Roof top developments, get the low down on building up

The only way is up – roof top development

Dyan Letts gives an insight into developing into the roof tops

You own the freehold of a block of flats.  What could be easier than to build another floor on top and develop the roof space? Easy right?  You can park plant and store materials in the nice big communal car park, so what’s the problem?  Why are the legal fees quoted by my lender so high and why are they making it so difficult by raising so many endless issues?

Roof top developments – common questions

These are some of the common questions I receive surrounding roof top developments.  In my experience, they can be very successful, but the key really is getting the right legal advice from day one and keeping existing leaseholders happy.   Some of the best roof top developments I have seen are where the landlord/developer has fully engaged with the leaseholders from the outset.  I know developers that have provided an upgrade to communal areas by way of compensation for the likely disruption caused by the rooftop works; this can be at a relatively minor cost to the developer but is very well received by the residents. Remember, disgruntled leaseholders can be difficult to manage and are more likely to be obstructive.  As an apartment dweller myself, I know from experience it only takes one unhappy resident to disrupt an entire block.

The most common issue that I have seen is for developer/landlord clients (and sometimes rather scarily their advisers) to be completely unaware of the rights that leaseholders have under the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act (1987). This Act is an important piece of legislation and has far-reaching consequences.  Failure to comply is a criminal offence.  In particular, care needs to be given as to whether the development of the rooftop constitutes a disposal of the freehold for the purposes of section 5 of the Act.  If it does, this requires the service of notices on individual qualifying leaseholders within prescribed time limits. This is a fairly niche part of property law and I would strongly urge clients considering a roof top development to get appropriate advice. Now the penny should be starting to drop as to why the lenders’ legal fees seem high.

First things first – good advice if you are considering developing upwards

As a basic starting point, existing leases should also be checked to ensure that the airspace/roof space has not been granted to existing leaseholders either intentionally or by way of error.  If either is the case, then the roof top development cannot proceed.

Ideally, existing leases should also contain the relevant reservations, including the express right for the landlord to develop. Attempting to rely on a reservation within the lease allowing works of repair is unlikely to succeed.   Consider, for instance, a situation whereby the whole building needs strengthening in order to take the weight of the additional floor.  Existing leaseholders could face months of disruption and mess. It only takes one knowledgeable owner to galvanise the others into action. The Landlord does not want to inadvertently breach the lease by disturbing the leaseholder’s rights to quiet enjoyment.  However, it is not all doom and gloom and in the absence of the relevant reservations, we have managed to cover-off these points by way of title insurance.

Particular construction issues related to roof top developments

On top of all this, other standard construction issues need to be considered with particular attention given to rights to light, party wall, oversailing agreements for cranes, negotiating with service providers and removal of plant/aerials currently on the roof top. That car park you wanted to use is likely to be for the exclusive use of residents and their visitors, so you need to bear this in mind for storage and access.

In summary…

The list is not exhaustive; nor is it intended to be.  I believe we are going to see an increase in roof top developments and the takeaway from this brief summary is very simple: please get appropriate legal advice early on and engage with the existing occupiers.

Dyan Letts is BLG’s Credit Operations Director and a great support to BLG’s housebuilder clients.







“We have used BLG for development finance for over 8 years. During that time we have found their knowledge and expertise in the property development industry to be second to none. Their loan process, pragmatic and flexible approach to lending and flexibility when required has supported our business needs throughout the period and provided us with support to deliver new homes in Bristol and the surrounding areas.”

“As property developers you never know the curve balls that you may get and a project that is great on paper may prove a bit more tricky.  This happened to us on a project that BLG have funded and throughout they have supported us.  Our business likes to be collaborative and when we hit those tough moments it really felt like we were working as a team with BLG.  If you have a decent project you can get it funded, but what you really need is a business that is there to support and advise you as well.  For us on this project it was BLG.”

“I approached BLG Development finance with an opportunity I had in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, to build 5 new build houses in 2021. My main contact was Anil Bains who is a Director covering Asset Management. Within very quick timescales, BLG provided me with indicative quotes in regards the finance levels they could offer me. Having considered those levels, I requested a valuation to be carried out which again was dealt with swiftly. We proceeded to completion. The build went very smoothly with monthly monitoring being carried out by BLG and monthly drawdown requests dealt with in a very timely manner. Due to a difficult time generally in the market in regards selling, I was in need of a six-month extension to the loan which again was appraised very quickly and granted. Having dealt with numerous funders over the last 20 years, I can only speak highly of my personal experience with BLG and would very confidently work with them again on any future projects. “

"From our side it has also been a pleasure working with BLG and the team there. We have found you easy to deal with, proactive in resolving any minor issues that have arisen through the project and shown great flexibility in working with us as a partner. We will certainly like to work with you on future partners."

“I really appreciate your hard work. We really like the way you communicate & I must say I haven't seen many people who are that approachable.”

“A very efficient processing team, dealing with the DD once deal credit approved, through to completion”

“Many thanks for your efforts on this one and getting it approved and sorted so swiftly, very much appreciated. I am sure I will be speaking to your over the coming months.”

“We had other funding options, but chose to use BLG again, as we work well with the team, who always provide very clear information and advice with a friendly approach throughout the funding process. Very efficient and always very helpful.”

“Many thanks Anil, it’s been a real pleasure working with BLG so far.  We’re lining up the next project too”

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“All documents are clear and the way you keep clients informed, all the way along the funding process, is refreshing for us”

“With regard to what should be improved at BLG, we work with many lenders in our business and we do not get the help and response we have had on the two projects with all at BLG on our funding for our developments.”

“We would particularly mention Dave Edwards and Tom Pitts as being central to having a smooth working relationship and being positive and helpful at all times. Their guidance in helping us navigate the project from inception to completion was invaluable. As was their patience, particularly at the beginning. We look forward to many future projects with the BLG team.”

“We would like to express our appreciation for your support on our development in Bristol. We were very pleased that, from the outset, you shared our vision of the project to convert a dated but classical building, that had outlived its usefulness as a school, into unique luxury apartments with views overlooking the city. We found our dealings practical and streamlined. Monthly payments were processed in an efficient and timely manner.”

“BLG are very good at communicating with clients and all documents are very clear and all at BLG are always happy to help.”

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