If you own the freehold of your building, you have the right to carry out any building work that you like on your property (as long as it adheres to planning policy and/or permitted development rights).
However, very few people who live in flats own the outright freehold for their home. It’s more likely that you will have either a leasehold agreement - whereby you own the interior of your flat, but not the ground on which it sits or surrounding building - or a part-share of the freehold - where you share ownership of the ground and building with other owners.
This means that if you own, or are preparing to purchase, a ground floor flat with potential for development, you’ll probably need to get the consent of the (other) freeholders before you start any building work.
Here’s how to make that process as painless as possible...
Start with drawings
Opening up a theoretical discussion that results in an agreement is possible in principle, but can be challenging in reality.
Drawing up a set of proposed plans can help you to clearly explain exactly what it is that you want to achieve, and can give concrete points to negotiate if there are any problems. It also means that you can get sign off on your precise project, meaning that no one can turn around at a later date and claim they didn’t fully understand the scope of your plans.
It might sound expensive (particularly if you’re not even sure you want to build yet), but don’t panic - it doesn’t have to break the bank. Take a look at our £250 Concept Package, which gives you everything you need.
Check your lease
It’s likely that your lease will include a clause stating that the freeholder “may not unreasonably withhold consent.” In reality, this is assumed and often doesn’t need to be specified, but it’s easier if it is.
By adding an extension to the building, you are likely to be improving it’s value. If your plans are well thought through, the structural integrity of the property is protected, and the construction process is well-monitored to ensure that no other residents will experience any excessive disruption, you would have a strong case to challenge any refusal from the freeholders in court.
However, it’s always nicer and less expensive if you can resolve these situations without intervention from a lawyer.
Hire a structural engineer
It’s essential that you engage a structural engineer before starting your build. This can also be a great way to gather reliable 3rd party evidence that your addition is realistic, structurally sound and possible.
Negotiate before you purchase
The best possible way to avoid any tension in the planning process is to discuss your intentions with the freeholders before you purchase, and have consent to proceed written into your lease (or at the very least, put down in writing).
Luckily, Resi can get preliminary plans drawn up for most properties before you purchase, using estate agent floor plans in place of a measured survey.
This is a great way to understand the full potential of a home before you make a financial commitment...as well as ensuring that you stay on good terms with your neighbours!