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Council Rip Off - Alterations to Ex-Council House

We own an ex-council house and need the council's permission to carry out alterations that affect the appearance of the house/fence etc. Apparently all Right to Buy transfers contain a restrictive covenant that is binding on subsequent owners (like us). West Berkshire Council are seeking a payment of £1000 plus £500 fees to permit us to carry out a basic loft conversion that we desperately need. With a loan we are hoping to scrape together enough money for the conversion, and really don't want to have to get an even bigger loan to pay the council a completely disproportionate fee and premium (in addition to the costs of any planning permission and building regulations approval). I see that Harlow Council charge 1% of the cost of works, which is obviously much less, so presumably the council just pick a figure from the air. I would have thought that if banks have to charge fair prices now, councils should too. I would be hugely grateful for any suggestions for avoiding or limiting the costs. Many thanks


  • Clive_WoodyClive_Woody Forumite
    5.7K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Name Dropper Photogenic
    You could contact them and ask for detailed break down of their costs and a justification of why their charges are so high.

    Perhaps even a letter to the local newspapers to see if they would like to write a story on these over the top charges.

    "We act as though comfort and luxury are the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about” – Albert Einstein
  • misgracemisgrace Forumite
    1.5K Posts
    Have you had the house less than 3 years, if you have, then they will charge you X, or if you sell the house under 3 years you have to pay so much back to the council, unless things have changed.
  • Steel_2Steel_2 Forumite
    1.6K Posts
    Unfortunately, these covenants are fairly commonplace and if it exists in your deeds then you have signed up to it and there is nothing you can do. This penalty charge is due from everyone who owns an ex-council house and wishes to alter it. We have an ex-council house which we bought off the previous owners and we are still bound by the restrictive covenant, even though we are not the original Right-to-buy owners.

    However you see it and whatever you think about it, if it exists, you have no option but to accept it as part of the overall cost. The council don't pick a figure from the air - the cost is either fixed or a percentage of the estimated project costs. However I did speak to a solicitor a little while ago about this and she said that sometimes you can negotiate with the council for a lower charge. But of course, once you take into account solicitors fees, you might as well just pay the council what they asked for unless it's a matter of principle for you.

    We were recently looking at developing part of our garden so one of our parents could come and live near us and were told to expect anything from 10,000 charge from the council if they granted planning permission for the Deed of Release.

    By the way, if you think you've been charged a lot, I know of a recent house extension in a village in Northamptonshire which cost the owner £45,000 because it had to be 'released' from the Althorp Estate! But then it was cheaper for them to pay this and do the project than move to a bigger house.
    "carpe that diem"
  • did your solicitor not mention this covenant when you bought the house?
    if they failed to mention it you may have some redress.
  • Steel_2Steel_2 Forumite
    1.6K Posts
    She would only have redress from the solicitor, and it would take time and probably a legal case to get any compensation.

    It still wouldn't get her out of the restrictive covenant and she will still have to pay.
    "carpe that diem"
  • CS100CS100 Forumite
    7 Posts
    Yes, I do feel a bit aggrieved that the solicitor didn't mention it.

    I did wonder whether the rules that apply to planning might also apply to the restrictive covenant, i.e. that there must be a material change to the appearance (and evidently the planners believe that velux windows are not a material change), but as the covenant seems to cover garden fences I suspect that we need approval for all sorts of minor alterations. I hope that if we pay, as it seems as though we must, the covenant will be removed completely so that we will be free to replace the garden fence when we need to!

    Thank you very much, Steel, for your reply. It does seem rather unjust that we are obliged to pay the council for the right to carry out improvements, even though we didn't have the benefit of the discount as the RTB occupiers did. We'll have to see if there is any scope to negotiate - although I can't help thinking that this will take longer than all of the other consents that we need, but it has to be worth a try.

    Many thanks
  • I read through my title deeds when I bought my council house. There was no 'covenant' mentioned.
    There were restrictions on things like the colour of the house (had to blend in with area) and access for maitenance for servicies etc.

    Is this charge a England / Wales thing ?
    baldly going on...
  • harryhoundharryhound Forumite
    2.7K Posts
    I have a relative with one of these.
    She has simply ignored it and the Council have not (yet) noticed, but which could cause problems at any future sale. In your case you probably need planning permission anyway.
    I think it is a complete rip-off that the Council, which already controls and charges for the planning and building control procedures, can treat ex council estate residents as a lower form of life and milk money out of them for what it is already doing for the rest of the borough.
  • olly300olly300 Forumite
    14.7K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    I read through my title deeds when I bought my council house. There was no 'covenant' mentioned.
    There were restrictions on things like the colour of the house (had to blend in with area) and access for maitenance for servicies etc.

    If there is nothing in your deeds, you don't live in a conservation area or the building is not listed then you should be in the clear.
    Is this charge a England / Wales thing ?

    Different councils do things differently so some don't charge while others do.

    Also some ex-council properties are now in conservation areas or are listed buildings so they have to get planning permission for alterations.
    I'm not cynical I'm realistic :p

    (If a link I give opens pop ups I won't know I don't use windows)
  • bbbunnybbbunny Forumite
    44 Posts
    this thread made me panic because the previous owners of our house purchased it from the council and we have never had any kind of documents etc that mention permission off the council for alterations. I just gave our council a quick ring and she said that we only need permission for major building alterations like everyone else. I hope the information she gave me is right.
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