regulatory bodies often proves to be one of the most nuanced of its kind.
As the country’s housing market grows even more opportunity-abundant and conditions make it possible to attain homeownership with greater ease, it’s clear that there’s no better time to be a home buyer than today. However, purchasing a property on British soil involves becoming far more aware of the potential difficulties that lie ahead to ensure that you only experience a much smoother experience in the long run.
If you’re looking to purchase a home or property soon, then you’re most likely looking at the grander scheme of things and considering the various aspects of the purchase process itself. From matters like conveyancing and negotiation to mortgage loan applications, the list of factors that you’ll need to be mindful of is nearly endless, especially due to the growing complexity of the British home buying process.
However, there’s one aspect of purchasing a home on UK soil that you’ll need to be especially aware of before making a purchase: ground rent.
What is ground rent?
Although the term “ground rent” itself may not ring a bell, you’ve definitely heard about it after learning that the average home buyer has to pay rent when they purchase their property in certain circumstances.
To best describe it, ground rent is a fee charged on leasehold properties as a condition of your lease for the land your home is on that varies between properties—making it a sort of “escalating” cost, to some extent. Conversely, this form of rental charge can also be presented as a fixed cost that stays the same throughout the lease term if specific conditions permit.
For any leaseholder, one will always be required to pay ground rent to the property owner, which acts as a form of payment to rent the land that your property occupies. The amount and the mode and frequency of payment, by law, are already specified in the lease.
So, what does this all mean? Essentially, if you purchase a property and end up owning it as a leaseholder, you will have to pay ground rent to the freeholder, which is where the additional costs come in. With this concept, you’re set in a situation where you own the property for the length of time set out in the lease (which lasts anywhere between 99 and 999 years).
How much is the payment for ground rent?
If you’re worried about losing a fortune just by paying for the expense in question, here is some good news: in most cases, ground rent is quite affordable.
Typically, the average home buyer can acquire former local authority properties with ground rent as little as £50 a year, thanks to pre-existing guidelines and accommodating computations. Over the years, the affordability of the expense in question has reached a point wherein “peppercorn” rents now exist as well. This is a type of expense where freeholders ask for a very low or nominal amount of ground rent.
According to existing UK property guidelines, anyone who has owned their property for two or more years can also get a lease extension of a period of 90 years. Through this particular extension, home buyers are entitled to a lower amount of ground rent under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act of 1993. However, it’s worth noting that negotiations over the amount of ground rent will still be up for discussion throughout the 90-year lease period.
Beyond the ground rent itself, the cost also brings forth additional expenses because lease extension costs money. This means that there will be some back and forth about two key cost factors during negotiation:
The cost of extending the lease
The cost of ground rent for each year
Based on the factors mentioned above and current guidelines on the cost in question, a freeholder can’t increase the ground rent throughout the lease as changes are subject to specific limitations. In fact, the ability to be charged more or less according to a freeholder’s discretion is broken down into specific guidelines:
If it’s an escalating cost: A cost can only increase by a set amount in a set period.
If it’s a fixed cost: A charged cost won’t change, but a freeholder can renegotiate these costs during a request for an extension.
Do you need to pay for ground rent?
As previously discussed, ground rent must be paid by anyone who acquires their property under a leaseholder status resulting from a namesake agreement. But before the responsibility in question is fully enforced, it’s important to consider the fact that a freeholder must first be able to follow a procedure set by law, which requires them to request these six details:
The period the demand covers
How much the payment is
The name and address of the freeholder
The name and address of the managing agent if payment is made to them
The date when payment is due
When any of these key points of information are missing from a freeholder’s records, then their ability to demand or charge you ground rent is considered invalid.
What happens if you don’t pay for the cost in question?
Considering that ground rent can be doubled every few years through certain loopholes or exploited opportunities, you might be wondering about what will happen if you fail to shell out for these costs.
First, failing to pay for ground rent will allow a freeholder to take legal action and apply for a court order to recover the money you owe them as a means to ensure that you pay. Alternatively, they can also get a “forfeiture action” court order that seeks to help a freeholder get possession of the property. Yet, they can only start this type of legal proceeding if you haven’t paid for three or more years (and if you owe £350 or more).
But suppose you encounter a spiralling ground rent that you aren’t comfortable paying off. In that case, you must partner with your conveyancing solicitor—such as Conveyancing Calculator’s experts—to guide you through the entire process. Once you enlist the services of an expert, you’ll have a much easier time ensuring that ground rent mechanics don’t end up getting out of hand and set you back a pretty penny!
Among the different concepts and principles that you’ll run into as you grow more accustomed to the process of purchasing a property in the UK, the idea of ground rent is something that can be confusing. By considering the key points mentioned above, you’ll be able to approach the concept in question from the most informed standpoint possible to ensure that you don’t end up with problems in the long run!
Are you looking to streamline your home buying or selling process without taking any unnecessary risks along the way? Check out our conveyancing fees calculator today to get the best and most accurate results from our team of fully regulated and trained professionals!