The entire leasehold extension process normally takes from three to twelve months but it can be made quicker with professional help from efficient valuers and solicitors. The first thing to establish is that you are eligible for an extension. There are a number of criteria but it is generally possible if you have been a legal owner of the property for two or more years. Once you are sure of this, it is well worth your time and money to carefully research and choose the best people for the job. Specialist leasehold services lawyers can advise you on all aspects of the process, including eligibility.
The first priority is to find out who has an interest in the property and in particular who the competent landlord is. It is up to you or your solicitor to serve a section 41 Information Notice for this purpose to which your landlord must respond within 28 days. You can make an informal offer with or without this information but the formal section 42 Tenant's Notice must be correct otherwise you will incur court costs if you need to amend it later on. If the landlord rejects your informal offer and your solicitor serves the section 42 Tenant's Notice with a formal offer, the leasehold extension process formally begins.
The ‘valuation date’ is set on the date which the section 42 Tenant's Notice is served. The landlord can then ask you for information within 21 days of receiving your notice which you must provide within 21 days. Note that the landlord is entitled at any time after receipt of the Tenant's Notice to require the payment of a deposit. This may be 10 per cent of the premium proposed in the Tenant's Notice or £250, whichever is the greater.
If the landlord serves a Counter-Notice they must do so before the date set out in the Tenant's Notice. The negotiation period must run for minimum period of two months from the date when the Tenant's Notice is served on the landlord. If no Counter-Notice is served by the date specified in your notice, you can make an application to the court for a vesting order to enable the court to grant the lease extension but this must be done within six months.
Involvement of the courts
Once the Counter-Notice has been served you or your landlord may apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) to settle the matter. This must be done within two and six months from the date when Tenant's Notice was served.
After 28 days the Property Chamber decision will become final. With the leave of the Tribunal one can appeal within this period to the Lands Tribunal. After the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) decision has been reached, the landlord is under an obligation to produce a draft lease within 14 days. The new lease must be entered into within two months after decision is finalised.
If this period elapses without entry into new lease, then you must apply to court within a further two months requiring the landlord to meet their obligations. It is recommended that you do a cost-benefit analysis before proceeding with this as neither parties will be able to recover costs, hence it should only be considered as a last resort.
The timetable for lease extension will depend on the individual circumstances and there are various deadlines that must be met to avoid complicating or frustrating the process. It is therefore advisable to seek the help of a professional before you proceed.