Legal Q&A: we own a share of the freehold. Can we renovate without our neighbours' consent?

We want to build a new garden room for our flat — do we need to check the other freeholders don't mind?

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Question: We have a two-bedroom flat that we inherited from my husband’s parents years ago. It is in a lovely old building and it has always been let out, but the tenants have just gone and we have now decided that we would like to refurbish it. In particular, we want to knock down an old outhouse in the garden which has been there for years, and build a new garden room. We are unsure if the other three flat owners will be happy about the garden room — we know one of them at least is rather tricky. We all own the freehold. What is the best way of dealing with this? 

Answer: Consider your lease to ensure the garden forms part of your demise, as you may just have an exclusive right to use the garden. The lease should include details of any restrictive covenants regulating the use of the flat and garden.

Most residential leases require prior written consent of the landlord for alterations and additions. Even though you own a share of the freehold, formal written consent of the landlord is still needed.

The lease should detail the landlord’s requirements for granting consent to alterations, and you will be responsible for the landlord’s surveyor’s and solicitor’s fees in dealing with your application.  

Planning and building regulations consents may be needed depending on the extent of the works. If the  building is listed, then listed building consent may also be required for your planned works. As the outbuilding is within the curtilage of the listed building, any alterations or additions to it, or demolishing it, would require listed building consent.

Speak to the other flat owners at an early stage regarding your plans, in the hope of avoiding or resolving  issues when you make your formal application.

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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