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8 Federation of Private Residents’ Associations Newsletter Ask the FPRA continued from page seven


I was surprised to see that the “Premises” leased to the third floor lessees includes the roof space and, although this is not common in flat leases, it does place the day-to-day oversight of these spaces on the lessees which would save the lessor company a possible worry.


I expect that this might enable the lessor to get into the roof space through the “hatch” for, perhaps, storage. However if the lessee wanted to use the space for occupation, no doubt alterations would be needed and a clause in your lease makes it clear that he must seek the approval of the company.


Tree Causes Cracks Q A


One of our garages has been damaged by, we believe, the roots of a tree and a mound of earth in a neighbour’s garden behind the garage. There is a large crack the length of the floor of the garage and cracks in the rear wall. We have not yet approached the neighbour to ask them to remove the tree but, assuming their probable reluctance to do so, do we have any legal power regarding the removal of the tree? Who would bear the costs of (a) the removal of the tree and (b) the repairs to the garage, and are either of these costs likely to be met by our building insurance policy? Presumably we will need to obtain a surveyor’s report before taking any action. FPRA Committee Member Simon Haswell replies: It would be the tree owner’s responsibility to cover damage caused this tree, I would recommend that our client contact the owner and suggest that they engage a tree surgeon to establish whether the tree needs to come down or to have root maintenance to save it. Also I believe that the tree should be covered by the neighbour’s house insurance and this should therefore cover costs of repair, including the garage.


Q A


Window Worries We have recently decorated the outside of the whole building (a block of five flats, self-managed). This involved some repairs to external window frames, sills and some dormer windows. One of the owners has read the lease to mean the external window frames are the individual flat owners’ responsibility and therefore their direct cost. In the schedule it states that each owner will share the expenses of maintaining, repairing, redecorating and renewing in the common parts. Could you advise please. FPRA Replies: Your lease’s definition of “demised premises” includes, “the windows, window frames, glass, sash cords, door, door frames, pipes and electrical and heating installation”. The Common Parts are defined in the lease and do not make reference to flat windows. The windows of the individual flats are therefore demised to the individual flats and do not form part of the Common Parts.


In addition, the lease deals with the tenant’s obligations and states that the tenant is not permitted to make structural alterations without the landlord’s consent. The changing of


Issue No. 107 Winter 2013


windows is not usually classed as “structural works”. The tenants technically are therefore not obliged (under the terms of the lease) to contribute to the new windows. Notwithstanding the above though, given the block is a self-managed block of five – is there any way a compromise solution can be reached?


Q


A


Extending the Leases We are a central London block of 68 flats. We are 100 per cent enfranchised. The freehold is owned by a not-for- profit company that is wholly owned by all the leaseholders. Thus all leaseholders can claim that they own a share of the freehold. However, when selling, we find that prospective purchasers, and possibly even their solicitors, are not sure what this means. The lease was originally 125 years. There is now less than 100 years left and several leaseholders are asking to extend their leases. We had hoped that the Government Commonhold legislation would enable us to convert to leases that were no longer time-dependent, but their onerous – and unrealistic – requirements mean that this cannot happen. Ideally we would extend to 999 years, with the leaseholders being required to only pay the legal costs. No premium would be charged for the extension. However, our accountants say that there could be serious tax implications, as there will be a rise in the value of the extended leases, which could be seen as a capital gain for the leaseholder. How can this be if the same leaseholder already effectively owns their flat’s freehold on which there would be a corresponding reduction in value? FPRA replies: The accountants raise a good point, however any potential tax liability may be successfully negated (and has been previously on blocks in similar situations). When the freehold was purchased by the lessees at the time (the flats appear to have changed hands since then), we assume the intention was to grant long leases to all of the participating lessees? It would appear this may have been overlooked. Had it been done at the time, there would be no


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