Following the enactment of the Leasehold Reform Act in the 1960s, lessees of houses were given the right of enfranchisement: the opportunity to buy the freehold of their property. To retain control over development on an estate in order to protect the continuity of management, value and protect areas of an estate it was open to local authorities to seek approval for a scheme of management from the High Court of Justice. Tens of thousands of properties in England are subject to a scheme of management. A scheme is set up for the purpose of ensuring the maintenance and preservation of the character and amenities of a defines area for common benefit ( for the purposes of this article we will use the word “estate“ as opposed to “area ” or “ neighbourhood”)
A scheme document ( specific to each estate ) will set out the rights and powers of the managers and the obligation of freeholders to observe the terms of a scheme.
Regardless of whether planning permission is required or has been obtained from the local authority, freeholders will often require the prior written consent of the managers before:
- Any works to trees
- Altering the external appearance or structure of a property
- Adding an additional building or structure
- Placing a temporary building, trailer, caravan, boat or commercial vehicle which can bee seen from beyond the boundaries of a property
- Placing any inscription, placard, posters, advertisements or notices which are visible beyond the boundaries of a property (some schemes specifically prohibit or limit the use of for ‘for sale’ or ‘to let’ signs or notices regarding functions)
- Change of use, for example, converting a house into flats or running a business from a property
Examples of additional requirements for some schemes are as follows :
- To keep the exterior of all buildings, structures and boundaries in good repair, properly cleaned and decorated in colours in harmony with other properties in the vicinity and to keep all gardens cultivated and free from weeds.
- Not to park or permit anyone to park on any private road on the estate so as to cause an obstruction
- To do nothing on any property which may be or grow to be a nuisance, annoyance or damage to any neighbouring owners or occupiers which the managers reasonably consider to be detrimental to the estate
Any scheme is also likely to define amenity areas ( public Woods in the area) which are to be maintained by the managers and the cost of which is included in a maintenance charge which you will have to pay. The costs of operating a scheme are recovered by way of an annual maintenance charges or service charges ( sometimes referred to as “rent charges” )levied on each of the freehold properties on an Estate.
Requirements as to of how to obtain consent for works or alterations vary from scheme to scheme. It is best that you approach your property lawyer or local authority to find out what you are required to do. If you have details of the scheme or who the directors are you may contact them directly. Please ensure that you have an audit trail as you will need evidence of appropriate consents when you come to sell or refinance your property. Many managers of schemes have wide powers to enforce the provision of their scheme.
Managers or their agents often have the right, with prior notice, to inspect a property and where a freeholder has made unauthorised changes to a property without consent, the managers may issue a notice requiring that the property be returned to its former state within a period of three months and failing this, the managers may arrange for works to remedy a breach of the Scheme to be carried out and the cost of this will be recoverable from the freeholder.
When a property is sold, your conveyancer should look to see if there is a requirement for the new owner to register with the managers within a time period.