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    • Baldesare
    • By Baldesare 17th Mar 17, 6:35 PM
    • 7Posts
    • 2Thanks
    Advise regarding leasehold attic
    • #1
    • 17th Mar 17, 6:35 PM
    Advise regarding leasehold attic 17th Mar 17 at 6:35 PM
    I need advice regarding an email i have received today from my freeholder.

    I live in a 1 bed maisonette, the property is leasehold and my freeholder has been trying to get my partner and i to purchase the attic for a few years, we did consider as we tried to get planning permission to convert the attic into another room but we were turned down due to changing the skyline of our road. .. foolishly we didn't appeal.

    I have just received the following from my freeholder ....

    Please let me know ASAP whether you are still interested in purchasing the attic space.

    We have the option of selling the whole attic to your neighbour to create one large space for them to extend into.

    We will not agree anything until we hear from you but need to know by the end of next week.

    Now our water tank for starters is up in the loft but also is this even allowed? we are 4 purpose built maisonettes, basically i just wanted to find out if this was possible and if it sounds more like blackmail to get us to purchase the loft (he's charging 7000)

    thanks for any advice in advance.
Page 2
    • eddddy
    • By eddddy 17th Mar 17, 11:31 PM
    • 6,122 Posts
    • 5,927 Thanks
    I am happy to buy the loft if we could go upstairs but like i previously said we tried this 2 years ago and were turned down by Sutton Council
    Originally posted by Baldesare
    So can't you convert the attic without altering the roof line - if that's what caused your last application to be refused?

    Presumably your neighbour has found a way, if they want to buy it.

    (With Sutton property prices, I would be tempted to spend 7k just to use the loft as storage space - or to convert it into a non-habitable room.)
    • agarnett
    • By agarnett 18th Mar 17, 2:45 AM
    • 1,282 Posts
    • 536 Thanks
    Sorry about mistaking your mother tongue - there were minor grammar mistakes in some of your posts which I misinterpreted !

    Sutton was in my patch early in my career. An area very much in demand and with a half decent football team as we saw recently, with or without the half time pies

    So, your maisonette was originally a council maisonette, and I am guessing it was originally bought by the then council social housing tenants under the government's right to buy initiatives that my parents used to buy their council house in the seventies, and that the original lease would have been 99 years from 1971.

    You probably could have extended your lease by an extra 90 years which would have taken you to 2160 rather than 2113 and had the ground rent reduced to a peppercorn (zero) but that may have been expensive.

    What are the new review terms for the ground rent? Does it increase with RPI or CPI with a minimum of doubling every 10 years, or is there no schyster devised doubling because the freeholder is a good old fashioned council, or is it some other arrangement? In your case you are probably ok, but best to check if not sure.

    Are all four maisonettes of equal size? Are they all privately owned now on long leases, or are one or more still social housing?

    Reading between the lines, your neighbour has made a speculative enquiry of the council. Are you on good terms - good enough to share information about how much the council wants i.e. have they offered the same 7,000 to your neighbour and/or offered him a deal at 14,000 to include your loft?

    My comment about the water tank being in the loft possibly as a result of a prior installation without council permission still stands. Else are you sure that the tank does not also serve the maisonette below you ? We assume it is simply a cold water header tank to feed your hot water system and possibly your bathroom taps (which was a weird and unhygienic old plumbing practice). But it may have fed the maisonette below yours also.

    Do you pay the same service charge as your neighbours? You should ideally receive a copy of the service charge accounts each year so if all four maisonettes are private you should be able to see the total service charge income which hopefully is 4x yours.

    The lease itself should detail exactly how your service charge contribution (of the total each year) is calculated. It may simply say you are to pay 1/4th of all expense. Or there may be special liability regarding the roof. Ideally the cost of maintaining the roof should be shared equitably by all those under it, not just the top maisonettes. That's something I'd look out for both in the current lease and in any proposed new deal to include the loft space.

    If they are proposing letting you have the loftspace for 7,000 with no increase in service charge contribution percentage and no increase in ground rent then I would be tempted in your place to find 7,000 (or talk to my mortgage company and get it) and proceed to try to seal a good deal before they change their minds about the price.

    If all four maisonettes are now owned privately, there will likely come a time when the council will simply auction off their freehold interest. If you and your neighbours get along, it may be that two or more of you could make an offer for the freehold now. It may be a simple and interesting solution for you both if you and your top floor neighbour worked together and made a counter offer of say 14,000 total for the freehold.

    I think that might be doable if all four maisonettes are privately owned on long leases now. I think you could either encourage the downstairs neighbours to join you, ... or not - your choice I think. I believe in a building of 4 long lease units that two of you is the minimum to attempt to buy the freehold. So that might give you the chance (if you wanted it) so that you each owned a share of the freehold, but you would then of course become responsible collectively for maintaining the main fabric of the building and depending on your existing neighbours, that may not be a good idea.

    As I say however, I can't imagine Sutton Council hanging on to your freehold forever. The'll almost certainly auction it off at some stage unless theey have a special reason for keep it e.g. it has a special location they have in mind for future development of their own.

    But if the two top floor neighbours worked together to negotiate with the council rather than have the council playing you off against one another to an extent as may be happening slightly right now, you two could either just ensure a good deal each on your respective loftspaces and perhaps even share the costs of getting planning permission to finally extend, and/or share the freehold and collect the ground rent from the other two and arrange the maintenance and repairs and administer the service charge. With such a small set up of 4 units, it very much depends on how well you neighbours get along.

    Another option is that you work together with the top floor neighbour to get the freehold bought but simultaneously split the building down the middle so you each become the landlord for one lower maisonette each.

    But perhaps this is way beyond your appetite.

    However, I would say the 7,000 offer on the table is very much an opportunity to be explored as it sounds cheap to me. Whatever you do, don't let the neighbour buy the roofspace over your head as that could complicate the service charge proportions, could get you a whole lot of inconvenience if he gets planning permission to create a room over your head, not least because your water tank may not be authorised and may have to be removed. And after such an extension your maisonette would no longer have the benefit of using the loftspace for storage if you are already doing that, and it would become part of a weirdly arranged building which would put off many future buyers - and the value of your maisonette may reduce because you let it happen.

    My thoughts would be to grasp the opportunity with eyes wide open to the various angles mentioned, including the possibility of getting the freehold which would be a good investment for when you have a go at extending upwards again when the time is right, or if you simply decide to move on without extending yourself and let someone else speculate. It would be an additional selling point. Nothing is set in stone about planning decisions in the London area thesedays. As eddddy suggests, where there's a will, there's usually a way to be found, and who dares wins!

    Just for clarity, and I can't imagine there won't be, but you do have a complete party wall right up to the roof dividing your side and your neighbours i.e. the attic space is not open across both top maisonettes?

    One last thing - when analysing lease wordings I have found that it is very useful to make a proper searchable text PDF scan of the paper document, and then you can use Ctrl-F on a computer to go straight to the parts you might otherwise find difficult to find e.g. you could search for the word 'roof' to see if there was any special stipulation about maintenance or indeed about your current right to use the roofspace. You could search for 'rent' to establish the periodic review conditions on your groundrent (it is unlikely to stay the same for the next 97 years unless it was already a peppercorn rent and you have confirmed that it isn't).
    Last edited by agarnett; 18-03-2017 at 2:26 PM.
    • moneyistooshorttomention
    • By moneyistooshorttomention 18th Mar 17, 7:01 AM
    • 15,344 Posts
    • 42,805 Thanks
    My parent's house, not sure exactly how old it is but I believe after 1930, has the water tank in the attic, it's still there after they had the attic converted about 20 years ago as it was my bedroom and refilling after say the toilet flushed was noisy. The house I live in now has the water tank in the bathroom with the boiler
    Originally posted by Nasqueron
    My (1970s) house was still operating off a water tank in the attic when I bought it pretty recently. I modernised the system and that tank is no longer in use - though have left it up there (because the workman said it's too big to get through the loft hatch to get it down).

    So - perfectly prepared to believe some houses are still like it.

    EDIT; Though I'd be inclined to buy the loft myself at that price - even if I wasnt allowed to put a window in it (assuming it wouldnt affect my service charge or anything).
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