GUIDE TO INVESTING IN LONDON PROPERTY

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2 LAWS AND REGULATIONS Nature of Ownership There are two types of land ownership in London; freehold and leasehold. The freeholder owns the land (in some cases including the sub-soil below the land, the buildings on it, and the air above it). Leasehold ownership is limited to a period of time for which he or she will pay rent; this ownership is governed by terms in a lease or tenancy document. Examples of leasehold ownership include a tenant running a business in a retail unit within a building, or the ownership of a certain floor or flat in a building. Leaseholders pay ground rent to the freeholder. A rare third type of ownership is commonhold, which is another way of owning freehold properties with communal facilities. Land Registry Most London property is registered at a public registry known as the Land Registry. The Land Registry contains the name of the property owner, the nature of their title (leasehold or freehold), the property location, and a description of the property including the extent of the property boundary. It also includes details of rights the property owner may have over other land, and also rights enjoyed by other land owners over the property in question. The accuracy of the Land Registry is guaranteed by the Crown, and so compensation may be payable in certain circumstances if there is found to be a deficit in the register. PURCHASING PROCESS Offer Property vendors in London typically market their property with an agent, such as Estate Office, who will advertise the property and introduce it to prospective purchasers. A prospective purchaser then makes an offer for the property. This offer is not usually binding as it will be subject to contract, survey, and other issues that may need to be resolved. If the vendor is satisfied with the offer and the financial position of the prospective purchaser, the agent then draws up brief terms that govern the transaction, and both the vendor and the prospective purchaser instruct solicitors. The vendor s solicitors prepare a draft contract whilst the seller s solicitors carry out due diligence on the property. Since UK property transactions follow the caveat emptor rule (buyer beware), the prospective buyer is exposed to considerable risk and the onus is on him/her to carry out structural surveys, assess land contamination and flood risk on the site, investigate whether planning permissions have been obtained for the property, and look into the type of title to the property that will be acquired, among other searches.

3 Exchange The transaction only becomes legally binding once contracts have been exchanged, which is when the terms of the contract have been agreed and the contract signed and dated. A deposit on the property is usually payable at this time (typically 10% of the purchase price) and neither party is now able to break the contract without facing financial penalties. An exception to this rule may happen if the contract has conditional clauses (when the operative terms of the contract don t take effect until after a conditional event). However, it is generally accepted that the exchange of contracts is the point at which both the vendor and the purchaser become irrevocably bound. Completion Completion of the transaction occurs on a date as agreed in the contract when the remainder of the purchase price is paid by the purchaser, and the formal documents are completed for the transfer of the ownership of the property from vendor to purchaser. The legal title is finalised once the purchaser has completed registration at the Land Registry, which is also the point at which Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is payable. There is a land registration fee that is payable when purchasing a property, in addition to legal fees and the cost of surveys and searches carried out before exchange. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) SDLT is calculated as a percentage of the purchase price of the property, and varies according to whether the property is residential or commercial. If the property transaction is the grant of a leasehold, the total rent payable also attracts a Stamp Duty liability at 1% of the net present value of rent (if over 125,000 for residential properties and if over 150,000 for non-residential or mixeduse properties), to be met by the tenant. Residential land or property SDLT rates as of August 2013: Purchase price/lease premium or transfer value SDLT rate 0 up to 125,000 - Over 125,000 up to 250,000 1% Over 250,000 to 500,000 3% Over 500,000 to 1 million 4% Over 1 million to 2 million 5% Over 2 million 7% Over 2 million (purchased by certain persons 15% including corporate bodies) Non-residential or mixed-use land or property SDLT rates as of August 2013: Purchase price/lease premium or transfer value SDLT rate Up to 150,000 annual rent is under 1,000 - Up to 150,000 annual rent is 1,000 or more 1% Over 150,000 to 250,000 1% Over 250,000 to 500,000 3% Over 500,000 4%

4 PROPERTY INVESTMENT In the UK, properties can be acquired by bodies or individuals. Property investors that are looking for a long-term return on their investment often rent the property to tenants under leases that often include the following terms: Permitted use Leases usually provide that a tenant can only use the property for a particular type of use (for example, as a residential dwelling, as a shop, or as a restaurant). However, a change of use is sometimes permitted with the landlord s consent. Rent deposits A deposit can be held by the landlord as security for the tenant to comply with the lease obligations. Tenant deposits for nonresidential properties are typically an amount equivalent to 3-12 months rent and can be drawn on if the tenant defaults on rent payments. Tenant deposits for residential properties are typically an amount equal to 6 weeks rent. Currently, commercial deposits must be registered as a charge against a company tenant at Companies House, so that the landlord is entitled to the deposit money if the tenant becomes insolvent. Break clauses Both tenant and landlord break clauses can exist in UK property leases, and can be for the benefit of either or both parties. Break dates can be set whereby the lease will end by the party exercising the clause, although appropriate notice and any other preconditions must be complied with. Break dates tend to coincide with rent review dates. Rent reviews In the UK, property leases can include a rent review to ensure that the landlord/property investor can benefit from increases in property values during the lease term. Rent reviews usually occur every 5 years, and are typically upward only, meaning that the rent becomes the higher of either the current rent and the open market rent expected at the review date. The way open market rent is calculated should be set out in the lease terms. Repair Commercial tenants are usually responsible for repairs for the internal skin and the services that exclusively serve the leased premises. Landlords are responsible for cleaning and repairing the building s structure, the exterior, and any common parts and services. These costs are usually recovered from the tenants through an annual service charge. Residential tenants are responsible for repairing damages they have caused, and for returning the property in the same condition they received it in (except for reasonable wear and tear). Landlords are responsible for all other repairs to their residential properties.

5 Alterations and reinstatement Structural alterations and major external alterations undertaken by tenants are typically prohibited by landlords in the UK. Lease terms may permit non-structural alterations, usually with a requirement that the tenant must obtain the landlord s consent. It is common for landlords to require tenants to remove their alterations and to reinstate the property to its original condition at the end of the lease term. Insurance Landlords insure their buildings against a number of insured risks and the loss of rent. Commercial tenants meet the cost of insurance through the service charge, or through a separate item of rent in the lease agreement. In the event that the building is damaged/destroyed by an insured risk, the landlord will be responsible for reinstating the property, and will suspend rent payments whilst the tenant is unable to use the property. Contents insurance is the responsibility of tenants. Leases can also be set up whereby the tenant is responsible for repair and/or insurance. This type of lease is often called an FRI lease (fully repairing and insuring). Alienation Leases usually provide that lease transfers to a different tenant (assignments) or underletting can only take place with the consent of the landlord. Complex statutes govern the landlord s control in this area, but in effect, the landlord s consent to assignment and underletting can t be unreasonably withheld or delayed. The potential assignee s ability to pay the rent is usually seen as a reasonable concern and can be used as a basis to refuse an assignment. When transferring the lease to a new assignee, the outgoing tenant is usually required to act as guarantor for the new incoming tenant; this agreement is known as an authorised guarantee agreement (AGA). The 1954 Act The 1954 Landlord and Tenant Act provides business tenants with security of tenure. This Act allows the business tenant to insist on a new lease at the end of the term, unless the landlord has grounds to require the premises. If the landlord does have grounds to require the premises, compensation may be payable. It is possible to contract out of the 1954 Act, but this is more likely to happen with short terms leases or leases of part over long term leases or leases of whole.

6 TAXATION In addition to Stamp Duty, there are three other major taxes that affect overseas investors in London. Please note that we are not regulated by the Financial Services Authority and specialist advice on tax matters should be sought by the investor. Capital gains tax This is payable by an owner when a financial gain is made on the disposal of a property. Capital gains tax is not charged to overseas investors in the UK, making London an attractive property investment market. This tax may, however, be charged in an investor s home country. Income tax This is payable in respect of the rental income an investor may receive from tenants. Deductions are available, including some forms of finance, repairs expenditure, and other costs. Overseas landlords apply for authority from HM Revenue and Customs (HRMC) to enable their tenants to pay rent gross; if they do not apply for this authority, the tenant would have to deduct tax. This authority is routinely given to overseas landlords undertaking UK tax return filing. Value Added Tax (VAT) This is a form of turnover tax, and the current rate is 20%. Many commercial and residential sales and lettings are exempt from or outside the scope of VAT, although there are a few exceptions. INVESTMENT VEHICLES The most straightforward way for an overseas investor to enter the London property market is to purchase the property in his or her own way following standard procedures. However, overseas investors can also hold properties indirectly through interests in a number of different investment vehicles, such as units in a unit trust or shares in a company set up to hold the investment. These more complicated investment structures are tax driven and specialist advice needs to be taken. This information is intended to provide a brief guide to property in England and Wales for overseas investors and does not extend to Scotland, where real estate laws are different. The information does not constitute any form of offer, investment advice, or an invitation to invest. Estate Office Investments Limited makes every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information provided herein. However as price indicators, dates, conditions and information are continually changing, Estate Office Investments Limited reserves the right to change at any time without notice and makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy of the information. The information contained herein is provided with no express or implied warranty and Estate Office Investments Limited accepts no liability or responsibility for any errors and/or omissions and/or for damages as a result of relying on this information. This information is not a substitute for detailed advice on specific transactions and should not be taken as providing legal or investment advice on any of the topics discussed.

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