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What is a Flying Freehold?

Emma Lunn

Written by

26th Jul 2021 (Last updated on 17th Dec 2021) 6 minute read

When you buy a property, it will usually be either freehold or leasehold.

Freehold means you own both the property and the land it stands on. It’s ‘free from hold’ from any third party forever. With a leasehold property you have the right to live in the property for a set amount of time, while the building and land it stands on are owned by a freeholder.

In general, most houses are freehold, and flats are leasehold.

So, what is a flying freehold? This term is used to describe a property where part of the building lies over, or under, a part of another freehold property. This might be because a property overhangs, extends, or protrudes onto another freehold property or land. Hence the ‘flying’ part of the name.

Flying freeholds are most common where an old building has been converted into a number of smaller freehold properties. It can also be the case with maisonettes (a flat with its own outside entrance).

This article will cover the following:
  1. What Does ‘Flying Freehold’ Mean?
  2. What is a Creeping Freehold?
  3. What is the Difference Between Freehold and Flying Freehold?
  4. What are the Legal Implications of Flying Freehold?
  5. Is Flying Freehold a Problem?
  6. Indemnity Insurance for a Flying Freehold
  7. What is a Deed of Covenant?
  8. Getting a Mortgage For a Flying Freehold
  9. Selling a Home With a Flying Freehold
  10. Buying a House With a Flying Freehold
  11. Learn More About Conveyancing

What Does ‘Flying Freehold’ Mean?

Common scenarios of flying freeholds include semi-detached or terraced houses where the dividing line between two neighbouring properties isn’t straight down the middle from top to bottom.

For example, a room in one property might be situated above a room belonging to the neighbouring property. In some cases, part of a property may extend over a neighbour’s garage. With some terraced properties, there might be a flying freehold over a shared passageway, archway or alley.

What is a Creeping Freehold?

Some houses may have basements or cellars that go underneath neighbouring properties. In this scenario the owner of the property with the cellar has a ‘creeping freehold’, while the property above the cellar has a flying freehold.

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What is the Difference Between Freehold and Flying Freehold?

With freehold property or land, there is a presumption that it includes the surface and everything below and above it – e.g. land below the property and the airspace above it. But with a flying freehold, part of a property overhangs or lies beneath another property.

If you own a freehold property, you alone will be responsible for its maintenance and repairs. How neighbouring properties are maintained, and their structure, doesn’t matter. This makes freehold fairly straightforward from a maintenance point of view.

But with a flying freehold, your property may be dependent on the neighbouring property for structure and support. If the neighbouring property isn’t maintained adequately, it may affect the structure of your property.

The deeds of a property should say if a flying freehold applies.

What are the Legal Implications of Flying Freehold?

Ideally, where a flying freehold exists, the owners of both properties will be obligated to each other to maintain and insure their part of the property to ensure consistency.

A conveyancer may raise concerns if there is a lack of positive covenant enforcement one freeholder may have over another. ‘Positive’ covenants are terms in a property’s deeds which require financial responsibility or the carrying out of a set action – e.g. the maintenance of a particular part of a building.

Issues with flying freeholds typically arise when one property is being renovated and the two owners can’t agree on the work that needs to be carried out. For example, one owner might refuse access to their property which prevents work being done on the neighbouring property.

With some flying freeholds there might be a grey area when it comes to who is responsible for the maintenance of the flying freehold section of the property. For example, a leaking roof on the overlying property could impact the underlying property.

In reality, although homebuyers should be aware of potential issues with flying freeholds, very few homeowners will let their properties fall into a state of serious disrepair.

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Is Flying Freehold a Problem?

Flying and creeping freeholds are not always a problem. Whether issues will arise or not depends on the relationship between the neighbouring freehold owners and, if you’re buying the property with a mortgage, the attitude of the mortgage lender.

A flying or creeping freehold won’t necessarily be a problem if the property benefits from adequate rights of support, rights of shelter, and rights of access.

Rights of support relate to the higher property having the right to structural support from the property below. Rights of shelter work the other way – the higher property shelters the lower property. Without the right of support or shelter, the other property owner could theoretically demolish their building without any thought for yours.

Rights of access relate to when you need access to the neighbouring property to carry out repairs to your own. Without the right to access, you’d need consent from the owner to enter their property to do any necessary work on your own home.

If a flying freehold property doesn’t benefit from rights of support, shelter, or access there are certain legal remedies your conveyancing solicitor might suggest. These include purchasing indemnity insurance or entering into a ‘deed of covenant’.

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Indemnity Insurance for a Flying Freehold

If a flying freehold doesn’t benefit from rights of support, shelter, or access, there might be the option to buy flying freehold indemnity insurance. This will cover the inability to force your neighbour to repair for the support and protection of your property. This includes where the adjoining premises are uninsured or under-insured.

Indemnity insurance will probably cost a few hundred pounds and is normally the easiest option. However, indemnity insurance doesn’t rectify the deeds or allow you to force your neighbour to carry out work pre-emptively to protect your property.

What is a Deed of Covenant?

A deed of covenant is often the best solution for flying freeholds, although it can be expensive and requires cooperation and agreement with the owner of the neighbouring property. A deed of covenant would ensure the correct rights and covenants are granted and noted on the property title and those of the other property too.

Getting a Mortgage For a Flying Freehold

You can normally get a mortgage on a flying freehold – but it might not be straightforward.

Some mortgage lenders will reject all flying freeholds, but the majority will look at flying freeholds on a case-by-case basis. Each will have different lending criteria. For example, a lender might stipulate that the ‘flying’ element of the property falls below a certain percentage of the overall property.

Alternatively, to grant a flying freehold mortgage a lender might insist that positive covenants or rights to support, shelter and access are in place. Some lenders will want indemnity insurance, while others won’t accept this.

If you’re using a mortgage to buy a property with a flying freehold, you should ask your lender its stance on flying freeholds before you start paying out other fees such as surveys and conveyancing.

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Selling a Home With a Flying Freehold

The main issue when selling a home with a flying freehold is whether potential buyers can get a mortgage on the property. It’s best to tell prospective buyers about the flying freehold as early as possible in the process as this will enable them to find a lender happy to lend on a flying freehold – rather than wasting time applying to lenders which will refuse.

Buying a House With a Flying Freehold

If you need a mortgage to buy a property with a flying freehold, you might find you have a limited choice of mortgage lenders. As said above, different lenders will have different approaches to flying freeholds.

If you’re buying a property with cash, then a flying freehold won’t be a problem. However, if a mortgage lender doesn’t consider a property sufficient security for a mortgage because of the flying freehold, then you should consider whether this is really the right property to invest in.

Learn More About Conveyancing

This has been part of our conveyancing guide. In the next guide, we look at DIY conveyancing. To find out more, read can you do your own conveyancing.

Emma Lunn

Written by Emma Lunn

Freelance Personal Finance Journalist,

Emma Lunn is an award-winning journalist who specialises in personal finance, consumer issues and property.

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