Deeds of Conditions useful when it comes to properties

PROBLEMS can still arise, so take notice of small print, writes Michael Sheridan

Play attention to the small print when buying a house. Picture: TSPL

DEEDS of Conditions can be very useful documents. They enable, for example, separate owners of flats within a building to own their respective homes outright but subject to the terms of the deed – something that cannot be achieved under English property law, where flats can only be leased, rather than owned outright.

Deeds of Conditions will identify those parts of the building owned by individuals and those parts owned jointly by all of the owners, and other parts which are owned jointly by some of the owners.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

They will also identify the rights of individual owners over parts of the building which they do not own, such as access rights for inspection and repair.

They also set out the obligations of owners in respect of the maintenance of the various parts of the building, including the proportions in which various owners shall be responsible for upkeep of property owned jointly.

Deeds of Conditions can be lengthy and seriously soul destroying to read but may nevertheless be essential for these purposes. Just recently, however, I have been assailed from all sides with problems arising from Deeds of Conditions and shared ownership in general.

A client complains that her factor insists on charging for the common maintenance and repairs not on the basis of one share for each of the nine flats in her block but rather on the basis of one share for each of the 21 flats contained in that block and in two other adjoining blocks.

Arithmetically she may be no worse off by the factor’s arrangements. However, she objects to having responsibility for two closes to which she does not normally have access and where she does not have any day-to-day involvement.

In the second place, the owners of the building in which my own offices are situated find themselves in strife.

There is no difficulty in agreeing that the common stairwell, the staircase and the lift are all maintained jointly by all of the building owners. But what about the corridors which run off the central staircase to provide individual access to the individual offices on each floor?

While these corridors appear to serve only the offices on the respective floors, nevertheless, their maintenance and lighting are distributed around all of the owners of the building.

In the third place, as secretary to the Scottish Law Agents Society, I have become aware of something approaching a nationwide stushie.

Whereas, until recently, when a solicitor registered the ownership title of a client, that title specified all the terms and conditions of title, including the detailed content of any relevant Deed of Conditions. Now, however, title particulars are being issued which either omit or specifically exclude relevant Deeds of Conditions.

Purchasers of properties which include shared ownership are advised to inquire closely as to the rights and obligations which are included in their ownership titles.

• Michael Sheridan is secretary of the Scottish Law Agents’ Society