Question: I live in the upper flat of a two-storey house. The owner of the downstairs flat and I have long leases and pay £100 a year to an elderly lady who owns the freehold.
She lives in Devon, we never see her and she takes no part in the maintenance. Slates are falling off the roof. Who owns the roof and who should pay for the repair?
Answer: Where houses are divided into flats, the “rules” that govern who is responsible for the maintenance of the flats and the common parts, such as foundations, roofs etc are set out in the leases for the flats. There is no standard template and you and your neighbour will need to look at your leases and check the position.
It would be quite usual for the owner of the freehold (the landlord) to be responsible for carrying out the works, subject to you and your neighbour repaying the cost to her in full. If this is the case, you should both contact her and ask her to deal with it and that request could then be enforced by taking action under the terms of the leases, if necessary.
Whatever the leases say about maintenance, having an absentee landlord is not great. Depending on how long you have both lived there, you and your neighbour may be able to request that the landlord transfers the freehold to you, or a company owned by you. There would be a payment required, but there is evidence that the value of flats is usually enhanced by more than the amount required by the landlord. You should take advice from a solicitor who is experienced in this specialist area.
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Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP www.thrings.com.