For a leaseholder to seek an extension under the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (“The 1993 Act”) it is still necessary to have owned the lease for a period of two years.
Whilst various amendments have been made to the 1993 Act (under the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002) the requirement to have owned the lease for a continuous period of two years still remains. This is important particularly for people buying a lease where the term is getting close to only having 80 years remaining. You should remember that if the term falls to 80 years or less then the freeholder will be entitled to receive 50% of any marriage value which exists. In respect of many leases this means that the premium payable will be significantly higher than if a lease extension was obtained before the term fell to less than 80 years.
So the Leaseholder must have been a qualifying tenant for at least two years under section 39(2) of the 1993 Act. The period of ownership is calculated going backwards form the date of service of the Notice of Claim under section 42 of the 1993 Act. The period must be continuous but you can rely upon periods where the leaseholder has been a joint owner for calculating the 2 year period. Also it seems that provided you have owned the same flat it does not matter that you have been granted a new lease of that flat. It is the period of ownership of the premises which is crucial. This does mean that if a Leaseholder has acquired a new lease under the Act they would not need to wait a further 2 years before applying again for an extension (if you wanted to!).
It is however the case that the 2 year period will only start from the date of registration at the Land Registry as under section 22(1) of the Land Registration Act 1925 (and subsequent amendments) and various authorities it is believed that the Leaseholder only becomes the legal owner of the lease upon registration. Leaseholders and their conveyancers need to be aware of this point as sometimes registration can take some time and certainly should not be overlooked. In an unreported case in Central London County Court (Wellcome Trust Limited v. Baulackey 2009) the Court determined that the purchaser of a lease was not entitled to serve a Notice under section 42 of the 1993 Act until they had been registered as proprietor for at least 2 years.
As a result if you are looking at buying a lease with say only 83 years remaining consideration should be given to having the outgoing Leaseholder serve a Notice (assuming they have a 2 year qualification) which can then be assigned. Whilst incurring further costs at the time of purchase (which many Buyers wish to avoid) in the long run it can save substantial costs. It is also worth noting that some Freeholders will grant voluntary terms or agree an extension even if the criteria for qualification are not made out although often at a price!
Yet a further point which advisers serving Notices of Claim and those advising on receipt of the same need to be alive to. Yet a further example of the pitfalls within the 1993 Act!