We own a victorian terrace house (incl. freehold) in a non-conservation area in central London. Now the top floor flat of the neighbour’s house is up for sale and we are thinking of buying it to combine it with our house.
We would knock out the kitchen of the additional flat and by doing so we would create a huge first floor with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and additional 2 bedrooms in the lofts, which would be great.
-Do we need planning permission to do so?
-Is is ok to access that flat only through the main house (i.e. can we close the former entrance door of the flat or are there restrictions (fire, escape routes)?
-Is it ok to remove one of the stairs that go to the lofts, as it seems silly to have two separate stairs going up?
-Does the owner of the ground floor flat has a say in all that, can he object? (we don’t know who owns the flat and if the owner also owns the freehold)

I spent the last days browsing the Internet and your website has been most helpful! It would be highly appreciated if you could help us on the above!
Many thanks in advance

  • Nicola de Sousa

    Anything is possible, but it certainly isn’t going to be the most straightforward of projects. Whilst in theory, the building work isn’t too complicated, you will have two council tax bands. In order to bring the cost of that down to one, you will need planning permission. As soon as it is classed as one dwelling, it’s likely that you will heavily devalue the property. Two properties will almost always be worth more than one.

    The most essential thing will be written permission from the freeholder next door for alterations. You will end up with a part freehold, part leasehold property, which I suspect will make it difficult for them to approve. The flat is no longer a flat, it is living accommodation for another dwelling, doesn’t have planning permission of it’s own and therefore not worth what it should be. Once the lease has run it’s length (all flats need leases), how does the freeholder get their property back if it’s incorporated into next door? It has no planning and low value.

    You can get title documents for the two leases and the one freehold next door from the Land Registry website for a few pounds to see who currently owns them.

    There are building regulations that relate to fire escape but these will be particular to the layout of your house and will be far from your biggest problem.

    Personally, I wouldn’t consider what you’re planning. If you are able to extend at the back of the house it would be a lot simpler, more cost effective, more balanced and add more value. Really, your query goes beyond the realm of homebuilding and into leasehold law. The first person to consult would be a solicitor, or perhaps ask on the forums at Landlordzone.

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