Windows – Whose Responsibility?
The property lease should always be read as given the nature of leases, sadly there is no consistent approach.
Typically, the leaseholder is nearly always responsible for the glass within the frames regardless of who is responsible for the frames themselves.
The frames will either be included within the overall structure of the building with an obligation on the landlord or management company to repair. Alternatively, the frames are included within the demise of the flat and the leaseholder’s responsibility to repair. Even when frames are included within the demised premise of the flat there is generally an obligation on the landlord or management company to carry out external redecorations of the building at frequencies specified under the lease, these redecorations include the external painting of window frames.
The latter arrangement can present problems where the external painting of the building is paid for via the service charge but repairs have to be paid for and even arranged by the leaseholder who will most likely not be aware that they are required until contractors are on-site preparing timbers for decoration.
On developments where originally timber windows were in-situ, we are commonly asked by leaseholders who have replaced their windows to UVPC; is why do they have to contribute towards external redecorations when their windows will not be painted. The answer to this is quite simple; the lease will require all leaseholders to contribute towards the costs of redecorations via the service charge. In addition, when consent is granted it is on the basis that it does not constitute a variation of the lease and the leaseholder remains bound by the covenants and terms therein. External redecorations usually extend beyond the painting of timber windows to include other wooden surfaces such as soffits, fascias, timber cladding, entrance doors, entrance screens, porches and bin stores etc.
It is important the landlord or management company makes adequate provisions for redecoration obligations under the lease as failure to do so can result in the deterioration of windows and give rise to potential disputes with leaseholders.
If a leaseholder is thinking of replacing their timber windows to another material for example UVPC, then it is vital that the correct permissions are obtained.
Firstly, the landlord and/or management company should be contacted to ascertain their criteria for granting consent.
Planning permission from the local authority will also need to be obtained. It is most certain that this requirement will be included within the criteria of the landlord and/or management company for granting consent. As crazy as it sounds no flat in any block has any Permitted Development Rights, meaning that flat owners do not have the right to change their windows without first obtaining planning permission. Although local planning policy and the interpretation of the rules covering window replacements varies from council to council.
Whether the local authority grants permission or not will depend on several factors such as is the building Grade Listed, an Article 4 Direction in place, within a Conservation Area, Green Belt or area of Outstanding Natural Beauty etc.
Failure to obtain the relevant consents or permissions can result in breaches of the lease and enforcement action by the local authority.
In the case of the landlord or management company being responsible for the frames they may instigate a window replacement project if there are compelling grounds to do so, for example, when the windows are beyond economic repair. It should be noted that whilst the landlord or management company may be responsible for maintenance and ultimately replacing it is leaseholders who will have to pay for this via the service charge. Permission from the relevant local authority will still need to be obtained as if it were an individual leaseholder replacing their windows.
If windows are replaced on an exact like-for-like basis then permission from the landlord and/or management company and local authority is not usually required.
At Aspire we make sure we always understand your lease so the correct advice can be given.
Aspire Block and Estate Management – 01923 372169