Alterations and improvements

Before making any changes to your flat - whether "improvements" or changes in use, you need to check your Title Deeds and check if you need to get any consents or licences. There may well be legal consequences if you do not do this.

Before making any changes to your flat, check your Title Deeds. These may tell you

  • what is in common ownership
  • how your flat can be used – it may say only for single family use, no business to be conducted from home
  • what changes can and cannot be made – e.g structural alterations
  • if you need to keep to a common scheme of paint colours.

If you want to do anything that contravenes the Title Deeds or encroaches on common property, you will need to get all other owners' agreement  You may also need to get other consents.

Changing Title Deeds

Consents required to improve your flat

Planning Consents

You will need to get planning consent for any development that would:

  • be an enlargement – increasing the internal floor area of the flat
  • protrude more than 1 metre from the outer surface of an external wall, roof plane, roof ridge or chimney
  • alter the dimensions of an existing window or door opening
  • make a balcony
  • be on the roof and would result in a raised platform or terrace
  • be a wind turbine

There may be additional things you cannot do if your building is Listed or in a Conservation Area.  Ask your Planning Department if this applies.

Many Councils do not allow changes in window design in flats – check locally.

Building warrant

You need Building Warrant for almost any structural work except:

  • installing heating and flue liners
  • installing a hand basin or shower
  • adding internal insulation
  • Repairs - as long as work does not result in lower standards than before

Government Guidance on Building Warrants 

Internal changes and structural alterations

You are legally prohibited from interfering with any part that provides support and shelter to the building, or from interfering with the light to any flat.  This means you cannot demolish walls without providing alternative structural support. You cannot leave openings in walls which would let damp into the building.

Apart from needing others owners' consent and building warrant, you also need to consider how such changes could affect your neighbours:

  • putting a kitchen or living room above or below a bedroom could be antisocial and lead to later problems.
  • replacing or renewing sound insulation between floors, particularly around new pipes.
  • using carpet rather than laminate flooring will greatly reduce noise problems

Legal reference

s9 Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004

Windows

You may need planning consent to replace windows (check with your Council).  Check also what your Title Deeds say.

Maintenance

You have a duty to maintain the parts of your building that provide support and shelter so you must keep your flat maintained.  It is particularly important to keep windows and the mastic around them maintained and to deal with dripping overflows, both of which could lead to damp in flats below.

Legal reference

s8 Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004

Loft extensions

Top flat owners cannot extend into the loft if it is commonly owned. If your deeds say nothing about who owns the roof, it belongs to the top flat owner.  But that owner would still need to get

  • planning permission ( to which other owners can object)
  • building warrant (which may not allow adding an additional storey to the living accommodation)
  • other owner’s consent (probably)

Satellite dishes

You may need planning consent and the consent of your neighbours.  You will also be responsible for any damage installers cause to the building.