In England and Wales, there are two ways to own a property:

  1. Freehold ownership (also known as a freehold title or interest)

  2. Leasehold ownership (also known as a leasehold title or interest)

Both freehold and leasehold titles can be owned by individuals or by companies.


The freeholder owns the freehold title to that land and any buildings i.e property on it. The freeholder is the ultimate owner of the land and any property on it. The freeholder generally has complete control over their property (subject to laws and planning restrictions).

Most individuals who own and occupy their house own the freehold title to that house, and are therefore the freeholder of that property. They have control over the property and have sole responsibility for repairing, maintaining and insuring it etc. They have control as to whether they want to sell the property and when to do this.


A freeholder can grant a lease to another person (the leaseholder, also known as the tenant), allowing them to use and possess their property, or part of it, for an agreed period of time. In doing this, the freeholder becomes the landlord. During the agreed period, the leaseholder owns part of the land and the buildings on it, sharing this ownership with the freeholder.

A lease is a contract between freeholder and leaseholder. Both must comply with its terms. As it is a contract, the leaseholder is unable to change the terms of the lease without the agreement of the freeholder (landlord).

A lease will specify certain things, such as:

  • The term of the lease – i.e. how long the leaseholder can occupy the property for.

  • The amount of rent that is payable by the leaseholder and when.

  • The extent of occupation and purpose – i.e. exactly which parts of the property the leaseholder can occupy or use and for what purpose.

  • The responsibility of repairing different parts of the property. For example, the lease might state that the landlord is to repair the roof but the leaseholder is responsible for the windows and doors.

  • Whether the leaseholder will be liable to make any other payments to the landlord, such as service charge, maintenance fees or a contribution towards insurance costs.

  • Any restrictions on the leaseholder i.e that they must not be a nuisance to other neighbours or make physical alterations to the property, or have a pet within the premises.

A lease may permit the leaseholder to grant another (shorter) lease of the whole, or just part, of a house for example to another leaseholder. This is known as sub-letting. In this circumstance there is one freeholder and more than one leaseholder.

Whether you are a freeholder or a leaseholder, it’s important to understand what your options are and your legal position regarding property agreements. Contact a member of our property team today on 0845 287 0939 or get in touch by email.