If it's not my window, why should I pay?
Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty, answers your questions
Question: I live in a flat converted from an Edwardian house. Please can you confirm if a roof light in the top flat of the building is the responsibility of the owner of the top flat? Does a roof window form part of the roof structure? Am I responsible for the maintenance and repair or replacement of a roof light that serves only one flat?
© Merrily Harpur
I am a fellow freeholder/leaseholder, there are three flats in all and mine is on the ground floor.
Answer: You mention that you are a fellow freeholder and so presumably you and the other two lessees own the freehold.
It is essential that you look at the terms of your lease. It should specifically state the full extent of the property which is owned by you and should state the landlord’s responsibilities in regard to repair of the common parts.
The landlord is generally responsible for the fabric of the building — ie the actual structure, including windows and the roof. In your case the roof light serves only one flat but is still part of the fabric of the building and so the presumption would be that the roof light is the landlord’s responsibility.
I expect that the top floor flat has been demised, or owns the roof space but not the roof light, which means that as you own a share of the freehold you are partly responsible for it.
As you are an owner of part of the freehold you should have access to copies of the leases for the various flats and so you could consider the lease of the top-floor flat to satisfy yourself as to the full extent of that flat.
As you live on the ground floor you probably do not use the stairs to the other parts of the building very much but as one of the freeholders you are responsible for these common parts — try to think of the roof light in the same way.
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Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP (www.thrings.com).
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.