Question: I'm thinking of buying a flat that is designated as a live/work unit. I've been told the split is undefined, and recent planning applications show a number of leaseholders have been able to convert their homes to solely residential. I only want to use the property as residential but I have heard from others that some councils are now cracking down on this practice. Any advice?
Answer: Councils probably are cracking down as the National Planning Policy Framework was published in March last year and aims to make the planning system more accessible and to provide a strong basis for economic growth. The framework promotes live/work and flexible working by integrating residential and business use in the same unit. Live/work as sustainable development can help developers get planning consent by meeting local employment and housing objectives, reducing travel and fuel emissions.
Your intention to keep the property for solely residential use could be considered by the local planning authority as a material change of use and would probably require planning permission. Consider the planning consent for the flat and any conditions imposed, and also establish whether your local planning authority has issued any guidance regarding live/work.
Look, too, at the lease of the flat to see if it contains covenants relating to live/work, because if it does, you would need the landlord's consent for change of use. The landlord may require a premium for consent.
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Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP (www.thrings.com).
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.