Looking to extend or alter your home?
An extension can be a very sensible investment, adding value to your property and solving any space problems you may have.
However, if you own a leasehold property or share of freehold property, your landlord or freehold owner has the potential to disrupt your plans - unless you find expert legal advice and protection from an experienced Property Lawyer.
So what can I do? - Issues to Consider
Contacting a Conveyancing Solicitor to assist with the legal matters involved in the process is strongly recommended, regardless of whether or not you are likely to obtain consent from the Local Authority for planning permission, building regulations approvals, and conservation area consent.
Alterations to Leasehold or Share of Freehold Property
If your property is a leasehold property you will need to consider the following (regardless of whether or not you have a share of freehold):
Do I own the space I want to develop?
You should consult with a Conveyancing Solicitor to check that the lease specifically "demises" or grants the space to you. Often the lease will specifically state the full extent of the property to be owned by you (this can usually be found in the part of the lease that defines the property); for example, the roof space above a top-floor flat.
You should also look at the lease plan to see whether or not there is any indication that the space is marked on a plan.
If the space is not specifically demised, you WILL NOT be able to extend the property into that area without the landlord’s consent.
But I regularly use the area - Does that matter?
It is worth bearing in mind that if the roof space, for example, is not demised to you then technically you cannot even store any items in there!
Please Note - the landlord would be entitled to charge you any premium that he or she sees fit before selling you the space.
The landlord does not have to come up with a reasonable figure. Nor can you force the landlord to sell that area to you. Please note that if you are successful in agreeing a figure for the space then you will need to retain the services of a Conveyancing Solicitor to have the original lease redrafted to include the area in question.
This can be a costly and lengthy exercise, because a new lease will have to be drafted from scratch (your old lease will need to be surrendered or varied) and if you have a mortgage over the property, your mortgage company will need to consent to the Land Registry application to register the new lease.
Chances are that your landlord and lender will insist that you are responsible for their legal fees as well. You should be prepared to pay in the region of £2, 500 in terms of total costs (i.e. all sets of solicitors’ costs together) and anticipate that it could take a couple of months to complete.
This is why a Proactive, Fast Conveyancing Solicitor is key to success
Your experienced and professional property lawyer will ensure that the new lease or legal document consents to the full extent of the works being proposed, to reduce the chance of costly problems in future.
I am certain I own the extension space - Does this still apply to me?
You may be thinking;
"This does not apply to me. I definitely own the space, and do not need to apply to the landlord for anything!"
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The chances are that you WILL require the landlord’s consent. As in the case above, you should consult your property lawyer but there is a strong possibility that the lease is drafted in such a way that it will either:
- provide that you are not entitled to carry out any structural alterations or external alterations to the building, or
- provide that you are not entitled to carry out any non structural alterations, or
- make it very clear that the external part of the roof belongs to the landlord
Do I need my Landlord's consent even for new windows?
Yes, in any the above situations, even installing a dormer window or a Velux window would need the landlord’s consent.
The extent of which the landlord can reasonably withhold consent really depends on the wording of the lease which is why you must seek the advice of an experienced Conveyancing Solicitor.
Buyers often purchase a top floor flat assuming that the roof space is part of the sale, and that they can simply go ahead with a loft conversion.
When work is underway, they receive a very threatening letter from the landlord or the landlord’s solicitors issuing forfeiture proceedings (in other words threatening to bring your lease to an end for breach of the terms of the lease and not obtaining relevant consents)!
If you go ahead and do the work without the landlord’s consent, the landlord could potentially take Court action against you for breaching the lease. You would almost certainly have difficulty retaining a property without evidence of the landlord’s consent.
But I have a Share of Freehold Property!
Surely, if you have a share of freehold then consent to convert the roof space would not be required?
Again, this is not the case.
Regardless of whether or not the loft space is demised in the lease or whether or not the lease contains prohibitions or restrictions on alterations to the exterior of the building or restrictions on structural alterations to the property, you WILL need consent.
Just because you own a share of freehold does not mean that you do not need to comply with the provisions of the lease, or that areas outside the property as defined in the lease will belong to you.
You may have a freeholder who is more relaxed and perhaps less likely to try and take commercial advantage of what you are proposing to do, but it is nevertheless vital that appropriate consents should be put in writing.
If you are proposing to carry out any alterations even if you have a share of freehold you must contact a Property Lawyer.
Advice from a Conveyancing Solicitor
If you want to carry out the conversion of a roof of a leasehold property, you should seek legal advice before you do anything rather than make assumptions.
If you move ahead without finding a Conveyancing Solicitor, your landlord really could be holding a financial "gun to your head", subjecting you to severe costs and even eviction from your home.
If you need advice as to how to proceed, contact us today on 0330 660 0286.
To get moving with an Conveyancing Solicitor, get a instant Cheap Conveyancing Quote now.