Who is responsible for replacing windows in a leasehold flat?
As ever, the lease is the bible in terms of what can and cannot be done on a leasehold property and the lease will usually define which party is responsible for replacing windows
Generally speaking, the responsibility for maintaining the structure of the building and completing any exterior repairs like painting of windows lies with the freeholder, or the management company if there is one. The responsibility for repairing parts of the individual property leased to them such as window hinges and locks, however, almost always lies with the leaseholder.
This article serves as basic checklist for those seeking to replace or renew their windows
Are you replacing like for like?
It is highly likely that this will be a lease requirement. It may be possible to change the materials (i.e replace wood with UPVC) but any replacement must be “in keeping” with the rest of the development. Generally, any replacement needs to match the existing section size, style and colour, (accepting that the original colour may have changed over time due to UV). Changes in the fenestration to a development could have negative implications for the value of ALL properties within a development.
Consents and Permissions
It is essential to make sure that you have all the necessary planning permissions before going ahead with any work. It is the responsibility of the flat owner to obtain the correct approvals, especially if you live in a block of flats in which no individual flat has Permitted Development Rights.
Usually, within a lease of a flat, consent will need to be obtained from the Freeholder and/or Management Company to make alterations these include the replacement of windows. Do not change the windows without first checking if consent is needed.
The planning department of your local council ensures that the design and materials of windows are consistent throughout blocks of flats and has the right to make you replace any windows you have installed without planning permission.
A Planning Enforcement Notice means that you could end up paying for two lots of replacement windows instead of one. The process can also lead to extensive, time consuming and expensive disputes with the council.
Are replacing windows a structural alteration?
A structural alteration can be defined as any change in the supporting element of a building or structure, including bearing elements, partitions, columns, beams and exterior walls. Installing or replacing windows can often fall under this category, therefore it is always best to ensure you are granted permission before making any changes.
Is your flat in a conservation area?
No leaseholder whose property is within a conservation area can replace their windows without obtaining permission if their local council have served an Article 4 notice, meaning that a property owner must apply directly to their local planning authority if they wish to alter it.
Your property may be subject to an Article 4 notice if it is:
- Within a conservation area of any type
- Grade I or II listed
- Within a Green Belt area
- Within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
In order to replace windows in a leasehold flat that is located within a conservation area, you must first seek double planning permission – firstly for making sure that the window materials are compliant with Article 4, and secondly to ensure that the window design is appropriate.