How to deal with a ‘missing landlord’

MissingLandlords may be “missing” or uncontactable for a number of reasons. It is important to establish, early on, if the landlord is truly “missing” for the purposes of the legislation to which this article will refer. In any event it will be important to be able to show to the Court that efforts have been made to locate the landlord.

Legislation dealing with “missing” landlords exists to protect leaseholders’ rights under the provisions of the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (“the 1993 Act”), the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 (“the 1987 Act”) or the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 (“the 2002 Act”). A leaseholder cannot properly serve a claim notice under these provisions if the landlord is not identifiable or his whereabouts in unknown.

Lease Extensions and Collective Enfranchisement

The 1993 Act gives qualifying long leaseholders a statutory right to extend their lease by 90 years at a peppercorn ground rent. It also gives a majority of qualifying long leaseholders the right to acquire the freehold (and any intermediate leases) of their building. Both processes are begun by service of a claim notice. If the landlord is missing this becomes problematic. The 1993 Act itself provides a solution to this. The leaseholder can apply to the court for a vesting order to overcome the problem of having to serve a claim notice on the landlord. The premium is then decided by the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) (“The FTT”).

Acquisition Order

The 1987 Act gives a majority of qualifying leaseholders the right to acquire the freehold of their building, on certain grounds which are all generally fault based. The court has the power to make a compulsory acquisition order which can be followed by a vesting order. Whilst fault must be proved on the part of the landlord, the benefit of using the 1987 Act instead of the 1993 Act is the premium payable for the freehold is generally less.

Appointment of a Manager by the Tribunal

The 1987 Act also gives any one qualifying leaseholder the right to apply to the FTT to have a manager appointed. This is a useful tool if an acquisition of the freehold is unaffordable or a majority of leaseholders cannot be formed. Fault must be proved on the part of the landlord, which is usually fairly easy to do if the landlord is “missing”.

Right to Manage

The 2002 Act gives a majority of qualifying long leaseholders the right to acquire the management obligations relating to their building without having to prove fault on the part of the landlord. The process includes an obligation to serve a claim notice on the landlord which is not possible if the landlord is missing. The 2002 Act provides a mechanism for the leaseholders to make an application to the FTT for an order that their RTM company is entitled to acquire the management. This can be done even where the landlord is missing.

The award winning Leasehold Enfranchisement team at Hart Brown have the experience and specialist knowledge to assist leaseholders who find themselves in such a situation.

Written by Emily Fitzpatrick and Kirsty Frampton

Hart Brown Solicitors


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