Q. I’m buying a live work unit but want it purely for residential use. My solicitor has asked that the vendor agree to initiating the change of use at the same time as we go through the buying process as this is the simplest way of doing this. However the seller is refusing to do this and my solicitor has explained that I could be opening a huge can of worms by proceeding regardless, can you explain the risks proceeding regardless may present?
A. Live work units unless change of usage is applied for to the local council cannot be purchased simply for residential usage only. As the property is a live/work unit, the property would need to have a business operating from it as per the terms of the head lease and of course business rates would apply not regular council tax which could carry a much higher premium. To use the property for residential purposes only would be in breach of the lease and planning permission. The best way around this as your solicitor has already advised is prior to completion of the sale, the vendor would complete a change of usage application and there would likely need to be some changes to the lease. This usually takes 7-8 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 definitely only want to use the property for residential then your solicitor has advised you correctly, you would be taking a huge risk and could face losing the property altogether if you were to be forced to sell due to non-compliance of planning and the terms of the lease. Given this situation will present itself with any buyer the seller may find, it may be a good idea to get your agent to explain this to the seller in the hope that he will compromise and agree to the change of use application prior to completion