Colouring by stealth is not a good idea

Our lawyer, Fiona Mcnulty, answers your questions
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Blue basement
© Merrily Harpur
Question: I share the freehold of my converted flat with my neighbours. Without any consultation, they painted the façade of their basement flat a different (and wholly inappropriate) colour. I have pointed out to them on a number of occasions that any decoration of the exterior needs to be agreed between us before any works are started. They don’t accept this and keep saying: “It’s our basement”.

Answer: You say that you share the freehold of your converted flat and I assume that both your flat and the basement flat will be held under long leases. One of the main features of such leases is the imposition of covenants, which require, among other things, contributions to the joint expenses and restrict what the flat-owner may do.

You need to look at your lease and see what are defined as common parts/shared areas, and whose responsibility it is to maintain them. It is common for all the structural elements to belong to the freehold and for there to be a restriction against flat-owners decorating or carrying out any other works without the freeholder’s consent.

However, where a building is comprised of two flats, it is possible for each flat to be responsible for all its own walls, both internal and external. Your neighbours’ lease is likely to be in the same terms as yours and you can check the position by obtaining copies from the Land Registry.

There is no such thing as a standard residential lease and the provisions can be complicated. If you are at all unsure, I recommend that you seek advice from the solicitors who acted when you purchased your flat.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring 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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