Dear Dawn

I’m buying a live-work unit but want it purely for residential use. My solicitor has asked the vendor to initiate the change of use at the same time as we go through the buying process as this is the simplest way forward.

However, the seller is refusing to do this and my solicitor has explained I could be opening a huge can of worms by proceeding regardless. What should I do?

Concerned Buyer

Dear Concerned Buyer,

Live-work units where no change of use is applied for cannot be purchased simply for residential purposes.

To use the property for residential purposes only would be in breach of the lease and planning permission, which can only be changed through an application to the local authority.

As the property is currently a live-work unit, it would need to have a business operating from it as per the terms of the head lease and, of course, business rates would apply rather than regular council tax (this is likely to be much more expensive).

The best way around this, as your solicitor has already advised, is that before completion of the sale, the vendor agrees to complete a change of usage application to the council.

There would also likely need to be some changes made to the lease.

This usually takes seven-eight weeks and could run alongside the usual completion process.

Failing to do this would mean that you could be forced to sell due to breach of both planning and head lease which would be disastrous given the amount of stamp duty, legal fees and mortgage fees you will have accrued to purchase the property in the first place.

There is absolutely no guarantee that change of usage by your local authority will be granted once you have actually purchased the property so, in effect, if you only want to use the property for residential purposes your solicitor has advised you correctly.

Given this situation will present itself with any buyer, try getting the agent to explain this to the seller in the hope that they will compromise and agree to start the process.

Dawn Sandoval is the owner of Dawn Sandoval Residential in Canary Wharf

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