Along with knotted hankies, buttered crumpets and queueing, the concept of leasehold is a quaintly English phenomenon. If in any other circumstance I offered you the opportunity to pay £1 million for something which would decline in value until it became worthless, potentially be repossessed for not paying a notional annual sum, and cost a not inconsiderable sum to upkeep in the interim, you’d probably raise a quizzical eyebrow and decline politely.
In reality of course, the leasehold sector is booming, in part due to a resistance by freeholders, developers and central government to embrace the alternatives. There are currently around 4 million leasehold properties in England and it comprises one of the principal forms of property ownership, ranging from the flat above the shop, the ex-local authority flat in a high-rise block, the Knightsbridge apartment at £10 million, and also particularly in North West England, leasehold houses.
Leasehold has its roots in the year 1066. The new King William needed a mechanism to placate the landed gentry into acquiescence, so gifted pockets of land (literally ‘holding’ the land on the monarch’s behalf) to individuals and families concerned. Carved out of these parcels of freehold land were sub-leases for farming land to tenants, which essentially continues to this day with leaseholders holding land (albeit generally now a few storeys up) for a defined period.