Legal Q&A: can my son convert the loft in his listed mews cottage into a beauty salon for his girlfriend?

My son would like a loft conversion so his beautician girlfriend can move in and use the extra room as her salon. His mews cottage is listed. What does he need to consider?
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Question: My son owns a tiny listed mews cottage that we helped him buy a year ago by giving him the £75,000 deposit.
His girlfriend, a beautician, has suggested he does a loft conversion so that she can move in and use the extra room as her salon.
I realise that he may need planning consent but, not having been involved in anything like this before, where should my son start?
Answer: With regard to the proposed building works, you will need to look at the title to the cottage. Generally, people think of houses as having a freehold title, but your son could have a leasehold interest in the property.
The title needs to be considered to see if there are any covenants prohibiting such building works and also preventing the use of the property for business purposes.
If the property is leasehold, the landlord’s consent is likely to be needed for the proposed building works. The landlord may also demand a premium, as the cottage is likely to increase in value. Building Regulations and Listed Building consents will be needed and probably planning permission, too.
Assuming your son has a mortgage for the property, the lender’s consent to the building works should also be obtained. Your son’s buildings insurers should also be notified of the works. I hope that you and your son sought legal advice at the time of your generous gift of £75,000 for the deposit.
He and his girlfriend should also now consider entering into a cohabitation agreement if she is going to move into the property. 

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email 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 is legal director in the real estate group of Foot Anstey LLP in Exeter (
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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