Signage and Communal Issues

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    Signage and Communal Issues

    Hopefully I can get some advice on an issue we are currently having at our development.

    There are currently 10 properties at our development and these were owned by three friends up until three years ago. They then decided to sale them and 9 different people bought them. Because the previous owners were friends they never used the management company and it laid dormant. However, since more parties are now involved the management company has been stood up and we now have a managing agent.

    where the issue arises is that the development is used for holiday lets. The previous owners erected a sign outside the property advertising the website and telephone number of the bookings line. When the new owners took over most stayed with the old holiday booking scheme whilst others elected to use other agencies for their bookings.

    One of the owners has claimed this isn’t fair and upon investigating the issue we have discovered there is a clause in everyone’s lease that states that advertising outside of each apartment is prohibited.

    we have sort legal advice and they appear to be agreeing that the sign needs to be changed to wayfinding only. However the owner of the holiday letting business is also one of the owners and has been quite opposed to changing the sign saying it is his and that it would be criminal damage if we removed it etc etc.

    We need to come to a conclusion on this pretty quickly and I am not sure if the wording in the lease is too vague regarding advertising.

    i did contact the lease advisory service and they did seem to suggesr that the Sign is in contrary to the lease and is technically in breach. I also assume that anyone who is connected to the sign is also technically in breach which are 6 properties.

    The lease advisory service did suggest changing the lease but but this option will obviously cost us to do this and also it will be a nightmare agreeing a approach to what signage is appropriate and we don’t end up with 20+ advertising placards which would bring the development down.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Just for clarity I am a Director of the management company and also a owner. All the properties have a long lease 900+ years and all the owner share a proportion of the freehold.

    #2
    I would say there was a planning breach as well as a breach of the lease.

    Not doing things properly through the management company was a bad idea, and can have resulted in personal liabilities.

    Comment


      #3
      I was thinking of a planning breach with respect to the sign, but there is probably one for change of use as well, as, if you can justify a sign, you are probably using it full time for holiday lets, whereas the planning dispensations are there to allow one to let out ones own home, when one is away, not to make holiday letting the primary use.

      Comment


        #4
        Thanks for the reply.

        The property was originally a Hotel in the Torbay area and was allowed to be converted into Holiday Apartments. I will take a look through the planning applications on the planning portal to see what was allowed. From memory there was a lot of conditions for the conversion. The other thing I don’t know is if the sign frame was the original one for the hotel so there would possibly be any implications.

        The line in the lease in respect to Management Restrictions are:

        ”Not to affix to any window or door of the Apartment any external blinds or to affix or place any notices signs pictures legends or advertisements outside the apartment and not to place any name writing drawing signboard plate or placard of any kind on or in any window of the Apartment so as to be visible outside the Apartment.

        I was quite surprised as to the lack of punctuation in the Lease but the point I believe best supports our stance is

        ...or place any notices sign pictures legends or advertisements outside of the Apartment...

        so technicaly 6 out of the 10 Apartments that benefit from the advertising are in Breach of their lease.

        Would you tend to agree with my logic?

        It is a nightmare that the Management Company was never used as it is like a divorce and seeing who gets custody of the CD collection...


        Comment


          #5
          It is normal for leases not to have punctuation.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Milesunder View Post
            I was quite surprised as to the lack of punctuation in the Lease but the point I believe best supports our stance is
            Lack of punctuation is completely normal in leases (although, thankfully, modern leases seem to be tending to include punctuation).


            While others are far better placed to advise you on lease interpretation, I would tend to agree with you that the properties utilizing the sign are likely to be in breach of their leases.
            Are they willing to allow another sign to be erected to advertise the remaining holiday apartments? That would seem to be an acceptable compromise (still likely a breach of the leases, but it would be an agreement ignoring that particular clause).

            Comment


              #7
              There is always the possibility of adding an additional sign but you then get into the situation of how many signs are to many signs. As I mentioned above the Lease Advisory service did say we could make a change to our lease to accommodate additional signage but we would be looking at £k’s to change it . I personally think this would be a nightmare as I don’t think anyone would ultimately be happy with the wording. This would then increase the amount it would cost and we just keep on going around and around in circles.

              The other thing we have to consider is that the management company is there for the running of the bricks and mortar not the marketing of the properties.

              we are trying to ensure that the development looks good and is well run. People will google the name of the development and find us that way.

              Comment


                #8
                dont look for trouble! If this has been more or less working, and doing so over a period of time, Let it be, because inactivity has the effect of regulatising the apprent breach. Other fish to fry......

                Comment


                  #9
                  Who erected the sign?

                  When was it erected?

                  Where exactly is it on the building?

                  Do the leases of the flats include the exterior?

                  Comment


                    #10
                    If the building is used for business purposes , its no longer residential building and your building insurance cover may not be valid.

                    If the lease says no advertising , you should serve general notice to every leaseholder to request removal of their signs in the window .

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by flyingfreehold View Post
                      dont look for trouble! If this has been more or less working, and doing so over a period of time, Let it be, because inactivity has the effect of regulatising the apprent breach. Other fish to fry......
                      Believe me my fellow Director and I are certainly not looking for trouble. The issue of the signs has basically arisen because of two owners that just do not get on. So unfortunately we are having to try and mediate the situation and the only thing we have as a rule book is the lease.

                      When I spoke to the Lease Advisory Service. I asked them if the signage issue could be decided on by a vote at our AGM. She said it could be agreed but we would have to have all the leases rewritten to take this agreement into consideration. Then you open Pandora's box with questions such as who gets what, how many signs etc... We are trying to ensure that we set a precedent and that we can stand by our decisions should something else come along. Because if we give in on this point then other owners might push back on other points in the Lease and we end up in the Wild West.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post
                        Who erected the sign?

                        When was it erected?

                        Where exactly is it on the building?

                        Do the leases of the flats include the exterior?

                        Who erected the sign? - Good question, This is something that we don't know. The owner of the Holiday Letting Business is saying that he owns the sign. He also owns one of the apartments.

                        When was it erected? - Again this is something we don't know. I have taken a quick look through the planing portal and there was nothing on there. I have tried to look for any images of the hotel on the internet pre conversion to see if the sign was present but again I can't find anything. Interestingly I did come across google street view and found an image from March 2009 showing the conversion work and neither the front or back signs are present. I can only assume they were later additions.

                        Where exactly is it on the building? - So there are two signs. The first, the frame is probably about 10 ft high and 3ft wide and then the inner sign is probably about 5 foot high. The top 3/5 is the name of the development and the bottom 2/5 contains some unrecognisable photos are the interiors, the telephone number and website address of the holiday lettings business. The underneath the sign is a sign that advertises winter lets. The rear sign is similar to a pub sign but with the development name, the telephone number and winter lets line.

                        Do the leases of the flats include the exterior? - The leases make reference to the right of passage in the communal areas, the parking spaces, Not allowing for washing to be hung out of the balconies, Children aren't allowed to have fun outside. It also says this:

                        "Not to affix to any window or door of the Apartment any external blinds or to affix or place any notices signs pictures legends or advertisements outside the apartment and not to place any name writing drawing signboard plate or placard of any kind on or in any window of the Apartment so as to be visible outside the Apartment."

                        Why do you ask?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          The significance of each question:

                          Who erected the sign?

                          The covenant prohibits erecting signs. The person who is in breach is the person who erected the sign or ordered it to be erected. No one else is in breach.

                          When was it erected?

                          If it was erected more then 12 years ago the breach cannot be enforced under the law of limitation of actions. If erected a few years ago there is an argument that there has been too long a delay.

                          Where exactly is it on the building?

                          The covenant is specific that signs should not be erected "outside the apartment". If it was erected on the roof, for example, would it be "outside the apartment"?

                          Do the leases of the flats include the exterior?

                          If the parts on which the signs are erected do not belong to the person who erected the sign (that is were included in his lease) he does not own the sign, the landlord does. Accordingly only the landlord has the authority to remove it. If any sign is erected on the exterior of a flat and the exterior is included in the parts demised by the lease it still belongs to the landlord, but the tenant can remove it during the lease.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post
                            The significance of each question:

                            Who erected the sign?

                            The covenant prohibits erecting signs. The person who is in breach is the person who erected the sign or ordered it to be erected. No one else is in breach.

                            When was it erected?

                            If it was erected more then 12 years ago the breach cannot be enforced under the law of limitation of actions. If erected a few years ago there is an argument that there has been too long a delay.

                            Where exactly is it on the building?

                            The covenant is specific that signs should not be erected "outside the apartment". If it was erected on the roof, for example, would it be "outside the apartment"?

                            Do the leases of the flats include the exterior?

                            If the parts on which the signs are erected do not belong to the person who erected the sign (that is were included in his lease) he does not own the sign, the landlord does. Accordingly only the landlord has the authority to remove it. If any sign is erected on the exterior of a flat and the exterior is included in the parts demised by the lease it still belongs to the landlord, but the tenant can remove it during the lease.
                            Hi, And thanks for responding.

                            So the person who erected the sign was the original developer and was the person who also arranged all the leases 10 years ago. The 'ownership' of the sign now falls to one of the other owners and who runs the holiday letting business. Whilst he hasn't shown us and documents to the transfer of ownership or any receipts for maintenance, they have had to change the telephone number on both signs in the last 18 months.

                            The issue regarding this was raised 1 year ago but it has taken this long to get to this point due to the fact that the previous director was also the owner of the holiday letting business who recently resigned. I and my fellow director picked this up and we had to organise a new managing agent.

                            In respect to "Where exactly is it" question are you saying that the "outside the apartment" does mean anywhere outside the main complex, in the grounds? There are a number of apartments that actually do open out onto the carpark directly and do not have a communal area.

                            The sign frame apparently belongs to the holiday letting business. This is what the previous group of three owners have told him.

                            The majority of owners are claiming that this element of the lease does not / should not relate to the erected sign. One of the owners has contacted the original developer (one man band) to ask for his interpretation of the lease and the owner has said that this is not what he had intended and his interpretation is different and he agrees with the majority of the owners. My question in relation to this is does this 'view' have any bearing on the situation we find ourselves in? Does this change anything? Or does hindsight have nothing to do with this? i.e. I bought a brand new red car and 1 year later I wish I had bought a blue one?

                            I suppose the question is do we have a case to request this be removed without another chess move response that pulls the legal legs out from under us?

                            If we are in the right and they don't agree then the next step I guess is 1st Tier Tribunal to decide?

                            Comment


                              #15
                              To clarify:

                              Are you saying that the sign in question was in position before the first lease was sold?

                              Was the sign erected by someone who no longer has an interest in the property in any way?

                              Does the lease say (a) no advertising (b) no signs or (c) both?

                              If the sign is an advert what exactly does it advertise? The flats generally? An agent who deals with most of the flats? Something else?

                              Comment

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