Question: I live in a Victorian house converted into flats. We share the freehold. About eight years ago, the then-owner of the top-floor flat knocked down his living room ceiling to create a “loft-style” space and he put in two skylights, which you can’t see from the road. We fellow leaseholders didn’t say anything because it didn’t bother us.
© Merrily Harpur
A year ago, he sold the flat. Now the new owner has asked us, as the landlord, to replace the skylights because they are leaking.
It’s not her fault but the rest of us feel cross as we never approved this work. Why are we responsible for it all of a sudden?
Answer: It may seem unfair that you should all, as the landlord, be responsible for the cost of replacing the skylights, but whether the landlord must pay for new skylights depends on the wording of the lease of that flat.
A residential lease usually includes a clause preventing a tenant from making any structural alterations without the landlord’s prior written consent.
Generally, the roof space is not included in the lease of a top-floor flat and the roof (and by extension the skylights) would be the responsibility of the landlord to repair. If the roof space belongs to the landlord, the new owner may effectively be trespassing by using it as part of her flat.
It is surprising that when the new owner was purchasing the flat, her lawyers didn’t request retrospective consent from the landlord for alterations, and consider in more detail whether she was entitled to use the roof space under the terms of the lease or whether a deed of variation was required.
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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.