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Can you do a loft conversion on a council house?

It’s an interesting question – if you’re a council tenant who could do with the practical benefits that a loft conversion brings, could you have this work carried out despite not being the owner of the property? Where do government and local authorities stand on this subject?

You have certain obligations as a council tenant

As you will likely already know, you have certain obligations with regard to the council property in which you are living, including in relation to repairs and maintenance. Such relatively minor matters as the fixing of a curtain or towel rail or paying for any damage that you or your visitors may have caused to the home are likely to be your responsibility as a council tenant.

However, it is the council that is responsible for keeping the structure of the property in good condition, including the walls, ceiling, roof and windows, as well as ensuring that gas and electrical appliances work safely.

You can therefore probably begin to see how your responsibilities as a council tenant and those of your local authority overlap somewhat when it comes to such a sensitive subject as getting a loft conversion done.

Does your type of tenancy enable you to make improvements?

If you are considering having a loft conversion carried out at your council house, one of the first questions that you will have to ask is whether you have the type of tenancy that would entitle you to make such a grand-scale home improvement.

The GOV.UK website states that introductory tenants are usually only permitted to make minor improvements, such as interior redecorating, which means they can probably rule out winning council approval for a loft conversion.

Secure tenants, however, do have the right to carry out more significant improvements to their home, with examples cited by GOV.UK including the installation of a new bathroom or kitchen, cavity wall insulation or the construction of an extension.

How can I be sure in my specific case that I can have a loft conversion undertaken?

Further information on the subject of loft conversions in council houses can be found on the website of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, which states that secure lifetime council tenants do have the right to improve their home, but that for some improvements, it may be a condition of their tenancy to secure written permission from the council before starting work.

The council further explains that secure flexible council tenants – in other words, those whose tenancies started on or after 1st April 2013, unless they were aged 60 or over when the tenancy started – do not have the right to make improvements or alterations to their home.

However, the authority adds that it may still consider applications for permission even from those on secure flexible tenancies, provided that the tenant obtains any necessary planning permissions or building consents. The council cites loft conversions as an example of an improvement for which permission is required.

If you are in any doubt about whether you are able to convert the loft in your own council house – as well as what conditions must be met if you do have the right to carry out this improvement – the Unique Lofts team would always urge you to check with your local authority’s housing office.


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