Legal glossary for buying property

At some time in our lives we all have to sign or read something that contains confusing legal jargon. If you’ve ever moved house or rented a property then you will know what a difficult job it can be to wade through contracts full of legal terms.

Natalie Neil is a Conveyancing Executive in our Conveyancing Team. She has explained some of the commonly used terms used when selling or buying a house.

Conveyance:The transfer of property from the seller to the buyer.
Freehold:Ownership of land as well as the buildings on it (alternative to leasehold, see below).
Leasehold:Commonly used for flats, leasehold is to do with “renting the land” albeit you are buying the property. The leaseholder (person that buys the property) leases the land that the property stands on from the freeholder. When the lease expires (leases are usually 100 or more years) the property or land reverts back to the freeholder.
Joint Tenants: When two or more people own the property/land, this is one structure of ownership. If one of them were to die, the ownership rights would pass to the other owners automatically.
Tenants in Common: This is the opposite to Joint Tenants and also relates to when a property is owned by two or more people. In this structure, each co-owner has identifiable shares in the property. If one of them were to die, their share of the property is part of their estate meaning, it will be inherited by a third party, according to their will.
Covenant:A promise to do or not do something. These are contained in deeds and leases.
Deed:The document which is signed in the presence of a witness . It refers to the legal ownership of property.
Disbursements:We try not to use this word anymore at Frettens! It refers to third party costs i.e. searches and Land Registry Fees.
Estate:This has two meanings a) all property and assets owned by a person at the time of death and b) when related to land, it refers to ownership of that land.
Execute:To sign a document.
Lease:A contract signed by tenants when property or land is rented out.
Lease Term:Specifies the length of time that a lease is valid.
Legal Charge:This is a legal term sometimes used in place of ‘mortgage’.
Particulars of Sale:A description of the property that is for sale and the terms and conditions under for the transaction.
Power of Attorney:Authority given to someone to allow another person to act on their behalf. Not to be confused with Lasting Powers of Attorney, which relates to acting on behalf of someone who has lost mental capacity. You may be asked to sign a Power of Attorney to enable your solicitor to act on your behalf with HM Revenue Customs and the Land Registry regarding the property purchase.
Land Registry:This refers to HM Land Registry, who record official property ownership details in England and Wales.
Official Copy Entries:The online record of property ownership kept by the Land Registry.
Trust:Property is given to a person to be used for a particular purpose – in the case of death, a house may be passed to a spouse on condition that it is held in trust for any surviving children.
Vendor:The person selling the property.


Natalie comments “Unfortunately, it is necessary to use these words and phrases in legal documents but hopefully this short explanation of some of the main ones we use for property sales and purchases will help you to understand. Never be afraid to ask us if you need clarification on something – it is important that you fully understand everything involved with the property you are buying and we are pleased to help you grasp it all.“

Our Conveyancing Team, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. For a free initial chat, please call 01202 499255 and Natalie or a member of the team will be happy to discuss any questions that you may have