What happens if a homeowner can’t find their lease? How does one obtain a copy of a lease to a property and is there a charge for doing this?

Question: My friend is selling the flat she bought a couple of years ago and has been trying to find her lease to the property, which was only built about 10 years ago. The original management company has vanished and there is a new one.

She has obtained a barely readable copy of her lease from the solicitors for the old management company but now thinks the new management company may provide her with a proper copy for £100.

Why would the management company have her lease anyway? And is there another way for her to get a full copy of it?

Answer: When a lease is first granted, two identical documents are prepared — the lease and the counterpart lease. The lease is signed by the lessee and the counterpart is signed by the landlord/freeholder.

On completion of the purchase of the property the signed documents are swapped, so that the landlord/freeholder ends up with the counterpart lease signed by the lessee and the lessee gets the lease signed by the landlord/freeholder.

Sometimes the landlord’s/freeholder’s solicitors will retain the counterpart leases and freehold title deeds for safekeeping, or if a management company owns the freehold, it may retain these documents. That is why your friend has tried the management company and their solicitors.

She should now contact the solicitors who acted for her when she bought the flat to check if they hold her original lease and title deeds, which she can request are released to her.

If they were given to her on completion and she has lost them, the solicitors may have a copy of her lease on file that they can let her have. They may charge a fee for this.

Alternatively, your friend could apply to HM Land Registry for an official copy of her lease and although a fee will be payable to the registry for this service, it may be the least expensive option.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. Questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a solicitor specialising in residential property.

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