Home sweet home – but who else has a say in your home?
You might think that when you buy your first property you will be in control of everything. That instead of having your parents or flat mates complaining about the mess you have made, or landlords complaining about the damage to the carpets, you can make as much mess and damage as you like, and no one can complaint or argue or make you clean it up.
Well, to a certain extent you are right. Your home, your castle, your rules!
But there may still be people who get a say in what you do in and to your property.
Our list below outlines some external parties who retains certain interests over the property – meaning you will still have certain obligations to meet!
First of all, assuming you are borrowing money from someone else (such as a mortgage company) then they will have certain criteria you must meet, and you don’t abide by it, they can take action against you. Whilst they won’t be worried about general mess and noise, they will be unhappy if you do anything that could affect the value of the property or lead to any kind of legal action involving the property, such as if you were to illegally sublet, extend in breach of planning permission or leave the property empty for longer than a specified period of time. So, make sure you know what the terms of your mortgage are and make sure you stick to them.
Secondly, depending on where you are, you are likely to need to consider your neighbours. There are the obvious things, like late night parties or early morning drilling. There are also the less obvious things. If you are going to extend the property, then you might need to serve a Party Wall Act Notice. As this is a big subject we’ve done a separate article on this, so look out for it!
If you’ve read any of our other blogs, you might know that one of the many steps we take to check the address before you buy it is to find out all about the property with the local authority. We’ll be looking to see that the people selling to you haven’t done anything in breach of planning permission and building regulations.
Of course, that means that there may be things that you might do that the Council may not approve of, which could result in them taking action against you and/or meaning that you have trouble selling the property when the time comes. So if you are thinking about doing anything to the property such as extending it, make sure you check to see if you need planning permission and if you need to comply with building regulations.
In addition, especially if you are a landlord, some councils will require you to comply with certain criteria or even sign up to their approved landlords scheme – so watch out for this if you are planning to let the property out.
Your freeholder if purchasing a leasehold property
However, probably the people that will have most influence over your property ownership is the owner of the freehold if you buy a leasehold property, which usually means a flat or Maisonette. So here are some things to look out for when you are considering buying a flat and want to make sure that you have a good relationship with your landlord.
- See what the ground rent and service charge provisions are, and when they are payable. Nothing is likely to get you off to a bad start with your landlord more than forgetting to pay your dues.
- Find out what your lease says about changes to the property. Some leases are very strict about needing landlord’s consent for things as simple and innocent as changing the colour of the front door or putting a light up outside. Sometimes you cannot do it at all. Other things may be possible provided you get permission in advance. If in doubt, ask us, or your landlord.
- Check to see if there are any restrictions on what you can do in the property. It’s not uncommon for there to be a rule against subletting, or at the very least you might need landlord’s consent which may involve getting a licence and possibly paying a fee. If you go ahead and sublet without going through the right process and your landlord finds out, they may refuse to give you retrospective consent in circumstances where they might otherwise have been happy to do so. If you’ve bought the property for investment purposes, and you now can’t let it out, this could mean that you can no longer meet the mortgage.
- Often leases (particularly older ones) will have excluded activities. These are things that you cannot do in the property or for which you need landlord’s prior written consent. This might include pet ownership, carrying on a business, or even playing musical instruments at all, or just at certain times of the day. Even washing your car in the car park may be forbidden at certain times of the day or days of the week.
- Make sure you know at the outset what you can and cannot do, and if any of the restrictions cause you a problem, consider whether that means you should not proceed with the transaction. If in doubt, please ask us as we’d be happy to help.
Of course, you may decide that you don’t have to be on good terms with you landlord. They are not your mum, and if you decide to be a bit late with the ground rent, or carry out a few alterations without consent, so what. They can’t stop you.
Well, actually, that’s not true. If you are in breach of lease, they could serve you with a S146 Notice, and if you didn’t then comply, that could lead to court action (the costs of which you’d have to pay it the court agreed that you were in breach) and in an extreme case you could lose your property.
Whilst losing your property is highly unlikely there are still plenty of things that your landlord could do that would make your life difficult.
For example, they could simply bide their time, and wait until you want to sell the property. When you do, you’ll need their consent, and you’ll need their help.
When you are the seller, the solicitor for the people wanting to buy from you will want all kinds of information from the landlord about the property, and to make sure that you are up to date with the rent and service charges.
The landlord would be well within their rights to refuse to provide any information until you remedy your breaches, and this might include having to pay them penalties and costs depending on what your lease says.
You may be left with little option but to comply and in the meantime your sale cannot proceed. In an extreme case, you could lose your purchaser or you could find that people are reluctant to buy your property if they think your landlord is difficult to deal with and there are problems in the block. This could end up being much worse than any punishment your mother has ever thought of.
So, if you are thinking that buying your own property means you can do whatever you want, just remember that there are still some people that you want to keep on the right side of, as you might need their help and co operation one day.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.