What is a freeholder?
The freeholder is the person/entity who owns the land beneath the building. It isn’t an easy concept to understand, but in the UK, someone can own the land below your home and the air above it. Sometimes that freeholder is an organisation, other times an individual who may have owned the entire building before they divided it into apartments.
You should know who the freeholder of your building is in case you need to make any major changes to your property or get into any disputes with the landlord. If an apartment building and no management company is available, the freeholder is often responsible for the common areas and external structure of the building.
In this article, we will explore different ways to find who the freeholder of your building is and what to do if you can’t find them.
Check your property deeds
Your first stop is to check your property’s deeds. They should contain information about the freehold or leasehold status of the property, as well as their name and contact details. If you don’t have a copy of your property deeds, you can obtain them from the Land Registry or your original solicitor.
Search the Land Registry
The Land Registry is a UK government agency that maintains a register of all land and property ownership in England and Wales. This should have details of your property and the freeholder but usually comes at a small cost to download the PDFs.
Contact your local council
Check in with your local council who may have records for your building, particularly if it is a council-owned property. They may also have advice on tracking them down.
Speak to your neighbours or property management company
If you’re still unable to find details of the freeholder, you could try speaking to your neighbours or the appointed property management company. They may have information about the freeholder or be able to put you in touch with someone who does.
What to Do If You Can’t Locate Your Freeholder
It’s not uncommon to not know who your freeholder is. Some buildings were built over a century ago and the freeholder has passed on and been inherited by others who won’t update the register.
Deal with an absent freeholder
If you’ve run out of luck and you can’t find them, it can make it difficult to make major changes to your property or resolve disputes. It’ll also make buying the freehold or forming an RTM more difficult. If this is the case, you may need to seek legal advice or consider applying for a vesting order.
Apply for a vesting order
A vesting order is a legal order that allows you to take ownership of your property or the land it’s built on if you cannot find the freeholder or they are absent. You can apply for a vesting order through the courts. The UK government provides a simple guide here but we would recommend contacting a solicitor to deal with this.
Buy the freehold of your building
If you are a leaseholder and you are unable to locate your freeholder, you may be able to buy the freehold of your building. There is a process called enfranchisement and it can be complex. You should seek legal advice and follow the procedures set out in the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993.
In the majority of cases, looking up your freeholder shouldn’t be too taxing. However, there are still too many occasions when the freeholder is absent, deceased, or has been transferred without the leaseholder having any knowledge of it.
Knowing your freeholder is important, especially if you’d like the buy that freehold and form a Rights to Manage company or RTM. If you do find out who it is, be nice and send their contact details to your fellow leaseholders in case they need to know in future.