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Leaseholder vs freeholder question (newbie)

Started by Olbia, September 03, 2023, 03:28:28 PM

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Hi there,

I am new on here, but this forum has been highly recommended to me so I'd appreciate some perspective on this situation.

My wife and I own one flat (of three) in a converted three-story house. We have shared communal areas, main front door access and garden.

We own the freehold through a management company, equally owned by the three flat owners. Each flat is leasehold.

Two flats are owner-occupied, ours was rented out until recently. One flat is sometimes let through Airbnb, and the other is only occupied by the owners.

We spoke with the other owners and said we would like to ask our tenants to leave and use our flat as a homeworking space. I said I would use it for simple office work in one room, and my partner (self-employed) would have clients come to the flat to work with them for an hour at a time (always fully supervised), as she would if we had the space in our family home.

The other owners said this would be fine. Our leases state only residential use, but as the freeholder, can we be relaxed over this point? One flat owner doesn't like the idea of Airbnb or use using ours to work from. They are stating legal concerns over this arrangement, but I suspect it is personal preference rather than legal concerns. They want it to remain only for residential use.

We have buildings insurance for the freehold property, and each flat has their own contents insurance. My wife has professional and public liability insurance.

What legal issues could exist with this setup?

I understand, with a majority vote of two Vs one in the management company, we can rewrite the leases to allow this. Is this true?

I am happy to answer any questions for further clarity, and I appreciate your thoughts on this.

Many thanks,



If you wanted to you could also look into a Deed of Variation for the Lease.

You are not the sole Freeholder here, so you could obviously take the approach of doing everything by mutual agreement in the hope that nothing will go wrong with the other Freeholders / Leaseholder - but I would never do it. The Lease is king here and you've identified what the issue with it is (for your purposes). I would look to resolve it by the book because you cannot predict what complaints and anxieties will come up with the other Freeholders in the future that might put paid to your evil scheme. You already appear to have one Freeholder causing murmurings of discontent and if you bully-through a rewrite of the Lease by majority Director vote - well, you've got yourself a life-long enemy and trouble-causer I'd suggest. Whether legal or personal concerns... does it matter unless you're willing to identify personal concerns and then ride roughshod over them?

Much, much better to bring them along, allay any fears, somehow let them see that their life will somehow improve from your plans... non-changing faces etc.. If there are any changes to the Lease you could incur all the costs, obviously.

Remember - a big part of the reason the Lease exists is so that people like you can't just do what you want. How infuriating.

I'd be interested to see how this goes... I have a similar setup and my approach was just to buy all of the properties (not there yet, got to wait for someone to die) and become the true master of my destiny (mainly I just want to remove my linkage to Companies House, I detest them and all the hoops they make me jump through for something that is clearly not a going concern - but they refuse to let its status change and force me to submit phony accounts and confirmation statements each year).


As well as the concerns with the lease (which, as Hippogriff points out, is partially constructed to stop you doing what you want to do), there might be issues with the buildings insurance, which is likely to be appropriate for the use envisaged in the lease and, possibly with planning, as your proposed use converts the property to a commercial as opposed to a residential space.

While your partner would  have "clients come to the flat to work with them for an hour at a time (always fully supervised), as she would if we had the space in our family home" it isn't a space in your family home and that's a massive difference. And, to be fair, you might have planning issues with your family home if visitors are coming and going on an hourly basis.

In a block of flats, parking by visitors is often an issue.

Whether you can rewrite the leases with a majority depends on the lease(s) and associated documents. Ideally, the vote required is set so that one person can't veto the wishes of the other freeholders, but not always.
And, if a majority is all that's required, what would prevent you finding yourself in the minority going forward?