Selling & Buying Properties
Estate Agent Signs
We would remind owners that, according to the legal agreements for properties on the Estate, a flat owner is only permitted to display one signboard in the window of their property and a house owner may only display signboards on their own land. If an agent asks for permission to erect a sign elsewhere on the Estate, this must not be given, as the property owner has no such right. In particular, it is not permitted to attach signs to walls or fences on the Estate.
Procedures to Follow
When properties on the Estate are sold, certain procedures set out in the legal agreements for the properties must be followed. If they are not, the purchaser will not be able to register title to their property with the Land Registry and they will be unable to sell their property. It is vital, therefore, that vendors and purchasers ensure that their solicitors comply with the procedures laid down, clear any arrears of service charges and pay the relevant transfer fees (as set out in the legal agreement for the property). The transfer and sale will not be able to go ahead until these payments have been made and have cleared.
The transfer will involve transferring the share in the Management Company for the Estate to the new property owner.
Some solicitors do not inform the Managing Agent or Management Company of sales for weeks and then expect instant action a few days before completion. You will appreciate that this is unreasonable. Twenty-one days are required for the Managing Agent to respond to legal matters, including allowance for time in the post. Therefore, to avoid possible delays to completion, the first notification of a transfer must be made over six weeks before completion and all required paperwork and fees must be supplied at least three weeks before completion.
Flat 999 Year LeaseIf you are a flat owner who has a new 999 year lease as well as the original 125 year lease, you must ensure that your solicitor carries out a special procedure when selling your flat to collapse the 125 year lease into the 999 year lease, which is then transferred to the purchaser.
Purchasers should ensure that their solicitor gives them a copy of the legal agreement for their property and should read this carefully. The solicitor should also explain the agreement to you.
It is particularly important that you understand and comply with the obligations set out in the legal agreement. Samples of the legal agreements and some of the key obligations are available for houses and flats.
Items with Flats
Purchasers of leasehold flats should ensure that the vendor has left all of the items supplied with them or suitable replacements.
Flats Fire Safety
Purchasers of flats should familiarise themselves with safety and security advice, particularly regarding fire. There is a Flat Fire Emergency Plan that is also available as a download (PDF, 51kb). This was produced following a risk assessment and updated following the Grenfell fire tragedy and a Fire Brigade inspection. The plan advises what to do in the event of a fire and advises residents to fit a working smoke alarm and test it regularly.
Government guidance published in January 2020 suggests that those responsible for buildings should carry out certain actions for fire safety which, for St Benedicts, are to understand the building construction and fire properties. The Directors followed the applicable Government guidance and concluded that no further action is required. The construction of flat blocks is brick and block with tiled roofs and concrete floor separators. These materials are non-combustible. There is no cladding nor cavity wall insulation, so the question of possible combustibility or fire spread of cladding or insulation does not arise. See the safety advice.
The highest top floor is less than 8.5 metres above ground level, well below the 18 metre threshold, so form EWS1 does not apply and itself states that it should not be used. Following misuse of the scheme by some lenders, RICS clarified in March 2021 that cartification only applies to building of six or more storeys with any cladding or other potentially combustible features, to four and five storey buildings with substantial or dangerous cladding or other potentially combustible features and to buildings of four or fewer storeys (like St Benedicts) only with dangerous cladding (St Benedicts has no cladding). St Benedicts cannot provide form EWS1 because valid certification is not possible because neither certification nor form EWS1 apply to the Estate. Any lender or other party requesting form EWS1 is breaching Government and RICS advice and abusing the scheme.
When the Estate was originally built, Laing Homes' electrical subcontractors carried out the electrical installations poorly. Laing Homes subsequently offered all properties an electrical inspection and test, then remedial work where necessary, around 1991. Most owners accepted but 19 did not have this work carried out. Owners who purchased their properties subsequently are strongly advised either to check with the Managing Agent, which holds the list, that their property was inspected, tested and rectified or to have a full electrical inspection and test carried out, which will now be at the owner's expense. Good practice is for owners to have periodic inspections and tests, every ten years for owner-occupied homes and every five years and on change of tenants for homes with tenants.
Letting to Tenants
House owners do not require consent to let their houses. Flat owners wishing to sub-let their property must obtain consent from the Management Company in advance, as set out in the property leasehold agreement. We are required not to withhold consent unreasonably, so this will be granted, with conditions to protect other owners and residents, unless there are good reasons not to. See the information and process for flat sub-letting. If you purchase a flat with sitting tenants, you must apply for sub-letting consent straightaway, otherwise you would be in immediate breach of lease and liable for the consequences of this.
Flat owners and residents require consent in advance from the Management Company to make any alterations to leasehold flats beyond routine redecoration. Consent will normally be granted to fit replacement windows while other alterations will be considered individually. Consent can only be granted if there will be no adverse effect on the building and its fire resistance, nor to other owners and residents, and with conditions to ensure this is the case. Purchasers of flats with alterations are strongly advised to check that they meet building regulations and have Management Company consent, otherwise you will become liable for carrying out remedial work or the costs of this when you purchase the flat.