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When owning a property, the homeowner is generally responsible for repairs that need doing to the property. However it can get confusing if your property is leasehold, such as an apartment where there is a freeholder who owns the land. If there is more than one apartment within the same building it can further complicate matters as to where responsibility lies. Usually the freeholder will need to deal with repairs to the structure of the building as well as shared or communal areas, but the leaseholder may have a legal obligation to pay towards the costs of repair. Therefore whether you already own a leasehold property or you are considering purchasing an apartment which is leasehold it is important to understand what your responsibilities may be for repairs.

If you are the leaseholder, you are usual liable for repairs to internal plumbing, appliances, floorboards, decoration such as flooring and paintwork as well as wiring and internal doors. If you think the freeholder is responsible for any repairs that need doing then you will need to write to them or get professional legal advice if you are unsure or the freeholder refuses. In a building such as a block of flats, the freeholder may be responsible for shared facilities such as heating or roofing. The freeholder is generally obliged to deal with structural problems including roofing, any communal areas including stairs or lifts and they will also need to organise insurance for the building.

If you feel there are any repairs that need doing that are the responsibility of the freeholder then it is your responsibility to contact them in writing and make them aware of the problem for them to investigate it further. It is also a good idea to come to an agreement on a timescale for the repair to be undertaken and keep a copy of any correspondence between you. Your lease will usually outline the repairs that you are responsible for, and even though the freeholder may be responsible for getting the actual repair done, you may find that you are responsible for a share of the costs or all of the costs if you own all of the homes within the building, otherwise it will be shared between other leaseholders.

In many cases, the buildings insurance will cover majority of repairs depending on their cause and what they are, but it is up to the freeholder or management of the building to establish that and organise a claim with the insurance company. If the freeholder denies responsibility and refuses to carry out repairs, then you may be able to take them to court but it is important to get legal advice first. You can also contact your local council who can arrange for Housing Standards to inspect the property and if necessary order the freeholder to carry out the work, particularly where a situation poses a health or safety risk. If the repairs still remain unfinished you could carry out the work and claim back the money from the freeholder.

by Cormac Henderson

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