Editor: Many landlords are planning for additional storeys to properties in town and city centre locations following the chancellor’s announcement that permitted development rights for upwards extensions will be in place by autumn.
However, these new planning freedoms do not provide a carte blanche and I advise landlords tempted by the financial rewards of increased lettable space to familiarise themselves with other relevant legislation.
Any upwards extension could affect the structure and fabric of a neighbouring property. Therefore, a building owner proposing an upwards extension must serve notice to affected neighbours under the Party Wall etc Act 1996. The act requires two months’ notice to enable the neighbouring owners (freehold and/or leasehold) to either agree or dissent to the works. At this point, an appointed party-wall surveyor must undertake a schedule of condition of the neighbouring properties to provide effective dispute resolution.
Importantly, landlords should clarify the technical aspects of an extension. For example, if the building works result in alterations to a leaseholder’s ceiling (such as to embed a steel structure), their rights will be affected. Many residents of top-floor flats assume they have rights over roofs. But while they may have access, they do not necessarily have protected rights. Skylights may be similarly affected.
So while developers might look set to gain from the opportunity to create additional storeys, in reality the situation is precarious. Without the stringent procedures and the reassurance that the planning system offers, developers could potentially embark on building works and only on completion suffer significant consequences.
Roger Watts, chairman, Trident Building Consultancy