Are you confused by terminology used during the house buying process or your rights as homeowner? This month, Ross addresses three very different situations that have the potential to perplex…
What does ‘subject to contract’ mean?
An offer to buy or sell a house will generally state that it is ‘subject to contract.’
A contract to buy or sell land, including houses and flats, must always be in writing and signed by both parties. It sets out all the terms of the sale including the address of the property and the price paid to the current homeowner.
The reason solicitors and estate agents use the phrase ‘subject to contract’ is to prevent any of the parties entering into a contract accidentally or inadvertently. It is very rare for a court to enforce an oral agreement for the sale of land, so the general rule is that it must be in writing.
Solicitors always advise clients to write ‘subject to contract’ on any letters or documents concerning land so that correspondence cannot be misconstrued.
Do I need planning permission to work from home?
As a homeowner, planning permission is needed for a material change of use, such as turning a residential house into a shop. This is the case even if no building work is required.
The conversion of a house into two or more dwellings is a material change of use and must be approved by the planning authority, as must conversion into a guesthouse, boarding house or hotel.
If the change of use only involves part of the building, for example, you intend to turn one room into an office or consulting suite, then you may not need planning permission, as it remains ancillary to the main residential purpose.
For more information, contact your local planning department. It can offer advice about planning permission for a change of use if you explain exactly what you wish to do to the property.
I live in an apartment block and pay an annual charge for maintenance work, which I believe is of poor quality. Who is responsible for procuring and overseeing the firm undertaking the repairs?
The responsibility for managing a block of apartments will be set out in your lease and to provide more detailed advice, I would need to see a copy.
In general terms, the landlord or an independent company comprising leaseholders usually undertakes the management of apartments. In either case, they can procure the necessary services directly from a third party or instruct an agent to act on their behalf.
Regardless of who manages the building, leaseholders have the right to obtain information about service charges, including a summary of the costs used to calculate the fee, as well as the accounts, receipts and other documents on which the summary is based.
You should be consulted about major works and long-term agreements and you have the right to challenge the reasonableness of any service charge or the standard of work. Collectively, leaseholders also have the ultimate right to take over management of the block.