Structural change made to a leasehold property

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    Structural change made to a leasehold property

    Hey, I wondered if I can get some advice and I have looked at related topics but no specific answer. I am a joint freeholder on the first floor of an Edwardian house with just one other joint freeholder on the ground floor. There was an entrance to a redundant staircase on the kitchen floor in my flat when I bought in 2009 and the majority of stair-case ran through the ground floor. I built over the stair-case with kitchen units in 2009 and the staircase could easily have been removed when I was at work. In between 2009-16 the staircase was removed without my consent and I asked about the stair-case in 2016 when the ground floor was sold (via probate) but neither the buyer or sellers solicitor advised it was no longer in place. I found out in 2016 after the sale was complete that the structural change happened and the sellers said that they were told it was removed in 1997 which is not correct. The removal of the stair-case did not go through building control or planning at the local council. I have never been provided with structural engineer reports when the staircase was removed and I am having structural problems in my kitchen floor,so I am trying to work out what is happening. I have approached the conveyancing solicitor and he says since the sale was through probate, the family would not have known that the staircase was removed (even though it was very visible on the ground floor flat) and they believed it was removed in 1997 and since it is not on the lease it is not on any drawings, I am not making any progress. I do have a picture of the where the staircase started in my kitchen and also my seller confirmed it was in the flat I bought in 2009. Can anyone advise what to do in this situation? The lease says

    Clause 3(g) confirms that ground flat leaseholder/freeholder cannot make structural alterations or structural additions or erect any building, or remove lessor's fixtures without prior consent from the lessor ( they could not have carried out the alterations without having first sought your consent)

    #2
    You stated that the majority of the staircase ran through the ground-floor flat; did you see the staircase when you purchased the flat?

    It may be a valid point the sellers would not have known about the staircase if it was not there when they were dealing with the estate. Therefore the new lessee would have no recourse against the seller since they only stated they believed it was removed in 1997.

    What prompted you to enquire about the staircase in 2016?

    Have you spoken with the tenant in the ground-floor flat? Given you jointly own the freehold (I am assuming as individuals rather than freehold held by company of which you are both shareholders or members), this is a problem you will have to deal with as the freeholder. You also have a separate interest as the leaseholder experiencing problems that may or may not be to do with the alleged removal of the staircase.

    In terms of taking action against the ground-floor lessee, this will be problematic in the absence of evidence; further statute of limitation may apply depending upon when the staircase was removed. It may be better to act as the freeholder of the property but even here you will need the co-operation of your co-freeholder.

    However, the key concern is the problems you are experiencing. You may be able to arrange for someone from Building Control to visit your flat for advice. Alternatively, you will probably via the freehold need to arrange for a building surveyor to inspect the building. This is something you will need to discuss with the co-freeholder. When was the building last surveyed? It is reasonable for a freeholder to periodically arrange a building survey in line with their obligations.

    I hope this is of some help and that others with more knowledge of this area post responses.

    Good luck.



    Comment


      #3
      Hi, thanks for your advise on here. A neighbour has suggested that I should apply to the first tier tribunal for a managing agent to take over the building. The agent needs to be court approved and becomes an officer of the court. However, the one I was recommended only deals with blocks and not houses. Is there any way of finding a management agent in London who is court approved?

      Comment


        #4
        I would definitely not apply to the Tribunal to appoint a manager, It is unlikely to take you forward, it is likely to be expensive, you are not guaranteed to be able to remove the manager at a later stage and it would affect your ability to sell your property. There are horror stories on this forum if you wish to carry out a search.

        I suggest that the best option is to meet your co-freeholder and agree a way forward, a survey as suggested by vmart in #2 is a good start. Any necessary works would be recommended by the surveyor and you could ask him/her to draw up a specification of works and supervise them if you do not feel confident.

        Whether or not the surveyor will be able to put a date to the alterations and whether or not any action could be taken now against the leaseholder at the time is another matter but the surveyor's report should give you further information to consider.

        Comment


          #5
          It is going to be horrendously expensive, try to talk and if not contact building control if you are having issues - if the think there is a danger they would enforce it

          Comment


            #6
            I cannot see how anyone can say how expensive it is going to be and any enforcement at this stage would be against the current joint freeholders. For your own peace of mind, if you are having structural problems, you should obtain expert advice and that should indicate what action if any needs to be taken.

            Comment


              #7
              Hey, following on from above post regarding my kitchen floor which was slanting, I got a structural engineer out and he talked to the couple about why my kitchen floor is slanting (doing an evaluation of my and their flat). He diagnosed rotten joists (discussed with the couple) and so I organised a building company to double up joists as he recommended. The couple are now saying that I have breached the lease as I did the work when they were on holiday and did not get their permission. The couple are now saying they are taking advice on how to proceed. I just wondered what they can do as I am a joint freeholder and what i did was approved by an engineer and the building company documented their work to show they followed his advice.

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