Leaseholder Information

This page is for existing leaseholders and shared owners to provide you with some useful information about being a shared owner. 

Click here to view our homeowner handbook and find out more about how to become a leaseholder.

Click here to see the Home Owners Customer Charter.

Sections include:

Buildings Insurance
What the insurance covers
How to make a claim
Contents Insurance
What is a lease?
Please remember
How will my rent increase?
How do I pay my rent?
Who is responsible for arranging, and paying for, utility supplies and council tax?
Can I buy my home outright?
Will I benefit from any increase in value if I sell?
Can I pass on my lease?
Can I have a lodger or sublet my home?
Can I remortgage my home?
How do I add a name to a lease or remove one?
Can I alter or improve my home?
Who’s responsible for repairing my home?
What happens if I can’t pay my rent or mortgage?
Buying more shares
The staircasing process
We suggest you check the following before you decide to buy extra shares
Selling your share
Confirmation to go ahead
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
Choosing a suitable buyer
Legal process
Exchanging contracts
Completing the sale
Getting you involved

Buildings Insurance

As the landlord and freeholder of most of our leaseholder or shared owner properties we are responsible for arranging the buildings insurance for your home. We do this by negotiating premiums that are usually lower than can be achieved by private home owners.

As per the terms of your lease you are obliged to accept our buildings insurance cover.

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What the insurance covers

The buildings insurance we take out on your behalf covers the structure of the buildings and includes fixtures and fittings (such as bathroom fittings and fitted kitchens).

It also covers improvements to the property. You should get our permission before you make any improvements such as extensions or they may not be covered by the insurance.

Under the lease, we will normally need to take out insurance for the building and the shared parts, even if the property is a single leasehold house.
It does not cover damage to boundary fences or the contents of your property.

It is illegal to insure the same property through more than one policy.

Under the terms of the policy we arrange, there may be an excess premium to be paid. If the claim is in respect of a communal area then the excess premium is charged to the service charge account.

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How to make a claim

You must contact the insurance provider directly.

In an emergency, they will arrange for a skilled tradesperson to visit you as soon as possible to provide emergency help. You will need to pay for any work and then claim it back from the insurance provider.

If the work is covered by the insurance, the insurance provider will pay you back, minus the amount of your policy excess, as shown in your ‘summary of cover’.
In the event of a claim please contact Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited, 27 - 30 Railway Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1QS. Telephone 01245 341 200.

You can find a copy of the insurance cover here.

Or please contact us and ask for a printed copy.

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Contents Insurance

It is important for you to be aware that the buildings insurance policy does not provide insurance cover for your personal possessions. You are responsible for insuring the contents of your home.

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What is a lease?

Your lease is the formal legal contract between you and OCHA or Westlea, setting out your rights and responsibilities. If there is a problem or disagreement, the lease should help you to settle it.

Your mortgage lender and solicitor have copies of your lease and your solicitor should have given you a copy when you bought your home.

If you are the first person to buy your home, the lease will usually be for 99 years. If you have bought your home from another leaseholder, you will take over the number of years left on the lease.

If you live in a flat and then buy it, you are still a leaseholder. If you buy your house, you will usually become a freeholder, which means you own the building and the land it is on.

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Please remember

If you paid a service charge before you owned your home, you will to do so.

Your lease will include:

  • a description of your home and will explain the boundaries and areas you are responsible for;
  • the amount of rent you must pay at the start of the lease;
  • information on how we work out your rent;
  • information on how you can buy more shares in your home or sell your home;
  • an explanation of your and our rights and responsibilities under the lease; and
  • information on who is responsible for paying service charges.

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How will my rent increase?

We will review your rent once a yearand all increases start from 1 April. We’ll write to you to tell you the new amount.

The Government strictly controls the amount that social-housing rents can increase by. The formula we use for increasing your rent is based on the retail price index (a standard way of measuring inflation) plus 0.5%.

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How do I pay my rent?

You will pay your rent by direct debit or standing order on the first day of each month, in line with your lease. Direct debit is the easiest way to pay your rent, but if you want to pay another way, you must agree this with us.

Who is responsible for arranging, and paying for, utility supplies and council tax?

If you are the first person to live in a new home, we will tell the utility companies (gas, electricity, and water) the meter readings on the date your sale is completed and pay the bills up to that point. It’s then your responsibility to set up your accounts with suppliers.

You don’t have to stay with the original supplier if you think you can get a better deal elsewhere.

You are also responsible for setting up your council-tax account with the local council.

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Can I buy my home outright?

Most leaseholders can buy their homes outright. There are some exceptions, for example in rural areas. We will have told you about this when you first bought your property, but please check if necessary.

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Will I benefit from any increase in value if I sell?

Yes. But it is important to remember that property prices can go down as well as up.

For example, if you paid £40,000 for a 25% share of a £160,000 property and the property increases in value to £180,000, your 25% share will increase to £45,000. But, if the property goes down in value to £140,000, your share will be worth only £35,000.

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Can I pass on my lease?

The normal rules about inheritance apply whether you make a will or die without one. The person who inherits your lease must keep to the same conditions as you do. If you want to make a will, it’s best to talk to a solicitor.

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Can I have a lodger or sublet my home?

Your lease does not allow you to sublet or rent out your home, but you can rent out a room if you are living in the property.

You can’t give your lodger a tenancy agreement because that will give them rights that you are not allowed to give as a leaseholder.

If you want to take in a lodger, please tell us. You may also need to get your mortgage lender’s permission. Because you are receiving extra income, you must tell your local tax office and council-tax office, plus any benefits office you deal with.

In certain circumstances, we may give you written permission for you to sublet the whole of your home.

Please remember that if you sublet your home without our permission, you will be breaking your leaseand we could take legal action against you if you do this.

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Can I remortgage my home?

When you first bought your home, we approved your mortgage. If you want to change your mortgage, you must ask for our permission and give us a copy of your revised mortgage offer.

The amount of your new mortgage cannot be more than the value of your share in your home and the conditions will need to be the same.

Also, you cannot take out a loan using your home as security while you are a leaseholder, unless you own 100% of your home.

We can allow you to take out more loans in certain circumstances.

For more information, please contact the Homeownership Team

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How do I add a name to a lease or remove one?

If you want to add someone to your lease, you will need to hire a solicitor and make sure they tell us when the process is finished.

If a relationship breaks down, you may want to transfer your lease into just one name.

We will need to agree this and the other leaseholder must tell us in writing that they have given you permission to do this.

You need to hire a solicitor to do this.

If you would like to discuss this further, please contact your Customer Manager or leasehold customer services advisor.

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Can I alter or improve my home?

You must get our written permission before you make alterations or improvements to your home, if these are not routine decoration and improvements. We won’t unreasonably refuse to give you our permission.

For example, you need to contact us if you plan to:

  • build a conservatory or extension; or
  • change the heating, electrics, windows or outside of the building (including painting your front door).

You may also need to get planning permission or building regulations approval before you make any changes, and there may be extra rules if you live in a conservation area.

These changes include adding a structure to your house, such as a conservatory or an extension.

Before we give our permission, we will need to see copies of any letters you receive from your local council giving you permission, or saying that you do not need approval.

If you live in a flat, please make sure you ask your Customer Manager or leasehold customer services advisor for advice before you fit a wooden or laminate floor, as there may be restrictions to make sure this doesn’t cause a noise problem for your neighbours.

You may also need planning permission if you would like to fit a satellite dish to a block of flats (this also applies to houses).

If GreenSquare doesn’t manage your flat, you’ll need to consult the management company.

First, please write to your Customer Manager or leasehold customer services advisor with details of what you would like to do. If you are not sure whether you need permission or what details you need to give, please ask.

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Who’s responsible for repairing my home?

If you are the first person to move into a newly built property, there is a 12-month defect period covered by the builder. This 12-month defect period is from the time we bought the property from the builder, not when you bought the property from us. We will tell you about this at your interview. The builder will put right any items agreed as faults during this time. The builder will also arrange with you at the end of the 12 months to make sure there are no outstanding repairs needed. You will also have a 10-year warranty with the National House-Building Council (NHBC) for all new properties.
Like any other homeowner, you are responsible for repairs and maintenance.

Your rights and responsibilities and those of GreenSquare are explained in the shared-ownership lease you signed when you bought your home. From our experience, a number of shared owners are not familiar with the conditions of their lease (your solicitor should have explained your lease to you properly).

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What happens if I can’t pay my rent or mortgage?

You are responsible for paying your mortgage, and you must speak to your lender if you are having problems paying. If you fall behind with your mortgage, your bank or building society can repossess your home and evict you.

By law you must pay your rent to OCHA or Westlea. If you do not pay your rent, we can also repossess your home and evict you.

If you are having money problems, it is very important that you talk to us and your mortgage lender as soon as possible – before you fall behind with your rent.

Our staff will do everything they can to help you and make sure you get the right financial advice.

You may be able to claim for help towards your mortgage interest payments and council tax. For more information, go to www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk.

You may also want to talk to your local citizens advice bureau. They will have the latest up-to-date information.

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Buying more shares

You can usually buy more shares in your property. This process is called ‘staircasing’, but you should check with us whether there are any restrictions. For example, in some rural schemes you can’t buy more than a certain percentage of the property (usually 80%). This will be because there is a shortage of shared-ownership housing in the area and the local authority wants to make sure that your home always stays as a shared-ownership property.

If you are not buying a brand-new property, you may not be able to buy more shares until three months after you have bought your first share.

You can staircase up to three times after you buy your first share. You must buy a minimum of 10% each time, and in 5% units, for example 10%, 15%, 20% and so on.

If you have bought a property that is not brand new, you will need to check if any previous owners have staircased, as you can only staircase three times for each property.

If any previous owners have staircased once before, you may only staircase another two times.

Staircasing reduces your rent as you only pay rent on the percentage of the property you don’t own.

Your lease explains how to buy more shares. If you don’t have a copy of this, you can get one from the solicitor who helped you buy your first share.

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The staircasing process

  • When you staircase, you buy the extra share in the property at the property’s market value.
  • If you own less than 100% of the property, your rent goes down because you no longer pay rent on the extra share you buy.
  • If you staircase and own 100% of the property, you will no longer pay us rent. However, if you pay a service charge, you will continue to pay this.
  • We will ask a qualified valuer who is registered with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers (ISVA) to independently assess the current market value of your property. We will ignore any improvements or repairs that are needed and which affect the value of the property. You will be responsible for paying the valuer, even if you decide not to go ahead. We can’t accept valuations from estate agents.
  • You will need to fill in a valuation form and give us a cheque for the fee before the valuation can go ahead.
  • If you are buying more shares, the valuation will not take into account any extra value you’ve added to your home, for example by building a conservatory. The cost of your extra shares is based on what the property would have been worth if it hadn’t been improved.
  • We’ll tell you the valuation result and, if you decide to go ahead, we’ll contact your solicitor to get things moving. You will have to pay your own legal costs, any costs associated with your mortgage, and any of our legal fees.
  • If you are staircasing so you own 100% of the property, we do not need to approve your new mortgage. In all other cases, we do need to approve the mortgage because you are not allowed to borrow more than the total value of the share you want to own.

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We suggest you check the following before you decide to buy extra shares.

  • Check that your mortgage lender will be able to give you what you need – they may not be willing to lend you the full amount.
  • Make sure you have enough savings to cover any further valuation carried out by the mortgage lender, as well as your legal costs, including any extra stamp duty you may have to pay. Solicitors’ fees can vary depending on whether you are buying a full part or part of a share, or whether you are increasing your existing mortgage or taking out a new one, so it’s best to get a quote first.
  • You may also want to consider extra mortgage protection cover that will pay your mortgage if you are not able to work.

If you do not have mortgage protection cover, you may be able to claim benefits to help you pay the interest payments on your mortgage (not the full amount you have borrowed). You will be able to do this after you have been unemployed for three months and you are receiving income-based benefits.

There is no time limit on buying more shares, and if you do not want to buy any more shares, you do not have to.

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Selling your share

The lease says that if you decide to sell your home, GreenSquare has the right to choose a buyer from the local-authority waiting list. As most applicants are first-time buyers, there are usually no chains.

If you are thinking of selling your share, please contact your marketing and sales team and the will be able to help you. We will send you some notes about selling your share, and a valuation form which you should fill in and return to us if you decide to go ahead. You must also pay us for the valuation at this stage, but we cannot refund this after the valuation has taken place.

You can choose your own valuer, if you decide not to use one of the valuers on our list, but they must be registered with RICS or ISVA. You must then send us a copy of the valuation report.

Once we receive your instruction for the valuation and your payment, we will tell your chosen valuer. They will contact you to arrange a suitable time to visit your property.

Once the valuer has carried out the survey, they will send us the valuation report, and we will send you a copy with details of the share value and the costs involved. The valuation is valid for three months and is the maximum full market value you can sell your property for.

How much you get will depend on the share you are selling. For example, assume you paid £45,000 for a 50% share in a property valued at £90,000. Your home is now worth £160,000, so your share will be worth £80,000 (take away any mortgage you have left to pay).

However, if you bought your home when prices were high, the value of your share may be lower than what you paid for it. If so, you may owe your mortgage lender more than the amount you sell your share for and you will have to find the money to pay off the difference (the shortfall).

If you think there is going to be a shortfall, you must check with your mortgage lender. They may not allow you to sell your share if the amount you get for it isn’t enough to pay off your mortgage.

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Confirmation to go ahead

If after the valuation you decide to go ahead and sell your property, we will ask you to confirm this in writing and get an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

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Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

An EPC is a certificate which shows how energy efficient a property is. By law you must have asked a company to produce an EPC before we can find you a buyer. The EPC must be available within 28 days of the first day of marketing (when we contact people who may be interested in buying your property).

You can arrange the EPCor we can arrange it on your behalf. You must pay for the EPC. If we arrange the EPC for you, the company will contact you to arrange for you to pay them.

If you bought your home after June 2007, you may already have an EPC as part of the sales pack for your property. The EPC is valid for 10 years.

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Choosing a suitable buyer

Once you’ve told us you want to go ahead and you have an EPC, we’ll put together a shortlist of suitable applicants who are registered with the ‘zone agent’ (see below) or the local authority. Depending on your lease, we have up to six to eight weeks to find you a buyer from the date you tell us you want to go ahead.

The zone agent holds the database of all applicants looking for shared ownership in your area.

We’ll arrange for the applicant at the top of the list to view your property. We’ll check their financial situation and we will also check whether they are eligible for shared ownership and meet the local connection conditions for your property if needed (for example they live or work in the area or have family from the area).

If the first applicant isn’t able to go ahead, we’ll move down the list until we find a suitable buyer.

Once we have found a suitable applicant, we’ll tell the solicitors involved.

If we are not able to find you a buyer, you will be free to go on the open market with an estate agent of your choice. Estate agents will charge you a fee for their service.

You will not be able to sell for more than your share is worth, for example you cannot sell the property for more than the valuer said it was worth.

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Legal process

When you bought the first share in your current home, your solicitor should have given you a copy of your lease.

It’s important to use a solicitor when you sell your home, preferably one who has experience of sharedownership properties.

The solicitor who helped you buy your property could be the best choice, as they will have records of when you first bought your home.

The legal process normally takes two to three months, about the same time as selling on the open market. However, this is only a guide as there can be delays. Your solicitor will be able to tell you the costs involved in selling your home.

Early on in the process the buyer’s mortgage lender will need to value your home again when they apply for a mortgage.

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Exchanging contracts

The ‘completion date’ is when you move out and the new buyer moves in. You will agree the completion date when you exchange contracts. Exchanging contracts is legally binding and you are not able to back out of the sale after this point.

Your solicitor will receive a completion statement from our solicitors. This explains the costs and charges you owe us, and will include an administration fee.

This statement will also include any rent, services charges, recharges (such as work that OCHA has carried out and you need to pay for) and insurance you owe us up to the day the sale is completed. Your solicitor will take this amount out of the money you receive for selling your home.

It is important that you are clear from the start about the costs involved in selling your home. We are happy to provide more information on approximate costs.

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Completing the sale

The sale is usually finalised around midday on the completion date. At that point the buyers can collect the keys. We’ll make arrangements about handing over the keys.

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Getting you involved

We are committed to working with our residents and making sure your views and needs influence the way we provide our services.

We know that people prefer to get involved in different ways and have different amounts of time available. We have worked with our residents to develop a range of ways you can get involved and we hope at least one of these will suit you.

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