The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has announced that applications for extensions to the unexpired term of years in Leases for flats can now be made from 1st October 2022. This will be a welcome relief for many flat owners with Housing Executive Leases who have struggled to sell or remortgage their properties in recent years due to the short term of years remaining within these Leases
Upon creation of a Lease of a flat by the Housing Executive, the term of years typically given is 125 years. This being in stark contract of most other properties having a Leasehold title in Northern Ireland, which usually have a term of years of at least 999 years. Consequently, issues are beginning to arise in relation to the sale of these flats with short term Leases as many mortgage lenders are wary of lending money on a property. Mortgage lenders are presented with the reasonable risk that a Lease could expire within the lifetime of their mortgage offer to a prospective buyer. As a result, the owner of the Lease in these cases, being the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, could regain ownership of the property upon termination of the term of years.
The new application process enabling extensions to the term of year will therefore be a relief to homeowner’s and prospective buyers, as mortgage lenders can see their interest in the flat being secured. However, the process for extension is not a straight forward and only time will tell if the application process is one which is fit for purpose given the quick turn around times which purchasers and mortgage lenders require, together with the question of costs.
In order to apply to commence the process of the extension to the term of years, a flat owner will need to meet the following criteria:-
- Be the full registered owner of the flat
- Not be in breach of the covenants contained within the current Lease
- Have all service charges payments up to date
- The flat not being affected by any Housing Executive strategy or plan, making a extension inappropriate. This can include refurbishment/demolition of the block in which the flat is contained.
If the above criteria can be met, negotiations can commence with the flat owner and the Housing executive regarding the payment of a ‘premium’ to extend the Lease. The premium is calculated at 2.5% of the market value or at £2,500.00, whichever is greater.
While the process may still have its complications, such as the timeframe for application being completed and determination of the value of the premium, this remains a welcome step forward for many owners of flats with Housing Executive Leases. It provides greater confidence for flat owners and provides means to rectify the issues which have seen mortgage lenders reject short term leases. If you are a flat owner with a Housing Executive Lease and thinking about selling or remortgaging your property, the Conveyancing Team at O’Reilly Stewart solicitor would be glad to assist and provide advice as you seek a way forward.