Cupboard under the stairs

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    Cupboard under the stairs

    Hi all,

    Hoping by some miracle somebody might be able to help us.

    We're in the process of selling our leasehold ground floor flat. There's a small cupboard under the communal stairs to the upstairs flat (only one other flat in building) that is only accessible from within our flat. It's been there since we've owned it (and I'm pretty sure decades before that too). It's very small - door into it is about a foot by a foot and a half. Similarly small inside - four square feet maybe?

    Our estate agent included this on the floorplan when drawing up the listing for sale and this has drawn the attention of the freeholder to the fact this is not on the original lease. They say because a) it is not demised to our flat and b) a door has been created into that space without their knowledge - they now require a Deed of Variation on the basis that "a consideration of £5,985 is agreed", plus £1300 legal fees, plus fees from their managing agent of £400, plus fees for our legal work too of course. Looking like it'll be close to £8-9k total. The cupboard really is tiny - it's extraordinary.

    Entry to the cupboard is shown on the estate agent's floorplan from when we bought the flat (which I still have a copy of), but they seem to be correct that it's not on the lease. In hindsight, I know we should have spotted this. I think the conveyancer who acted for us when we bought it perhaps should have spotted the discrepancy (i.e. the door) too?

    Until a week ago, the freeholder was also claiming that extension works carried out by the previous owners of the flat were carried out without their permission and that we needed a deed of variation for those too. We've since been able to prove that they had in fact given permission for those works, so it seems evident they're just doing whatever they can to get as much money out of us as possible.

    It seems there's nothing else we're able to do at this stage other than pay the £8-9k, but I feel like we're being extorted. This is the final thing holding up the sale and we're hoping to complete before the stamp duty deadline.

    We were going to propose boarding it up, but our buyers want to retain access to the cupboard (useful storage in a tiny flat) and there's no guarantee the freeholder would have to accept that anyway as I understand it.

    We are happy for the space to remain formally communal. It is, after all, only accessible from within our flat. However, that would still leave the issue of a door that the freeholder claims they were unaware of.

    Our solicitor has no solutions other than finding new buyers who are happy for it to be boarded up, or paying the £8-9k, so I'd be incredibly grateful if anyone has any ideas.

    Thanks so much in advance!




    #2
    Just remove the door and any added timber. simpicity it'self The space is STILL communal, but no one will want to knock on your door to just go in there.
    Put it back to original, e.g. no boarding, as it would be before converted into flats
    job done, Simple. Have saved you £ 8000, ( 20% of that -- cheque in the post please )

    Comment


      #3
      The buyers wanting to retain access is really the problem. As the pp said, reinstate it to it's original state. Sorted. If your buyers have an issue with that, then find new buyers. It's a seller's market out there.

      Comment


        #4
        Re-instate wall, sell flat.

        What the new owners do isn't your issue.

        Comment


          #5
          Thanks for your responses - genuinely grateful.

          My understanding (as anything but a legal expert) is they can still charge us for the change even if we reinstate the wall. Is that wrong?

          Would be good to have confirmation whether that's true if a) we remove the door, so it's just open access b) board it up or c) reinstate a wall that matches the surroundings.

          Comment


            #6
            Can you negotiate? Unless you are in the most super-prime neighbourhoods, £1500/square foot seems excessive. Especially for what is likely restricted space headroom? I'd be looking to try to negotiate to 50% of the price per square foot your buyer is paying otherwise given that this is limited use space.

            Comment


              #7
              Common sense.

              you tell the buyers that they will have access to under the stairs, as there will be no door on it.
              You take the door off and assign it to the buyer, you leave the door in the flat for buyer to use as he sees fit. ( screws taped to rear of door - and sign on it stating property of next tenant, do not remove from flat )

              Your under the stairs is now open for the freeholder to go in and sit in it if he wishes, but because it is accessed from your demise, a door may be fitted, as you or new tenants don't want to look at an ugly mug, nor do they want unrestricted veiwing of them from someone under the stairs and have a right to privicy, and door will be closed if anyone goes in there. ( fit a simple ball type closer, onw thatwith just a push, the door opens ( + door knob each side )

              But , and also, the freholder does NOT seem to want a door on, therefore the freeholder will never know if anything is stored under the stairs.
              The freeholder has access to under the stairs any time he asks permission to pass through the demise to access it, and if that happens, you say come back in 15 minutes, and you just pull out your stuff ( flat can be as untidey as you want ) - job done ..

              Yes, under the stairs is not for your use, or for storage, and your plight is totally different to a hatch into the loft, ( a bloody big room ) that is not demised.

              Anyway, sell with door removed, as the freeholder requires, and tell them to get stuffed, as you have removed that which they have objected to, which if it was like that when you got your lease, then freeholder has no claim on you and to go forth and multipply, and above info, and let the buyers decide to use or not to use.

              I expect there may be stop cocks or fusebaxes, or junction boxes in there hence not being demised to you

              Comment


                #8
                If the cupboard was there when the lease was granted there is no way it is not included in the lease. Section 62(2) of the Law of Property Act 1925 applies:

                A conveyance [includes lease] of land, having houses or other buildings thereon, shall be deemed to include and shall by virtue of this Act operate to convey, with the land, houses, or other buildings, all outhouses, erections, fixtures, cellars, areas, courts, courtyards, cisterns, sewers, gutters, drains, ways, passages, lights, watercourses, liberties, privileges, easements, rights, and advantages whatsoever, appertaining or reputed to appertain to the land, houses, or other buildings conveyed, or any of them, or any part thereof, or, at the time of conveyance, demised, occupied, or enjoyed with, or reputed or known as part or parcel of or appurtenant to, the land, houses, or other buildings conveyed, or any of them, or any part thereof.

                If the cupboard was made after the lease was granted but many years ago by now it will have become part of the lease.

                The landlord is going to need to prove that the cupboard was made recently.

                If your solicitor has been wringing his hands here he needs to get proactive and start quoting Section 62(2).

                Comment


                  #9
                  Thanks again for everyone's replies.

                  Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post

                  The landlord is going to need to prove that the cupboard was made recently.
                  Is that right? Is the burden of proof on them to prove it's recent, rather than on us to prove it's old? If that's correct, that would change everything! I'd be incredibly grateful if you could point us in the direction of the relevant legislation if that's the case? Our solicitors have been completely useless on this.

                  The freehlders are pointing towards the lease that we became part of when buying the place. There is no door shown on that plan. Might they try to use that as 'proof' the door is new?

                  (One other thing - we have the 'right to manage' shared with the flat upstairs.. Not sure if that changes anything.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga.../20/section/62

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Like most law, the law of evidence can get involved. However, the starting point is that the party making the claim must prove his case by backing it up with evidence.

                      The purpose of a lease plan is to identify the property. Unless the lease provides to the contrary (which I have never seen) the plan is not evidence of the internal layout. You do not know how accurate the plan is nor if it is as "as we meant to do it but actually we changed things a bit" plan. There is also a limit to the detail a lease plan will show.

                      Apart from that, it is pretty much universal that use is made of the space under stairs. All the houses I have lived in have cupboards under the stairs.

                      The landlord is just trying to drum up some cash. Your solicitor's job is to protect your interest. He needs to get proactive and do his best to see the landlord off. He should be threatening to sue for slander of title.

                      Comment

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