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How to replace windows in a leasehold flat

Who is responsible for replacing windows in a leasehold flat?

The person or people responsible for replacing windows in a leasehold flat depends to a large extent on the terms of that flat’s individual lease. The lease almost always makes the obligations of the freehold or managing agent clear as well as the leaseholder regarding maintenance.

Generally speaking, the responsibility for maintaining the structure of the building and completing any exterior repairs like painting of windows lies with the freeholder, or the management company if there is one. The responsibility for repairing parts of the individual property leased to them such as window hinges and locks, however, lies with the leaseholder.

Are replacing windows a structural alteration?

A structural alteration can be defined as any change in the supporting element of a building or structure, including bearing elements, partitions, columns, beams and exterior walls. Installing or replacing windows can often fall under this category, therefore it is always best to ensure you are granted permission before making any changes. 

Replacing windows in a leasehold flat: conservation areas

No flat owner whose property is within a conservation area can replace their windows without obtaining permission if their local council have served an Article 4 notice, which means that a property owner must apply directly to their local planning authority if they wish to alter it. This is the case both in houses converted into flats and residential blocks of flats.

Your property may be subject to an Article 4 notice if it is:

  • Within a conservation area of any type
  • Grade I listed
  • Grade II listed
  • Within a Green Belt
  • Within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

In order to replace windows in a leasehold flat that is located within a conservation area, you must first seek double planning permission – firstly for making sure that the window materials are compliant with Article 4, and secondly to ensure that the window design is appropriate.

What to do if you need to replace windows in a leasehold flat

If you live in a leasehold flat and notice that something is going wrong with one of your windows, the best thing to do is to act quickly before the problem is severe enough to require replacing the window, creating a disruption within the block and costing money, effort and time. Nevertheless, this is not always possible. 

If your windows definitely need changing, it is essential to make sure that you have all the necessary planning permissions before going ahead with the work. It is the responsibility of the flat owner to obtain the correct approvals, especially if you live in a block of flats in which no individual flat has Planned Development Rights.

Usually, within a lease of a flat, consent will need to be obtained from the Freeholder and/or Management Company to make alterations these include the replacement of windows. Do not change the windows without first checking if consent is needed. 

 The planning department of your local council ensures that the design and materials of windows are consistent throughout blocks of flats and has the right to make you replace any windows you have installed without planning permission.

A Planning Enforcement Notice means that you could end up paying for two lots of replacement windows instead of one. The process can also lead to extensive, time consuming and expensive disputes with the council.

Although it is possible to obtain retrospective planning permission for replacement windows on your leasehold flat, this is definitely not ideal. Waiting until you have already spent the money is not advisable, even if you take pains to make sure that your replacement windows are ‘in keeping’ and ‘of similar appearance’ to the original ones.

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