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Freeholders and live/work

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Tuesday 29 September 2009 5.08pm
Hiya, I know there was a previous thread about live/work - which I'll prob copy and paste this into a message aswell...but I've got a specific query and was hoping someone might help me with!

I am in the process of buying a property (hopefully) in the city walk development. And based on the Estate Agent's description, I am buying a live/work unit that was originally a work unit of approximately 40 sq m., the remainder comprising bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and lounge.

Following water damage to the work area, the leaseholder/freeholder (?) (both subsidiaries of one company) converted the work area into two bedrooms, one with an en suite bathroom.

I've asked for a variation of the lease to be made, so that if I use the property purely as live only, they wouldn't take action against me for breaking the contract. It could be worded very vaguely to give me a bit of security...

The freeholder is refusing, saying there's a Supreme Head Leaseholder (or something like that) in charge of things like that, and they won't budge!

I am not so worried about the council, because i've done a fair bit of research and it doesn't seem like they have the resources nor inclination to investigate, and it would be v difficult to estabilish whether the property were being used only as live work.

But I am worried that the freeholder won't grant me permission to get a certificate of lawful use in 4 you think it would be within their interest to refuse this request?

Plus, if I did get granted a change in planning, would they expect compensation and what grounds do I have to refuse this?

The freeholders are a big developing company and have a good reputation.
Tuesday 29 September 2009 5.39pm
Hi - I live in City Walk. I cannot give you any advice/guidance about your lease. However, I can say that as far as I am concerned, the 'developers' are akin to a bunch of cowboys!
Tuesday 29 September 2009 6.53pm
MsAllie wrote:
But I am worried that the freeholder won't grant me permission to get a certificate of lawful use in 4 you think it would be within their interest to refuse this request?

Plus, if I did get granted a change in planning, would they expect compensation and what grounds do I have to refuse this?

The freeholders are a big developing company and have a good reputation.

With such a specific and potentially complex issue to resolve, it sounds as if you need the advice of your own solicitor (assuming you have one); if not, there are recommendations on this forum that a search would reveal.
Tuesday 29 September 2009 8.08pm
It certainly sounds a bit odd - "master leaseholder"; never heard of such a thing!

as janefs suggests, you need to seek the advice of a competent solicitor - changes to the provisions of leases are commonplace but usually both parties consent in circumstancse such as yours. You need to see a solicitor sooner rather than later because, technically, you could be held to be in breach of the lease although what recourse they would have against you is debatable. Best of luck.
Tuesday 29 September 2009 9.22pm
I also agree that you need a solicitor. I can recommend one by PM if you would like a suggestion.

Sounds like the developer is trying to make sure that you and not they are carrying the risk of enforcement action for unlawful use (however unlikely that may be). If they agree to change the lease, they may become liable to be proceeded against. Or maybe they fear that your obligations to them under a lease which has been varied in breach of their duties under planning law becomes unenforceable. Either way, I doubt you'll get them to budge.

But if you do decide to proceed at risk (both on the lease and on the planning issue), I can't see how they could block your subsequent application for a lawful use certificate - you don't need to be the ultimate landowner to make what is effectively a planning application. They could object, but why would they? (Or does the lease say that you won't apply for a certificate without their permission?)

Nor do I see why you would have to compensate them if you do get a change of use. They might ask for money in return for changing the lease to reflect the new planning status, but you could tell them to get lost...

Maybe as a condition of the sale you could ask them to agree that they [the developer/freeholder/master leaseholder] will not oppose an application for a lawful use certificate, and that if granted they will amend the lease accordingly at no cost to you.
Wednesday 30 September 2009 8.01am
Firstly, thanks SO much for all your comments. I really appreciate it.

I do have a solicitor, who of course is advising me to ditch the whole thing because it's too messy and too risky. She's giving me the worst case scenarios, which is that the developer could chuck me out/force me to comply with the lease and the property will never sell on...add that to the possibility of the council refusing a change of planning, also forcing compliance with the lease and it's not looking pretty!

She's asking for variations at this very moment, but I have a feeling they won't agree to anything on principle. I REALLY want this property, and am trying to figure out the possibility they'll screw me over. Because although the legal issues are tricky, things are often different in practice and I'm wondering what the realities are.

There are about 6 flats in the same block that have been under offer for about 4 months, and it did cross my mind they are being inflexible because they don't really want to sell, so that they can go to the council and put their case forward to change the whole block to residential status for a nominal fee, which will hike up the sale price by at least 100,000. I'm getting that number for how much a sq foot goes for in that area.

As the property has been developed into a 3 bed by the developers, with no room for working in, would dated photographs be good evidence for this if I went through with the sale and worst case scenario did occur??

Does anyone know anyone who has bought a live/work in the city walk area?!

Thanks again for all your advice.
Monday 5 October 2009 10.53am
I think in your instance you need to listen to your solicitor, it really won't be pleasant to live in what you'll consider your own home without knowing for sure about this issue. For 4 yrs you'll be wondering if something will go wrong and even though it might be unlikely you're still open to the risk. I'd get it legally tied down or walk away but it sounds like you want the place a lot and my concern is that you'll just risk it.
Monday 5 October 2009 12.10pm
saw this house buying tip about what to do if you cant get your dream home - its US but it still applies and i think its good advice - someone pls say if they disagree

"BUY BEST (OR CHEAPEST) All of these caveats have given rise to some unusual strategies. Michael Kalscheur, a financial planner with Castle Wealth Advisors in Indianapolis, suggests buying the dream house you covet (if you can afford it) or an inexpensive starter house but not anything in the middle.

“If people have their heart set on something, inevitably, if they can't afford what they really want, they buy the next best thing,” he said. “That's absolutely the worst thing you can do. Not only do you not get what you want, but it sucks you dry.”

Why? Well, if you buy that entry-level home instead of the silver-medal home, you can save a lot more money each month after making the house payment (as long as you're disciplined) than you would if you were paying a big mortgage toward that next best house. And all of your other housing costs will be lower, too. Then, several years later, you're in a much better position to buy what you actually want."

the other tips are good too imo

i know this is stating the obvious but dont forget its probly the biggest amount of money youll ever spend - so choose wisely

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