Flat Roof used as fire escape and right of way

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    Flat Roof used as fire escape and right of way

    I am the Freeholder of a property and the property has an single story extension which has a flat roof. The lease holder of the flat above had the lease amended before I purchased it so that he has the right of use of the flat roof. I converted the ground floor of the property and added a basement. I installed roof lights into the flat roof to provide light to the basement conversion. I also put down a grass roof. I was advised by a friend that I could do what I needed to do as I am the free holder. I had submitted a planning application and this had all been passed.

    What I did not know was the flat roof was a fire escape for the flat as this was approved in a planning application in 1999 way before I purchased the property. The lease holder is now saying that they have right of use as per the amendment in the lease and that the removal of the fire escape has made their property un-rent able. They are also claiming they have an easement as the planning application in 1999 states that the flat roof can only be used as a fire escape and not to be used as anything else and 20 years has passed since that application was approved and that they have that option in the event of a fire.

    Can the lease holder make me put the roof back as a flat roof after all the money I have spent and I need the roof lights to get light to my basement. I have looked at other options to get a fire escape added and there is no other route apart from going across the flat roof.

    Any help or advice you can give would help.

    #2
    Hi I may be missing something but I don't see anything stating you have removed the fire escape? have you physically removed a ladder or staircase or do the roof lights interfere with someone being able to pass over the roof on foot or create a trip hazard. Maybe I have not read your post correctly but why would you want to put a grass roof on something that you yourself are not using or can see?

    Reading above you also state the lease was amended so the flat had the right to use the flat roof so surely only the flat has direct access to the roof and you don't ? Given that lease was amended what made you think you could install the roof lights if they at all interfere with a right given to the flat by the lease modification.

    The detail will be in the lease but I would have thought the minimum you would need is the agreement in writing of the flat that had aquired the rights to use the roof so that you could install the roof lights as in theory they may interfere with his/her enjoyment of the roof.

    Were the rights given to the flat that the roof can be used as a fire escape or used as a roof garden or something else?

    Have I missed something?

    Just my personal view

    All the best Stew

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks. I can provide a bit more detail. The fire escape route is over the flat roof and now that I have installed these roof lights and a sunken deck they cannot get out of the building. The plans passed in 1999 when the property was split state that the fire exit is from the first floor and over the flat roof but I did not know this. There was a ladder on the flat roof when I did the work but it was just lying flat on the roof.

      I also installed a hatch from the ground floor to the flat roof so that I can access it and I put grass on it so that I could use it as a roof terrace. Planning had said that I could make the changes so I assumed I was entitled to do those changes.

      Not sure this helps my predicament.

      Comment


        #4
        Legally I don't know but from a laymans point of view if you have done this and there is a fire and someone gets injured I think potentially you are in a very sticky place and I don't think your insurance will cover you given you are aware of the facts.

        I understand both parties concerns, you have spent money, you thought it was fine now it turns out it is not,,, but they do say ignorance is no excuse. I wonder at what point the flat owner raised this and what actually needs to be present for a fire escape.

        On the plus side it does not sound like the lease allows the flat owner to use it as a roof terrace, could a balance be reached? i.e. contact the fire brigade and HSE and ask what is needed for a fire escape, could it be redesiged to serve both purposes?

        I realise this will cost you some money but I would rather do that then cause a risk to someone. I would probably have raised enquiries though when I saw the ladder up there.

        Planning permission will not save you at all here (in my view),, in theory I can get planning for a building over my neighbours land it does not mean that I can build it only that the concept is permissable. It would have been up to you to present all the details although I'm suprised your upper neighbour did not object.

        Sorry to hear about this challenge, think it may be hard to solve

        Just my personal view

        All the best Stew

        Comment


          #5
          If they have a lease which says that this roof is not t o be used for any purpose other than that stated, I guess you need to remove all your modifications.

          As above, the planning approval is irrelevant.

          Comment


            #6
            Thanks everyone. Just to clarify a couple of points before I think about my next steps.

            The council planning application is a condition where is states that the flat roof cannot be used as a roof terrace and has to be a fire escape and this is the application from 1999 when the property was spilt into two. When the council granted me the right to build on the roof they had not taken this into consideration. Can I point the finger at planning who allowed me to do this??

            The deed of variation that was done for the flat owner has a section which says he has the right to use the flat roof as a roof terrace. This was an oversight on my part but I had asked my friend who said the deed of variation was not worth anything and would not stand up in court. Is he right? This is the one I am more concerned about as he is looking to have the flat roof re-instated back to as it was prior to the work being done.

            Lastly, he has mentioned something about a right of easement. I had a quick look on the internet and it seem to imply that he may have that right as the fire escape route as been in place for over 20 years as per the council planning application in 1999. Can I challenge this?

            I have checked with the local fire services and the only fire exit route from the flat is over the flat roof.

            It seems that I am asking more questions, sorry, I am desperately thinking of ways to avoid court action from the leaseholder in the flat.

            Thanks everyone

            Comment


              #7
              As Andrew Dod says above you need to remove your modifications pronto. Why would you think you had any rights to use an area to which someone else had sole access with a Deed of Variation giving them rights.
              You can't blame the planning dept.

              Comment


                #8
                It seems to me the core question is the safety of the people who have this as their only fire escape route. They MUST have one. Stop looking for ways to avoid the consequences of your mistake.
                Discuss any possible solutions that they would accept.
                The only way to avoid possible court action is to satisfy them.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Does the deed of variation show what part of the flat roof he can use. Maybe you can say he only has the use of a small part of the flat roof. Then you can keep all your roof lights. There must be a loop hole you can use. Remember Freeholder is king.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    You say that they have a deed of variation that they can use the flat roof as a terrace. But planning have refused a roof terrace so surely you can use this excuse that if they cant use it as a roof terrace then you can fit your skylights in? As they cant use the flat roof as a terrace you can check if the deed of variation is invalid or do they still have the right to the flat roof whether they use it or not.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      FiK I assume you are deliberately trying a wind up. Perhaps it all is. Would someone really be prepared to block the one fire escape : illegal and unethical.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Scot22 If you read what Cardiff says the fire escape is not mentioned on the lease it is on the planning application in 1999 that was passed to convert it. If its not in the lease then they dont have a leg to stand on. As for the use of the flat roof by the top flat if they have never used it or cant use it as a roof terrace then even tho they have a deed of variation that they can use the whole roof they cant so they loose that right . Yes you agree?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Scot22 its not about being unethical its about what the paperwork says yes?

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Freeholder is king View Post
                            Scot22 its not about being unethical its about what the paperwork says yes?
                            Yep, and it says that flat roof is demised to lessee.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Scott22 not telling you your job The deed of variation says they have the right to use the flat roof. The The flat roof is demised to Richard.

                              Comment

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