Question: We have just purchased a ground-floor flat and we wish to extend into the rear garden, either by building a conservatory or a single-storey extension. Do we need written permission from the freeholder? The flat is leasehold.
Answer: I would hope that during conveyancing you discussed your plans for extending with your solicitor and were given appropriate advice. However, the terms of your lease will list restrictions, stipulations and covenants relating to the flat.
You need to ensure the garden is part of your property and that you do not just have an exclusive right to use it. There is likely to be a covenant stating you must not make any structural alterations to the flat without the prior written consent of the freeholder, and look out for any covenant stating the garden must only be used as a private garden, and not for any other purpose, including building on it.
If the garden does belong to you and the written consent of the freeholder is required, you should contact them and establish their requirements for granting consent. Even if you own a share of the freehold, this should be done formally. It is likely you will have to agree to meet the freeholder's costs associated with granting consent, such as legal and surveyor's fees. Plans must be drawn and you must apply for any necessary planning, listed building and building regulation consent. A deed of variation, which varies the terms of your lease, may be needed depending on the size of the extension. It would be very unwise to proceed without the freeholder's written consent.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email email@example.com 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 (withyking.co.uk).