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22 July 2019

I want to make alterations to my flat, but joint freeholders are blocking this. What can I do?

This article was first published by City AM, Friday 19 July 2019.

This is a common problem encountered by flat owners who want to make improvements to their flat but are faced with objections from the other leaseholders in the building. To overcome this hurdle, there are a number of things to consider.

Firstly, will the type of alterations to be carried out affect the structural integrity of the building?

Check to see what the terms of your lease say about your entitlement to carry out works to the flat. A typical residential lease will contain a prohibition against making any alteration to the flat without the landlord’s prior consent, except for internal, non-structural alterations.

These are often permitted without consent, provided that the tenant obtains and complies with all necessary local authority building regulations and provides plans of the proposed works if requested.

If your lease permits alterations to your flat subject to the landlord’s consent, then the freehold company cannot unreasonably withhold or delay such consent or impose unreasonable conditions in any licence for the works. The company would however be able to block the works if your lease contains an absolute prohibition against alterations.

The company is bound by the terms of your lease but also by due process under company law. The company’s articles of association should contain provisions as to the decision making process of the company and provide a steer as to how the dispute with the other members of the company can be resolved. For example, consider what voting rights you have under the company’s constitution.

You do not say what your status in the company is, for instance whether you are a shareholder or a director. If you are a minority shareholder, the basic rights you will have under the Companies Act may be enhanced by the company’s articles or a separate shareholders agreement. These documents are key in determining what influence you have to shape the decisions of the company.

Consider how disruptive the works are likely to be and what measures might be taken to minimise the disruption, for example, to limit noise disturbance, dust and mess.
A meeting with the others to discuss their concerns and offer solutions might also be a good opportunity to garner support for the works.

At the end of the day, your fellow flat owners are your neighbours and good tenant relations are key to achieving the right balance for communal living.

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