Small strip of land causing massive leasehold issue?

Small strip of land causing massive leasehold issue?

9:59 AM, 17th December 2021, About 2 years ago 17

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I am looking for advice/support please for a colleague whose property sale is being compromised by a leasehold issue. Can anyone suggest a way forward or recommend a legal specialist who may be able to assist, please?

The circumstances relate to a small strip of land at the side of the house. When my colleague bought the house (leasehold on a new build estate) around 20 years ago, the leaseholder advised her verbally that she was free to use this thin strip of land as it was banking at the end of the estate and of no use to him, and that she was free to put her garden fence up to include this land. Obviously, with hindsight, this was a little naïve, but this was over 20 years ago and was taken at face value of a kind offer at the time with no further issue given consideration.

Fast-forward to the present day, and my colleague now needs to sell this property due to a relationship breakdown. She has found a buyer and found a new property for herself, but this chain is now in danger of breaking and causing her considerable stress, as the leaseholder of the land has refused to sign the necessary legal documentation.

The issue the leaseholder has is that my colleague landscaped this strip of land, which he says was done without his written permission. My colleague accepted this as a misunderstanding and has at her own cost reinstated this to how the land was when she bought the property. The leaseholder is still not happy with this as he says any services running under this area of land may have been compromised due to earth movement and is therefore unwilling to sign the paperwork which would allow my colleague to complete and move house. He wishes to know where she is should he need to come asking for future financial compensation in the event of any issue.

Clearly, she has offered to provide him with a forwarding address, and her buyer obviously wishes this issue to be finalised before completing but is not willing to wait forever. This has been ongoing for several months now. I have advised her to try to obtain indemnity insurance, but she has already tried this and is struggling as every specialist insurance company she has spoken to has said it is unable to assist – as she is trying to obtain insurance on somebody else’s land.

The leaseholder already has his own insurance on this land but does not want to claim on his insurance. He states that him taking out specific insurance and my colleague paying for it are not an option either. He is insistent that there is some form of insurance that should cover my colleague for a period of 5 years, in case anything goes wrong. When informed that this does not appear possible to arrange, he states that he won’t settle for anything else other than a cash payment of an unknown amount at this time.

He simply does not want her to move. This land was reinstated over 18 months ago, and he has verbally accepted that had there been any issue it would most likely have occurred by now but is still unwilling to budge. Can anybody provide any advice or recommendations for specialists to provide a way forward with this, please?

Thank you


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land law

11:11 AM, 17th December 2021, About 2 years ago

Perhaps the buyer will be willing to complete without the sign off? Then take out insurance to guarantee the buyer rather than the leaseholder

Else they have a ransom and seem unwilling actually to agree on any terms …?

Judith Wordsworth

11:31 AM, 17th December 2021, About 2 years ago

I think you might be confusing your property terminology.
Are you saying the developer, ie the Freeholder, of the land gave verbal permission for your friend, ie the leaseholder, to put up fencing and use this strip of land? I take it this was fine after she purchased the property, and she has now removed the fencing etc.
Your friends solicitor will be able to source indemnity insurance, should be part of their job, it's not expensive in the scheme of things, and they negotiate with the buyers Conveyancers and the Freeholder.
If she hadn't reinstated the strip if land your friend may have been able to claim the land under adverse possession/or even squatters rights as use of more than 12 years. Should have consulted their solicitors before reinstating.
Why in earth would any Freeholder not want a leaseholder to sell and move, seems very unusual!


11:31 AM, 17th December 2021, About 2 years ago

If the ransom strip is outside the demised leasehold area - it's neighbouring land and thus not legally associated with the leasehold title being sold.

Leave the 'ransom strip' freeholder to sort out his own problems/needs.


11:35 AM, 17th December 2021, About 2 years ago

Try County Legal Identities always worked for me, they will speak via solicitors who can also deal with who buys it, usually the purchaser, who pays for it, usually the seller, and who can benefit from it in future.

Tim Rogers

11:57 AM, 17th December 2021, About 2 years ago

I have a vague memory that there is a quirk in English law, that if you fence in land for 12 years unopposed you can claim the title. But that may only be for land whose ownership is unclear.

Julie Harman

12:04 PM, 17th December 2021, About 2 years ago

Hi Ian. I can highly recommend that you speak to Bernie Wales about this issue. He has vast experience of all things leasehold-related. Contact him through his website.

land law

12:31 PM, 17th December 2021, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Tim Rogers at 17/12/2021 - 11:57
Alas. No longer.


19:19 PM, 17th December 2021, About 2 years ago

Adverse possession may well apply to this land.

Judith Wordsworth

8:10 AM, 18th December 2021, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by David at 17/12/2021 - 19:19
Unlikely now as leaseholder has reinstated it back to when freeholder had possession


9:39 AM, 18th December 2021, About 2 years ago

I recently had a similar situation with a strip of land adjoining my back door which we had been in posession of since the houses were built. My neighbour moved in several years later and has been living there for more than 12 years since so we have been in posession for 45 years. My solicitor claimed it back for us as "adverse possession". Speak to a solicitor specialising in this type of problem.

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