What Is Peppercorn Ground Rent?

Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 2nd November 2023

Are you confused as to what peppercorn ground rent is? You're not alone. Many prospective leaseholders, leaseholders and freeholders aren't sure what a peppercorn ground rent means and how it relates to leasehold property.


In this article,  we'll explain the ins and outs of peppercorn ground rent, including what it is, how it works, why it has such a weird name, and cover some examples to help you get your head around the whole concept. 

What is ground rent?

Ground rent is basically a fee a leaseholder pays to their landlord for using their land. In most cases, it’s a fixed amount of money that is paid each year to the landowner. 

But, here’s the interesting thing: ground rent as we know it has now been banned for new leases. Under the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022, ground rent for new leases is set at a ‘peppercorn rent.’ But what exactly is that when it’s at home?

What is peppercorn ground rent?

Peppercorn ground rent is a symbolic payment that acknowledges the landlord's ownership and the leasehold arrangement.

If a leaseholder has to pay a peppercorn ground rent, it means they technically have to pay one peppercorn per year (yes, an actual, real-life peppercorn) to the landowner, although we can’t imagine any freeholder’s are knocking down leaseholder’s doors demanding their yearly peppercorn payment! 

You might wonder “Why not just make ground rent zero, then?” Of course, that would be the logical thing to do, but there's a good reason for why peppercorn ground rent exists... 

Why is it called peppercorn ground rent?

Historically, ground rents have varied widely depending on properties and their locations. They can range anywhere from £300 to above £1 million in some cases! This is part of the reason why reforms have been brought in to address ground rents. 

For some leases, ground rent can be around £1 per year. And because the amount is so small, landlords don’t bother collecting it. It’s just not worth the hassle. 

But, to make a lease legally binding, the leaseholder and freeholder have to exchange something of value, even if that something is as small and meaningless as a peppercorn. So...peppercorn ground rent was born.

Are peppercorn rent and ground rent the same thing?

The key difference between these two types of rent lie in their value and purpose.

Peppercorn rent is symbolic and carries pretty much no financial weight. It's a peppercorn.

Ground rent, on the other hand, represents a tangible financial obligation. It can range from hundreds to thousands of pounds every year.

The thing is, ground rents are on their way out. Or at least partially. Ground rent that isn't a peppercorn rent is now banned on new leases. And there are stirrings it may be extended to existing leaseholders, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

Can ground rent be changed to peppercorn?

Yes, ground rent can be changed to peppercorn. Still, it typically requires the agreement and consent of both the landlord (freeholder) and the leaseholder, as well as a legal process to amend the terms of the leasehold agreement.

What is a peppercorn rent rate?

A peppercorn rent rate is typically a nominal or symbolic amount of rent, often set at a meagre value, such as £1 per year. The term "peppercorn" indicates that the rent is more of a token or symbolic payment rather than a substantial financial obligation. 

It’s often used in legal or property settings to uphold specific agreements, such as leases or contracts, without creating a heavy financial burden for tenants or rentpayers. 

Peppercorn rent examples

Peppercorn rent is a nominal rent commonly used in legal or property agreements. Here are a few examples of how peppercorn rent might be utilised.

Lease Agreements

In certain long-term lease agreements, particularly for historical or cultural sites, a peppercorn rent may be established. For instance, a historical society might lease a building from a government entity to preserve it. The rent could be symbolically set at £1 per year, signifying the lease without imposing a significant financial burden.

Charity Leases

Non-profit organisations or charities that utilise properties for their activities may enter into peppercorn rent agreements. This allows them to use the property without allocating substantial funds for rent and supports their charitable work.

Maintaining Rights

Property owners occasionally grant easements or rights to others for specific purposes, such as a right of way through their land. In such cases, a peppercorn rent might be established to maintain the granted rights without necessitating a high payment.

Historical Agreements

Historical buildings or monuments protected by law may employ peppercorn rents to ensure their preservation. Local authorities or historical societies may rent such properties for a symbolic amount.

Public Buildings

In some instances, public or governmental bodies may lease properties to private entities for minimal rent, promoting public services. For example, a local government might lease a building to a community group for a peppercorn rent to establish a community centre.

If you need help and support with any property matter relating to leasehold or freehold, for example you own the freehold of a building and want to reduce your rent to a peppercorn rent, the team at Lawhive are here to help at affordable fixed-fee prices. For expert help about ground rent, get in touch with us today using our online form.

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