Can my neighbour demand payment for repairs to parts of a shared property he has "pinched"?

Can a resident in our block of flats, with shared freehold, ask me to pay for repairs to a balcony he didn't ask permission to build in the first place?

Question: I live in a block of conversion flats. The occupants share the freehold but we don’t meet very often. In recent years, my neighbours have “pinched” bits of the property. One made a little garden outside their front door, the man in the top-floor flat knocked out the ceiling to create a “loft apartment”, while a third had a balcony fitted outside his window. He now asks us to pay for the balcony’s repair, but never asked if he could put it there in the first place. What can we do?

Answer: most leases contain clauses requiring the written prior consent of the landlord for alterations. The other flat owners may have thought that as they own a share of the freehold they did not need to obtain consent, but they were wrong.

Some of the works are significant and appear to have increased the size of the flats, and so may have enhanced their value. Perhaps premiums should have been paid to the landlord and service charge contributions adjusted. Adding a metal balcony and extending into the loft affect the structure of a building, so before giving the go-ahead a landlord will usually wish to see planning and building regulations approval, listed building consent if required, and possibly a structural survey to ensure the integrity of the building is not compromised.

Carrying out alterations without the landlord’s consent is a breach of the lease terms and one flat owner can require the landlord to enforce the terms against another. Call a meeting of all the owners to discuss this, the management of the building generally, and to consider appointing managing agents to deal with such matters in future.

What's your problem?
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (www.withyking.co.uk).

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. 


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