Up Top And Down Below – A Conveyancers Advice On Extending Your House
Have you thought about extending your house? When you buy a property, it’s not unreasonable to assume that you own everything connected to that property. Not just the building and garden, but everything above and below it, at least to a reasonable height and depth.
It’s not like you are expecting to be able to complete with Heathrow for a flight path! However, what you will own above and below the property is not as obvious and straightforward as it sounds.
This is becoming more and more relevant to homeowners, as overcrowding and land become more expensive.
What’s more, with increases in things like stamp duty, you may want to consider staying put. Making the best of what you’ve got, rather than moving on might be financially more sensible to do. So, it’s not unreasonable for you to consider extending your property downwards as well as outwards and upwards.
Do You Own Everything?
You would reasonably assume that the earth underneath your building belongs to you, and that within reason, you can do whatever you like with it. Actually, it’s not as easy as that, and you should check what you can and cannot do before you proceed with the purchase.
For example, any extension to the property in any direction is likely to have to comply with planning regulations, such as having to obtain planning permission.
What’s more, all local authorities have restrictions on what you can and cannot do, particularly with regard to basements which are not as popular with building control as you might think. You will also have to comply with building regulations which are extremely stringent on things like basement extensions, due to the risk that a defective extension could cause a collapse not just of your building but neighbouring buildings, and cause risk to life and limb in the process.
You may also encounter strong opposition from your neighbours who will resent not just the noise and the mess, but also the risk of cracking or damage to their property. Of course, if they have ambitions to do similar works to their home, they may be willing to support you, join forces or even share some of the costs with you. So it’s worth considering getting them on board at an early stage.
Has A Neighbour Carried Out Similar Work?
Alternatively, if anyone in your road or in close proximity has already made an application for permission to do a basement extension, the result may set a precedent, so make sure you check (or get your solicitor to check) on recent applications.
If a basement extension is on your radar, let your conveyancing solicitor know at the earliest opportunity. They can help you look at things such as the local authority’s policy on applications of this type.
You should also discuss this with your surveyor who can advise you on the property’s suitability for such works and perhaps give you an indication of the costs. Digging out a basement and putting in things like tanking to make sure you don’t have damp problems can be very expensive.
Your estate agent can guide you on how much such an extension would add to the value of your building, so you can work out whether it’s a good use of your time and money. Better to find these things out at the start, than wait until your purchase has gone through only to discover that it’s not possible or cost effective to do the extension that you want, and that the property is now not big enough for you.
What About Going Up?
Well many of the comments we’ve made above about basements apply to lofts too, although a loft conversion is more likely to be permissible than a basement extension, and can often be less expensive, due to things like not having to dig out the space or put in the tanking.
Nevertheless, you need to consider whether you are in a conservation area (where there are likely to be more restrictions on extensions) whether other properties in the road have done loft extensions, and how much work/cost is involved. Never take it for granted that you will be able to do something just because neighbours have done things, because regulations and council policies change.
What If You Own A Flat?
- If you are buying a flat, you may assume that neither a loft conversion nor a basement extension is possible, but actually that’s not the case, although they are not common.
- With a ground floor flat, basement conversions are allowed by your local authority, then it may be possible for you to do this, but you would need your landlord’s consent first as well as having to jump through all of the other hoops that we’ve mentioned above.
- If your purchase is dependent on extending the property, let your solicitor know, and landlord’s consent can be sought as part of the purchase process.
- When buying a top floor flat, then you may not actually own the loft space, even if you can access it from the property. In that case, you will probably need to buy the right to extend into the loft, which again is something that you should try to negotiate before you buy, so you know what it will cost and whether it’s even possible.
As extending the property can be a way of increasing the value, there are other uses for the roof space that can generate an income.
Could You Make Money By Extending?
For example, some telecommunications companies are often looking for places where they can put aerials and will pay for the privilege. If you are willing and able to do this (ie if you own the roof and there are no insurmountable local authority restrictions) the rental income can be quite attractive. Before you enter into any agreement, however, make sure to check whether it’s allowed by your local authority. You might also need freeholder or neighbours permission in some cases.
If you want to go ahead, the telecommunications company should provide you with a lease agreement. Make sure you get a solicitor to check this over and tell you whether it’s correctly drawn up or if any changes are necessary. In particular, make sure that the installer takes full responsibility for the installation, including the costs, and the cost of any repairs of they do any damage to your building.
Whatever your future plans are for a property you are hoping to buy, make sure you discuss these with your conveyancing solicitor at the outset. This will ensure that they know what in particular to look for, and to highlight to you any hurdles you may have to overcome before you commit yourself to the purchase.
What If You Have Forgotten To Ask Your Solicitor At The Time?
If you think of things you want to do after you’ve bought the property, then talk to a solicitor before you start any renovations or extensions, to ensure that you are fully compliant.
If you want to do something, but think that it won’t be possible, speak to a solicitor who can advise you on what your options are. Even if you decide not to do the works yourself, if you know what can be done, it may enhance the value of the property when you come to sell.
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.