Enforcement notice - Sub-division of single flat into 2: Please help

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    Enforcement notice - Sub-division of single flat into 2: Please help

    I bought a subdivided ground floor flat in Newham in 2014 through Auction. There used to be a single ground floor flat which was converted into two flats in 2012. One was sold to a leaseholder in 2012 and another to me in 2014.

    We are now served a Enforcement notice stating that it was converted illegally without planning permission/building regulation. The council was also stating that the conversion didn't fulfil space or width requirements and want it to be converted back into a single property. We couldn’t trace the freeholder as so far there is no contact from him/her.

    I have also spoken to the other ground flat leaseholder and like me he is also first time in the property market and we are caught up in this situation. In his defence he bought it though an estate agent and did all searches and also got mortgage on the property.

    Conversation with the council suggests that they are in the process of building a case to prosecute us.

    we are innocent victims of this but understand we will be liable as current leaseholders. We would like to set it right as and would like to know the options available. Any help and advice would be really appreciated.

    Our plan with our limited knowledge is to appeal to get more time (currently 5 months to comply with the notice) on the following grounds:
    1.Both flats are currently rented – so have to give notice to vacate them
    2.Has to find a 3rd party to sell both our flats which can take time. It will also require remedial works to be done after tenants has vacated.
    3.Or either one of us has to buy other’s flat for which we will require mortgage – not sure if we can get a mortgage on property with active enforcement notice in place?.

    The reason to comply with the notice is with the precedents from the earlier cases in pour neighbourhood, flat conversion applications were not successful with Newham council.

    Do we have any other options available? Or should we have to approach in any other way. Please point us to a right direction, any recommendation of solicitors or property experts would help as well.

    As an amatuer landlord , I found this site very useful, now turning for help with this issue

    Thanks in advance

    #2
    Did your solicitors not check planning permission for the flats when you bought? Sounds like SRA should be sorting the problems out for you.

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks JKO,

      As I bought it in auction and paid the deposit , my solicitor warned me the consequences. But for another leaseholder who owns the other flat, his solicitor missed this in their searches.

      is it possible to get a resolution?
      Do one of us can get a mortgage to buy the other flat?
      Any advice please

      Comment


        #4
        Firstly, You and the other flat owner need to get a planning consultant or chartered town planner to talk to the council on your behalf. The council will take them more seriously then you.

        2) The consultant or planner will suggest to the council that rather than changing the flat's back, you be allowed to keep both : either
        (i) by expanding them to meet space regulations (build loft room and / or rear extension, move one or two internal walls, etc.)

        (ii) by appealing against the council's decision - they will know the relevant grounds for appeal.

        3. Is it possible that the flats were created at least 4 years ago, not necessarily as they were sold to you, but perhaps the previous owner was using them roughly as 2 flats WITHOUT separate meters, utilities, council tax, or separate front doors. If he was, then the 4 year immunity rule applies, and you be able to keep the flats as you bought them.

        Comment


          #5
          Thank you for the help

          The flats were created in 2012 and council got the proof when they applied for retrospective planning permission for an extension to the ground floor in 2012. This extension was then included in the subdivision of flats.

          I was googling for a good planning consultant. Any recommendations as there are lot of online agents but not sure how many of them are trusted?

          what will happen if we the appeal is overturned, what should we be prepared of? is it practical to find a 3rd party to buy both of pour flats? also thinking about the practical difficulties in getting a mortgage

          Comment


            #6
            Hi,
            I'll address the first part of your reply here.

            It may seem a black and white issue, but there are technicalities that could get you of the hook, but you'll need to do a bit of detective work.

            Please answer these questions exactly, and if you're not sure then say so.

            When exactly was the extension built - this is NOT the date of the retrospective application?

            What exact date did the previous owner state for the creation of the 2 flats?

            When the retro. app. was made, did it state that 2 flats were in existence?

            Was the retro. app. granted or refused?

            Go to your council's website, look up that retro. app. and associated documents and see if there is an Officers Report. This and the other documents will give you the information to answer the above questions.

            Many landlords subdivide properties cheaply and simply when they rent them out and hide them from the council, and then get them done up properly when they are to sell them.

            If the previous landlord was USING the property as 2 flats - even if in a totally different way to the way he sold them to you - before the extension was built and before the retro. app. was made, then you may have a chance to keep the 2 current flats.

            Comment


              #7
              Thanks for the response. I have answers for most of them

              When exactly was the extension built - this is NOT the date of the retrospective application?
              in Q3 2011

              What exact date did the previous owner state for the creation of the 2 flats?
              Q3 2012

              When the retro. app. was made, did it state that 2 flats were in existence?
              retro application was approved in Q1 2012 and at this time the property was a single flat. This is why I think we fail with 4 years existence rule, as it was subdivided in 2012 (between mar and Sep 2012).

              Was the retro. app. granted or refused?
              retro application was granted in Q1 2012

              Do you think we have a case here? What options do we have. we have 2 weeks left to appeal and 5 months left to comply with.

              Comment


                #8
                Are the flats studios (bedroom, kitchen, bathroom) or one bedroom flats (bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, lounge)?

                Do have the room sizes or total floor area for each flat?

                Comment


                  #9
                  My flat is 1 bed studio with ( 1 room is kitchen n living and a separate large bedroom and wc+shower rom) with size of 25 sq metre. My neighbour's flat is 1 bedroom(individual rooms for living,bedroom and kitchen) but dont know the floor area. Hope it helps

                  Comment


                    #10
                    As I see it, you have 3 possible solutions:

                    1) Your planning consultant asks the council to permit the flats to be retained as they are because:

                    - They have been consistently
                    occupied for 3 years thus
                    establishing a Use and a demand.

                    - You and/or the other flat owner acted
                    in good faith, and were the victims of
                    bad advice. These were rare and
                    unusual circumstances; and
                    completely different to the usual
                    excuses given for flat conversions by
                    other landlords; and by allowing the
                    flats to remain, the council would not
                    be setting a precedent.

                    - No member of the public has
                    complained, and no unlawful
                    extensions or other external works
                    have been carried out. It would not
                    be in the public interest to undertake
                    enforcement proceedings.

                    2)You and your local councillor have
                    a meeting with a senior planning
                    officer to plead you case.

                    3) Turn both flats into 2 large studio flats, they should meet the council's space requirements or even exceed them. Based on your figures, both studio flats would easily fit in the area taken by the current flats. Get the councils own Private Sector Housing Unit, or Homeless Unit, or a local Housing Association, to confirm that: they have a clients for studios such as yours, there is a shortage of studios in the area, and that they will take your studios immediately on long term leases if they are created.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      exlettingagent,


                      Thank you really for that information. Something we havent thought about. And we dont even have a planning consultant. But will try to appeal along the lines mentioned.

                      Thank you

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Two planning experts/consultants:

                        Martin Goodall
                        martin.goodall@keystonelaw.co.uk

                        Trevor Dennington
                        info@landplanning.org.uk

                        They're both well known to landlords. Trevor may work on a No Win No Fee basis.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Thank you very much.
                          I will contact Trevor to see if he can help.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I have managed to submit an appeal for more time.

                            Can anyone advice me on mortgages.
                            one of us are planning to buy the other flat in order to comply. But not sure if any mortgage provider will give mortgage for a property with an active enforecement notice

                            Will it possible to convince them that we need mortgage in order to comply with the notice

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Reading this post makes me angry. I can't believe a crook got away with it!

                              When you went to auction. Did you check the legal pack? Did they include the search?. Did you check on-line? It may be possible, the seller removed the search from the legal pack in the auction room (I am not sure where you stand if that has happened). That is why always worth checking documents on-line. Check the search on-line, the council may have flagged up the planning breach on Flat A, but on say Flat B.

                              I knew someone who had a similar situation, the council reverted came and reverted the flats to a single house. So you had two families sharing a house, without separation. One part of the house was rented and the other owner occupied. Never knew what happened in the end.

                              Newham is an area of Licensing, did they grant you both of you a license?.

                              > one of us are planning to buy the other flat in order to comply. But not sure if any mortgage provider will give mortgage for a property with an active enforcement notice.

                              You need to find a specialist lender. Even if you find one, their lending rates will be expensive.

                              Comment

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