Question: My grandmother lives in a ground-floor flat with access to a garden through the French windows in her sitting room. The garden is just a lawn that is cut regularly by the gardener for the building. Gran would like to plant some flowers to brighten it up. Can she do this?
Answer: It depends who owns the garden. The fact that the gardener for the building cuts the grass suggests the space is communal and forms part of the freehold title. Check the position by looking at your grandmother's lease.
Where a building has been divided into flats, a garden sometimes forms part of the freehold title. It may be part of the general communal area, so none of the flat owners will own any of it. In such circumstances the landlord will often grant the leaseholders a right to use/have access to the garden and there will be covenants or regulations in place governing how it is to be used.
Alternatively, a garden may be divided up and some flat owners may own parts of it, or may have been granted exclusive use of distinct areas of it. If the garden area forms part of your grandmother's property, she should be able to plant flowers — but do remember that there may be restrictions in her lease about maintenance of her garden. If she has only a right to use the space, she is unlikely to be allowed to plant in it.
It would be worth contacting the freeholder or the managing agents to see whether they will permit flowers to be planted. After all, it should enhance the garden for the benefit of all concerned.
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.
What's your problem? If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email firstname.lastname@example.org 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 (www.withyking.co.uk).