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A flat means that two or more individual homes are part of a single building. They may have been purpose-built, in which case they should be highly mortgagable, or converted from a large building – in which case you will need to take special advice about the mortgage potential. Upkeep of the common parts of the building – for example – the hallway, staircases, etc. is usually the joint responsibility of all the occupiers and maybe handled by a firm of management agents.

Technically a maisonette is a flat which has its own independent outside door and no internal areas which are shared responsibility. A common misconception is to think of a maisonette as a flat on two floors. This is incorrect, one can have a one-floor maisonette, and a flat (or an apartment) on two or more floors. In both cases there will be certain external maintenance agreements shared with other nearby owners, various easements and covenants, but your solicitor will explain the implications of these.

Flats are usually leasehold. Various attempts have been made to achieve ‘freehold’ flats and there are a few around however we suggest you talk to your solicitor about these at the outset –as some schemes work better than others. In due course leasehold law will be modernised – and replaced by ‘commonhold’ which is sometimes called strata title. That said, a soundly drawn long-term lease need be no more trouble than a freehold.

Incidentally an apartment is an expression which can mean either a flat or a maisonette. A one-bedroom flat will have a separate bedroom and living room while a bed-sitter will only have a single dual-purpose room.

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