With space in London at a premium and house prices seemingly always rising, extending your property is seen as an attractive alternative to moving. Whilst there are always numerous costs and factors to consider when planning such work, owners of leasehold flats have an even more burdensome task in comparison to their freehold/house owning cousins. The is in relation to what you actually own.
Ask a sample pool of top floor flat owning leaseholders and I would estimate that perhaps 80% of them would say they own the loft space above their flat. Estate Agents often boast in their sales particulars that the property they are marketing comes with the benefit of the loft space and the vast majority of owners use the space as storage anyway. The bad news here is that in 99% of cases the leaseholder does not own the loft space, meaning that it is in fact owned by the freeholder of the building.
Of course the devil is always in the detail, and any prospective purchaser of such a flat should have their lease read thoroughly by an appropriately qualified solicitor. Unfortunately, many of the old style leases are poorly worded, but the status-quo appears to be that unless a lease very clearly and specifically states that the leaseholder’s demise extends to and includes the loft space, then it is very much demised to the freeholder. This principle has been tested a number of times at valuation tribunals and is a significant consideration in any Freehold Enfranchisement work. Cases that are available tend to support the above.
It is important to state that there are still the 1% of flats that do clearly own their loft space – the main, but relatively easy to overcome, obstacle in those situations is an application for a License to Alter. If in doubt, it is always going to be worth running your lease by your surveyor or solicitor, just to be sure.
In most instances Peter Barry Surveyors will be able to advise you where the weight of evidence lies so please do not hesitate to contact us by email or call us on 020 7183 2578.