Question: I own a leasehold three-bedroom maisonette, which is on the first floor of a purpose-built house in north-west London. I have exclusive access to the loft through a hatch in my hall. I'd like to do a loft conversion, but the freeholder wants £10,000 to give consent plus their legal fees. Is that a bit steep?
© Merrily Harpur
Answer: No. Any premium is a matter for negotiation between you and your freeholder. Valuing a loft can be tricky and so you may wish to consult a chartered surveyor to advise you — the freeholder could do the same.
Check the terms of your lease carefully. The fact that you have exclusive access to the loft space doesn't mean that you own it. If your lease does not specifically include the loft space then it will be part of the freehold and it is up to the freeholder whether to lease the loft space to you or whether to retain it.
Accordingly, in order to persuade the freeholder to lease the loft space to you it may be necessary to pay the freeholder more than you feel the extra space is worth.
The freeholder's solicitor's fees will be in respect of a Deed of Variation to grant you the lease of the loft space, which may incorporate an increase in your service charge because your leasehold premises will be larger.
If you already have a leasehold interest in the loft space, the premium will be for the freeholder's consent for alterations and the terms for consent will be set out in your lease.
Try to negotiate — but if that fails and you think the freeholder seems to be asking too much, you may be able to make an application to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.
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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.