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Beware: new PDRs do not give ‘buy to let developers’ free rein

A building expert is warning buy to let investors that they won’t enjoy unfettered rights to extend their properties upwards when new Permitted Development Rights kick in.

Roger Watts of Trident Building Consultancy says many buy to let investors are putting in place plans to add additional storeys to properties in town and city centre locations when new PDR rules come into effect in the autumn. 

They will replace the need for landlords to apply for planning consent to build upwards.

However, Watts says any upwards extension has the potential to impact on the structure and fabric of a neighbouring property and therefore, an owner proposing an upwards extension must serve notice to affected neighbours under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. 

The Act requires two months’ notice to enable the neighbouring owners - freehold and/or leasehold - to either agree or dissent to the works. At this point an appointed Party Wall surveyor must undertake a schedule of condition of the neighbouring properties to provide effective dispute resolution.

“Would-be developers should be aware that although planning consent will no longer be required in this case, Party Wall legislation remains in place. The risk of overlooking Party Wall legislation could have significant consequences,” says Watts.

“Importantly, landlords should clarify the technical aspects of an extension. For example, if the building works result in alterations to a leaseholder’s ceiling (such as to embed a steel structure) their rights will be affected. If the extension is built onto a parapet, Party Wall rights may not be an issue but other issues – such as Rights to Light, the impact on services and any disruption caused during construction may require consideration.

“Many residents of top floor flats assume that they have rights over roofs. But while they may have access, they do not necessary have protected rights. Skylights may be similarly affected.”

He warns that an inevitable consequence of the extension of Permitted Development Rights will be an increase in the number of both investigations and claims. 

“Developers are advised to seek professional advice at an early stage to avoid the significant expense of having to pull down an extension and begin again” he concludes.

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