Can the freeholder put a flat in above me? The only access is via my maisonette...

The only access to the loft space over my home is via a cubby hole in my maisonette. The freeholder (who lives downstairs) wants to turn this space into a flat. Given access is allowed for "inspection and repair only", surely conversion would be impossible?

Question: I live in an upstairs maisonette with a long lease and the freeholder lives downstairs. There is a loft space over my home that is owned by the freeholder. The only access to it is through a cubby hole in my maisonette, and access is allowed for “inspection and repair only”.

The freeholder now says she wants to put a flat above my maisonette. I asked the local planning department if this was possible as access would be an issue, but they were vague and unhelpful. Surely conversion would be impossible considering the access?

Answer: It would certainly seem so, if there is really no means of access to the loft other than through your home. But could another way be created, perhaps by building a staircase from another floor, either within the building or on the exterior? Some architects can be very inventive . 

Look at the terms of your lease and the leasehold title to see what restrictions there are. The freeholder may have reserved rights to develop the loft, but remember that to convert it into a new flat, she will need building regulations and planning consents, plus listed building consent, if applicable.

From the information you give, it seems unlikely the freeholder can develop the loft without your agreement. Of course, if she is really keen to press ahead with her plan, you may find that she offers you a premium to either sell your maisonette to her, or to provide access for a loft conversion through your property. You may find that it works out to be financially attractive for you.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email 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 (

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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