PLEASE READ BEFORE POSTING

Hello Forumites! In order to help keep the Forum a useful, safe and friendly place for our users, discussions around non-MoneySaving matters are not permitted per the Forum rules. While we understand that mentioning house prices may sometimes be relevant to a user's specific MoneySaving situation, we ask that you please avoid veering into broad, general debates about the market, the economy and politics, as these can unfortunately lead to abusive or hateful behaviour. Threads that are found to have derailed into wider discussions may be removed. Users who repeatedly disregard this may have their Forum account banned. Please also avoid posting personally identifiable information, including links to your own online property listing which may reveal your address. Thank you for your understanding.

Messy situation with leasehold loft - advice appreciated

Hi,

I'm currently selling my leasehold apartment, and a complication has arisen due to the loft space.
The apartment is on the top floor, and has accessible loft space. A few years ago, I had this space boarded out for storage, and lights installed.
However, it turns out that the loft space was not within the demise of the lease, and therefore not legally mine to use.
The buyer initially requested a deed of variation, to include the loft space, but I declined due to:
1. additional fees (solicitor and landlord),
2. the landlord needing to agree to it,
3. the estate management company getting involved,
4. and the risk of being told I was in breach of the lease and must restore the loft to its original condition.

My solicitor offered an indemnity contract to address the issue, but the buyer declined.
The buyer then requested that I have the loft restored anyway. I contacted the original fitters and they are not interested in doing the work. 
I could try and find someone else to do the work, but I am unsure whether it could be done without damaging any existing structures.


What should I do? If the buyer had not mentioned the loft space to their solicitor in the first place, the issue need not have arisen. I am tempted to put the property back on the market and telling prospective buyers not to mention the loft space, but the current sale is close to completion besides this remaining issue.

Thanks


«1

Comments

  • GrumpyDil
    GrumpyDil Posts: 1,565
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper Combo Breaker
    Forumite
    edited 6 January at 3:10PM
    In this case I think the indemnity would have been the best option, assuming the boarded loft was not used to justify a higher price. 

    If they won't accept the indemnity policy then you appear to have two choices, regularise the situation with the landlord or revert the loft space back. Regularising the space would likely involve costs. 
  • anselld
    anselld Posts: 8,242
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary
    Forumite
    edited 6 January at 5:04PM
    Just tell the buyers you are not prepared to do anything else so they either accept as is (or with indemnity) or you will re-market.
    The risk they are taking is minimal.  The freeholder is unlikely to discover.  If they do discover they are unlikely to require boarding and lighting to be removed.  If they do require it removed the cost is unlikely to be significant.


  • eddddy
    eddddy Posts: 16,140
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite

    As you suggest, perhaps it would have been better to suggest to the buyers at the outset that they don't mention the 'informal' use of the loft to their solicitor.

    And a formal letter/report from a solicitor will often present the 'worst case scenario', which might scare the buyer. (e.g. Legal action by the freeholder, cost of reinstatement, forfeit of lease, etc.)

    Assuming you have a good estate agent, it's probably worth getting them to have an 'informal chat' with the buyer to talk through the risks, the potential benefits, etc, associated with the loft. That might get better results than a formal letter from a solicitor.


  • Brie
    Brie Posts: 9,297
    Photogenic First Post Name Dropper First Anniversary
    Forumite
    Is the only access to the loft via your flat?  Is there anything up there that the freeholder would ever need to access??  That's what might effect things if I was the buyer.
    "Never retract, never explain, never apologise; get things done and let them howl.”
  • viper_987
    viper_987 Posts: 12
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    Brie said:
    Is the only access to the loft via your flat?  Is there anything up there that the freeholder would ever need to access??  That's what might effect things if I was the buyer.
    Yes the only access is via my flat. There is nothing there that the freeholder would ever need to access, no. In fact no one else has ever been up there since I lived there (over 15 years).
  • propertyrental
    propertyrental Posts: 2,201
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    If buyer does not want an indemnity policy, which is the cheap, quick solution to the problem, then either the buyer accepts the 'as is' staus quo or you and buyer go your separate ways.

    Involving the freeholder/Manco would be slow, potentially expensive, and uncertain, and re-instating the loft also pointless, costly, time-consuming, and might reduce the property value if/when this paranoid buyer pulls out!
  • born_again
    born_again Posts: 13,651
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    Quick cheap MSE solution.
    Find someone to plasterboard over the access. No one is any the wiser to what is up there.
    Life in the slow lane
  • NameUnavailable
    NameUnavailable Posts: 2,784
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    Quick cheap MSE solution.
    Find someone to plasterboard over the access. No one is any the wiser to what is up there.

    That's great until the roof starts leaking and the freeholder needs access!

    OP - was the loft space mentioned in the sales particulars by the EA? Assuming it was I can understand how the buyer feels, they 'paid' for something that's not yours to sell and it could also cause them issues down the line as there is a breach of the lease.

    If they are happy to proceed without 'owning' the loft space maybe a letter from yourself confirming that you had the loft boarded etc., so that if the freeholder ever queried it they can show that they didn't do the work, and they aren't breaching the lease by using it either, although I'd probably want legal advice as to whether that's sufficient. The worst case scenario is that the freeholder demands the loft is returned to its original state, but I can't think why they'd want that assuming the work has been done correctly.

    The risk from your point of view is that if you go to the freeholder now they will make demands for ££££ for retrospective permission and amending the lease (if they agree to it) or action against you for breaching your lease.

    Maybe the easier option is to find new buyers, make sure the loft isn't mentioned at all by the EA and if they ask about it you just say it's not your space and don't mention the boarding etc., and then if the new buyers decide to use it, or ask the freeholder about it, it's their choice.
  • viper_987
    viper_987 Posts: 12
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    @NameUnavailable

    Yes, the loft access was mentioned in the estate agent's listing (although no mention of the boarding or lights). If I do relist, I'll make sure this is removed.

    I'll talk to my solicitor about the idea of a letter. Maybe I could offer a small reduction in the price.

    Agree, there's a risk involving the freeholder. I have no idea what they'd say.
  • eddddy
    eddddy Posts: 16,140
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    edited 6 January at 10:12PM

    I'm not really sure how the letter described would help the buyers - and it could cause you problems.

    If the freeholder finds out the loft is boarded, the buyers just say the loft was like that when they bought the flat (they don't need to show a letter). How could the freeholder prove otherwise?

    If you provide a letter, and the buyers show the freeholder your letter, that just makes it really easy for the freeholder to sue you for damages. 




    (I doubt the lease explicitly says "The leaseholder must not board the loft" or equivalent, so it probably can't be treated as a "breach of lease".

    But if it is a "breach of lease", the letter won't help the buyer in any way. They would still be liable for the breach of lease, whatever the letter says.)


Meet your Ambassadors

Categories

  • All Categories
  • 341.8K Banking & Borrowing
  • 249.7K Reduce Debt & Boost Income
  • 449.2K Spending & Discounts
  • 233.9K Work, Benefits & Business
  • 606.1K Mortgages, Homes & Bills
  • 172.5K Life & Family
  • 246.8K Travel & Transport
  • 1.5M Hobbies & Leisure
  • 15.8K Discuss & Feedback
  • 15.1K Coronavirus Support Boards