Two flats recently used as one house

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    Two flats recently used as one house

    My query overlaps with some of the recent threads, but is slightly different. I bought a house (feb '06) that was let to the L.A. who housed a large family on emergency accommodation terms. That tenancy is being terminated next week, at our request - the family are currently being rehoused - principally to allow rewiring and other works. Just lately, we've discovered that, until 4 years ago, it was two apartments (two floors each, including basement and attic) PP having been granted thirty years ago. It still looks like two apartments, just some of the doors having been removed, and the wiring "messed about with" which explains some of the present problems. We would not get consent now for a new conversion, due to official "oversupply" of accommodation in the borough. So....the question is - how can we restore this place to two units on an official basis? It was bought as one unit, and last paid two lots of council tax in April '03 - the minor alterations were made by the previous owner to accommodate the large family. I don't want to queer the pitch by asking too many questions of the L.A. - should I just refurb it as two units and call them flats 1&2 etc.? Can anyone advise where I'm likely to come unstuck?
    Thanks for ploughing through this.

    #2
    If the house has been used as a single planning unit since being converted then you have lost the lawful use as 2 flats... The only way you can do this without getting PP is to split the properties again and wait 4 years, when the use would become lawful.. Be careful though as you may be opening yourself up to enforcement action!!!

    PETER

    Comment


      #3
      Thank you Peter, but what is a single planning unit - a single dwelling rather than two dwellings? Our local (and very helpful) planning department have no idea of the recent occupation status, so if I were to refurb as two flats - which dept. or office would I be likely to fall foul of? Then I could put my case to them in advance and see if they accept my proposal.

      Comment


        #4
        A planning unit is the area to be considered i.e. a house. church, pub are all planning units in themselves. Thus 2 flats are 2 planning units and the deconversion changed it to one...

        You would fall foul of the planning dept...

        Regards,

        PETER

        Comment


          #5
          pdk: please explain. How could two flats informally become one? Surely the existing planing permission is capable of being still valid, if owner complies with it and resumes use of building as two flats? If it never formally became one house, why any formalities in becoming two flats again?
          JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
          1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
          2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
          3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
          4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

          Comment


            #6
            Thanks, Peter. Now, I don't mean to seem slow on the uptake, but is the use of two flats, as one big house - in order for the LA to house one enormous family on an emergency basis - really all it takes to alter the status. Planning tell me that the property is two flats and, in practice, that's what they look like - two of everything, just the internal "front doors" removed and an opening knocked through a stud partition.
            You'll appreciate that, even in East Lancashire, the outcome of this will have a sizeable financial implication.
            Thanks.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by noopin View Post
              Thanks, Peter. Now, I don't mean to seem slow on the uptake, but is the use of two flats, as one big house - in order for the LA to house one enormous family on an emergency basis - really all it takes to alter the status. Planning tell me that the property is two flats and, in practice, that's what they look like - two of everything, just the internal "front doors" removed and an opening knocked through a stud partition.
              You'll appreciate that, even in East Lancashire, the outcome of this will have a sizeable financial implication.
              Thanks.
              Yes, and surely letting the lot for one family's residence cannot itself determine how Planning Law categorises the permitted use. If it was two flats before, it ought to remain two flats unless there is a proven reason why not.
              JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
              1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
              2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
              3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
              4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

              Comment


                #8
                was it used a a single house and if so for how long...?? PETER

                Comment


                  #9
                  It was used by one family - thus as one house - since (and here I'm just starting to panic) April '03, exact date unknown at the moment. Don't tell me the four year rule comes into play!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I'm not sure what the other members think but if it has been used as a house then it has become a single planning unit... even though there might be remnants of the 2 flats..

                    I cannot advise you to go into a breach of planning control situation but you have the option of using it for 4 years and yes, either waiting for the 4 years or submitting a planning app... If caught out you could always submit a retrospective planning application.

                    I'm sorry to the bearer of bad news... contact me thru my web site if you need further help.

                    Regards,

                    PETER

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Jeffrey and Peter seem to have slightly different perspectives on this. It has become a SPU because it has been used as one versus it's two flats according to planning, despite it having been used as one SPU.I understand that it's the planning dept. who will be upset about any changes or contraventions, and they see it as being flats, even though they know how it's been used recently. I've only spoken informally with an officer, and we looked at the drawings from the conversion in 1976. So, I think I'll have another word with them to clarify that they're happy for me to continue as was until 4 years ago. In my mind, I understand about establishing a use over a period of time, but you couldn't get away with the reverse position of using an existing house (without PP) as two flats for four years and then claiming a fait accompli.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by noopin View Post
                        Jeffrey and Peter seem to have slightly different perspectives on this. It has become a SPU because it has been used as one versus it's two flats according to planning, despite it having been used as one SPU.I understand that it's the planning dept. who will be upset about any changes or contraventions, and they see it as being flats, even though they know how it's been used recently. I've only spoken informally with an officer, and we looked at the drawings from the conversion in 1976. So, I think I'll have another word with them to clarify that they're happy for me to continue as was until 4 years ago. In my mind, I understand about establishing a use over a period of time, but you couldn't get away with the reverse position of using an existing house (without PP) as two flats for four years and then claiming a fait accompli.
                        Get Planners' advice IN WRITING and keep at least three copies (eg one with mortgagee[lender]/ title deeds, another at home, and a third with your solicitor) to be on safe side.
                        JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
                        1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
                        2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                        3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
                        4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I had thought for many years that if a lawful use is supplanted by an unlawful one for a short period then the lawful use is not considered as abandoned... and you can then go back to the lawful use again. I recently had a case along those lines and, to my shock, I found a reference in the Planning Encyclopedia which said that if a lawful use X is replaced by an unlawful one Y, then you need planning permission again to put X back into place. I still find this hard to believe and will be seeking further advice.. but it is such a grey area. The Council might well agree with you.

                          Can you remind me how long it was used as a house?? This is again a grey area with no definite rules...

                          I think we may need counsels advice on the matter..!!

                          PETER
                          Last edited by pdk; 08-04-2007, 20:22 PM. Reason: spell error

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Interesting thread.

                            The guy bought the property in 06 and let it to a single family. He's since found (at least for the purposes of discussions with LA) this is an unlawful use and the lawful use is as 2 flats.

                            The only enforcement that can take place by the LA is to make him change it back to 2 flats, which he wants anyway!

                            For the use to have been lawfully changed to a single dwelling he would have had to make an application for a Certificate of Lawful Use, which doesn't appear to have been the case.

                            Are the LA really going to take enforcement action to protect the unlawful use of a property?

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Found this on 'Certificates of Lawful Use or Development'
                              http://www.planningni.gov.uk/Devel_C...20Development?

                              As my previous message it doesn't automatically become lawful after 4 years. There's a application and a process to go through.

                              The only small area of concern would be if the LA could use this process to stop someone re-instating the previously lawful use?

                              Comment

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