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Ownership in the UK
Property law in the UK is not as simple as in France. That's why you have to be extremely cautious.
In fact there are two main types of property : freehold and leasehold properties.
This is the most simple type of property: A freehold gives ownership of the land and anybuilding that is built on it (like in France). You will be able to live in your property for as long as you please and enjoy it as you like. Nevertheless you may need permission to make structural changes especially if you purchase old and listed buildings or if you are in a conservation area.
Most houses are sold freehold.
You could also have heard about "Flying Freehold" and wonder this strange idiom mean. In fact, this is as common as regular freehold. It is the part of a freehold property which is built above a part of someone else's freehold property or above a common part. For instance a balcony above someone else's freehold land or semi-detached houses with a room over a common passage. Flying freeholds are kind of grey area as far as the law is concerned. That's why obtaining loans to buy this type of property can sometime be quite difficult. If you are interested in this kind of purchase, consult a specialist property solicitor.
This type of property is harder to understand. If you purchase one, you are actually buying the rights to live in it for a set number of years but neither the property itself nor the land it is built on is yours. You are a leaseholder and that means that you have to pay ground rents to the freeholder. It could seem just like renting but ground rents are often ridiculous. It is important to calculate all the costs before purchasing this type of property. Abuses occur frequently. Moreover, it is a fixed-term contract and you have to find out how long the lease is for. Most of leases are 99 years or more, and once this period expires the property is given back to the landowner. Generally experts advise not to buy one if the lease is less than 75 years. However leases could be extended and the leaseholder could easily purchase the freehold.
Most of flats are sold leasehold but in London many houses too.
Since the end of 2004 a new kind of property exists, the "Commonhold Property". This eradicates the notion of lease and landlord. In fact, there is no more overall landlord. Some people own a block of flats, together they create an association called a "common association" which will be the "new freehold owner". This type has many advantages : there is no set period because when you buy a commonhold property, you purchase a part of the freehold and so the property will not loose value. Few properties are commonhold.