Over 100 years since they first appeared, Tyneside Flats remain popular with home buyers in the North East.
However, they do have certain unusual legal features which need to be understood by prospective occupiers.
Tyneside Flats are a form of domestic housing found mainly in the Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland areas. They first appeared in Gateshead in the 1860s and 1870s as a low cost housing solution for a growing workforce.
A Tyneside Flat is usually a single storey flat within a two storey terraced house. The distinctive feature is each flat has its own front door. From the outside it looks like a terraced house, save for the two front doors which appear in adjacent pairs between the ground floor windows.
The ground floor front door leads into the ground floor flat. The second front door leads to a hallway and to a staircase directly to the upstairs flat.
Each flat is legally interdependent. The upper flat shelters the lower flat. The lower flat supports the upper flat. This has led to a specific legal scheme known as a Tyneside Flat Lease Scheme, criss-cross or crossover Lease arrangement. The ground rent is usually a notional amount, referred to as a “peppercorn” in the Lease.
Traditionally, under the Tyneside Flat Lease Scheme each flat tenant is the Landlord of the other. On the grant of a Lease to the ground floor flat tenant, the Freehold for the upper floor flat is conveyed to the ground floor flat tenant.
Similarly, on the grant of the Lease to the upper floor flat tenant, the Freehold of the ground floor flat is also conveyed to the upper floor flat tenant. The legal relationship between the two flats means that each is always able to enforce the covenants in the Lease against the other.
A covenant is a legally binding obligation and failure to comply with it can result in legal action being taken against you. For example, if you were intending to make any structural alterations to the flat, you would need to obtain the consent of the other flat owner to do so.
When you buy a Tyneside flat you will buy the Leasehold interest in the property you will be living in, and the Freehold interest in the corresponding flat.
If you are buying your Tyneside flat with a mortgage then the mortgage will be registered against both the Freehold and Leasehold interests.
The extent of the downstairs flat includes the foundations of the building. The extent of the upstairs flat includes the stairs, hallway leading to it, roof and roof void. It is important to be mindful of the extent of the property, particularly when you are arranging your buildings insurance.
For example, the upstairs flat owner is responsible for insuring the roof and roof void as well as their flat and the downstairs flat owner is responsible for insuring their own flat as well as the foundations.
There will be a plan of the property you are buying attached to the Lease. The extent of the flat will usually be edged in blue on that plan. Those areas which are the exclusive ownership of the flat will be edged red, such as a rear yard or front garden, and any areas that are shared with the corresponding flat will usually be hatched black i.e. a shared courtyard.
There will be “common installations” which serve both properties, and for which you and the corresponding flat owners will be jointly responsible. These usually include guttering, downpipes, gas and water pipes.
There is also the South Tyneside Flat Lease scheme which again applies to flats in a building. In this situation, one flat owner has the Freehold to the whole of the building and insures the whole building.
The other flat owner is required to pay one half of the costs of any maintenance and repairs that may be required to the building, and is also under an obligation to pay a yearly ground rent to the other flat owner of approximately £20.