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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I live in a small ground floor long term leasehold flat, the

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I live in a small ground floor long term leasehold flat, the freeholder lives above me on two floors (this is a three storey house). Is the freeholder responsible for the maintenance of my ceilings (extensive major works recently done upstairs causing cracks to my ceilings) and is soundproofing legally required in converted houses? Thank you.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
What do you deeds say about this please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I am retired and hold a long term lease on the small 1-bedroom flat on the ground floor of this converted house. I have lived here for 15 years. In the secion of my Lease which refers to my responsibility for the maintenance of my flat:

3(1) To put keep and maintain the Flat and every part thereof in good and substantial repair order and condition generally and in particular as respects the structure decorative condition cleanliness and tidiness thereof and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing to keep and maintain in such state of repair order and condition all floor joists walls pipes drains conduits wires and cables and stairs and staircases as form part of the Flat Provided that before carrying out repairs to any joist or beam to which is attached the laths and plaster or plaster board or other non-structural material forming the ceiling of the flat or repairs to any part of the Flat the carrying out of which requires access or occasions inconvenience to the First floor flat forming part of the said property the Lessee shall (except in cases of emergency) give not less than 7 days' notice in writing to the Landlords or other the occupier or occupiers of the First floor flat of the Lessee's intention so to do and in carrying out any of the said repairs the Lessee shall take all such reasonable steps and precautions so as to cause as little damage disturbance and inconvenience as possible so that the Landlords or occupier or occupiers of the First floor flat and shall make good all damagte done thereto

It is quoted 'non-structural material forming the ceiling of the flat'. Does this mean that I am not responsible for the structure itself of the ceiling but only for the non-structural condition of the ceiling, ie. decoration and cleaning?

The freehold of this property was sold in February 2014. The previous freeholder had extensive major works carried out to the two floors above me (the house is on three floors) with the purpose of selling. As a result of these major alterations, cracks have formed in my ceilings which appear to be gradually worsening, ie. widening and lengthening. I have told the new freeholders (who live in the flat above me) about this problem. They have told me that it is my responsibility to repair the structural damage caused by the previous freeholder's contractors; that it isn't their problem because they took ownership after the alterations to their flat were completed.

Whilst writing, could you please tell me if it is compulsory for converted houses to have sound-proofing installed. As part of the work carried out, wood floors were laid and I now hear every sound, ie. footsteps, scraping of furniture, closing of doors, etc.

I have lived here in relative peace and quiet since my retirement and am now quite elderly. This situation is causing me unnecessary stress and disquiet and, needless to say, I would like to have it resolved as peaceably and as quicky as possible. Thank you in advance for your kind attention and help.

You are responsible for the floors under your feet above the joists but not the joists and the ceilings over your head but below the joists and not including the joists and the plaster on the walls but not the walls.
However if any damage has occurred to any of those as a result of any negligence either by the freeholder or any other flat owner, then whoever causes the damage is responsible for the repairs.
Soundproofing in converted flats or purpose-built flats is a relatively recent introduction for the purposes of building regulations approval and that does not apply retrospectively.
Most conversions like this have a covenant which says that floors must be carpeted to prevent the noise that you are describing. It would be necessary to check the lease in detail to see whether that covenant is in there. If it is a requirement to have floors carpeted then you must bring action against the landlord for failing to enforce the covenants in the lease and against the tenant for also breaching the lease and creating nuisance.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Having searched through the Lease again, I cannot find any mention of a type of floor covering. Am I able to call upon the recent soundproofing regulations when writing to the resident freeholders?

I have always paid a proportion of the insurance for the building, receiving annual invoices from the freeholder. Of course I pay for my own contents insurance. Whilst reading through my Lease again, I have noted the following section. Does this mean that as the leaseholder I am not required to contribute towards the insurance for the building?:

5(2): That the landlords will at all times during the said term (unless such insurance shall be vitiated by an act or default of the Lessee) insure and keep insured the said property against loss or damage by fire and such other risks (if any) as the Landlords may think fit in an insurance office or with underwriters of repute in the full amount of the cost of rebuilding the building thereon or such greater sum as the Landlords shall from time to time think fit and whenever required produce to the Lessee the policy or policies of such insurance and the receipt for the last premium for the same and will in the event of the said building being damaged or destroyed by fire as soon as reasonably practicable lay out the insurance moneys in the repair rebuilding or reinstatement of the said building

I am genuinely grateful for your help.

Insurance premiums are usually recovered in the service charge. Usually insurance premiums are contained in service charge liability in a different section of the lease

The LL insures structure only usually. It depends on description of property in the lease.

You would need to get latest sound proofing regulations to hand and see when they applied from and compare to date of conversion. They dont apply retrospectively.

The conversion wouldt have got building regulations approval unless that work was carried out so it is unlikely to help you. That becomes an architect issue rather than a legal one
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I wonder whether you can clarify for me.

The conversion was made many years ago. However, major works were undertaken to the flat above last year when the wooden floors were laid. Would this be covered under the soundproofing regulations, as the flat previously had carpetting?

Not usually if it was renovation only with no structural works. The Local Authority building control will help you with this
Jo C. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Having received excellent responses to my questions, I feel a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders and my anxiety has lessened. I feel I am now able to cope better with the situation and move forward. Thank you very much indeed and kind regards.

Thank you. Good luck with it all.