Q. I’m buying my first property and my solicitor has just sent me a cop of the Lease can you explain to me what a Lease is?

A. A lease is a contract between the leaseholder and the landlord giving conditional ownership for a fixed period of time. It is an important document and leaseholders must ensure that they have a copy and that they understand it. The wording of leases is usually in legal language and can vary from property to property. Leaseholders who find it difficult to understand their lease should get advice from their solicitor who will talk you through anything you don’t understand.

It is difficult to change the conditions of the lease after you buy, so make sure that the services provided for and the obligations imposed in the lease are those that you want or can accept.

The lease sets out the contractual obligations of the two parties: what the leaseholder has contracted to do, and what the landlord is bound to do. The leaseholder’s obligations will include payment of the ground rent (if any) and contribution to the costs of maintaining and managing the building. The lease will probably also place certain conditions on the use and occupation of the flat. The landlord will usually be required to manage and maintain the structure, exterior and common areas of the property, to collect contributions from all the leaseholders and keep the accounts.

Leaseholders are not necessarily entirely free to do whatever they want in or with the flat – the lease comes with conditions, to protect the rights of everyone with an interest in the building. For example, many leasehold properties prohibit Cats and dogs.

When a flat changes hands, the seller assigns all the rights and responsibilities of the lease to the purchaser, including any future service charges that have not yet been identified. That’s why it’s of utmost important that you instruct a qualified solicitor to act on the purchase to protect your interests.