Since lockdown, my husband and I have discovered a love for our garden. Now that building work can start again, we would like to install a hot tub and shower. Do we need planning permission?
You may do. It will depend on what you are intending to build and whether it counts as “development” in the legal sense. There are some things that are covered under “permitted development rights”, which are effectively granted automatically. But if your property is listed, there will be further hoops to jump through. Essentially, it will come down to three tests: permanence, physical attachment to the ground and size.
How will I know if my hot tub is too big?
Many hot tubs are considered below the size test and do not amount to development. However, there is no definitive size threshold that makes something “a development”. You will need to look at previous applications and appeal decisions. A planning consultant or planning solicitor would be able to assist you.
Alternatively, to get a definitive answer, you can apply to the local planning authority for a Certificate of Lawful Proposed Development, which is asking for confirmation that your proposals are not “development”. Some LPAs may give you an informal view but that cannot be relied upon, and the LPA cannot be bound by it.
One other thing. Our neighbour is a bit of a prude. What can we do to ensure that he won’t object?
It is always sensible to consider the impact on neighbours. Will the hot tub and any covering affect their sense of privacy? Or could they be affected by the noise created from the use of the hot tub? It might be worthwhile discussing your plans with your neighbour to minimise any negative responses.
If planning permission is required, your neighbours will be notified of your application, which will be published on your LPA’s website. Any objections should be raised within three weeks, and you can see them online and respond as appropriate.
Once we have received all the relevant approvals, when can we start work?
You can begin immediately subject to discharging any conditions that may be attached to those approvals. Planning permission and listed building consent are generally valid for a period of three years from the date granted.
Alex Ground is a partner in the planning team at Russell-Cooke
My tenants have stopped paying rent — and I risk defaulting under my buy-to-let mortgage. What do I do?
This is increasingly common, especially with tenants who are receiving a lower wage due to being furloughed or who have been made redundant.
In March, UK Finance and the Building Societies Association confirmed that a “payment holiday” of up to three months is available to all buy-to-let landlords who are up to date on their mortgage payments and whose tenants have lost income because of the impact of Covid-19 (although landlords are expected to pass on this relief to their tenants).
So, I can rest easy?
Not quite. Even if your lender agrees a payment holiday, it only defers your liability. You will still owe the payments that fall due during the holiday, and interest will still accrue.
If you are already in arrears, you should contact your lender as soon as possible. Lenders will review any change to your circumstances to ensure that payments remain sustainable. If you are already experiencing financial difficulty, lenders have also agreed a three-month moratorium on both residential and buy-to-let possession action (set to expire on June 19).
But that doesn’t help if my tenants are still refusing to pay. Who knows when they will be able to afford the rent again?
Your tenants’ obligation to pay rent (and any interest on the arrears) is unaffected by the new rules. In some cases, a dialogue with the tenant to make adjustments may be enough.
However, if the relationship has broken down and you want to serve a Section 8 Notice, which enables you to take back possession of the property if a tenancy has been breached, or a Section 21 Notice, which enables you to take back possession after a tenancy’s fixed term ends, the notice period has increased.
From March 27, the minimum notice period is three months before any proceedings can start. That said, there is nothing to stop you bringing a claim for payment of the arrears, the threat of which may focus the tenants’ minds on what they can pay.
Ed John is a partner in real estate litigation at law firm Howard Kennedy
The legal issues discussed in this column refer to England and Wales. Scenarios have been compiled for illustrative purposes
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