Who is responsible for replacing windows in a Leasehold Flat?

When it comes to replacing windows in a leasehold flat, there are many factors to consider. From understanding responsibilities and permissions to knowing the implications of conservation areas and structural alterations, this comprehensive Strangford Management guide will walk you through the process and ensure that you’re well-informed before making any decisions.

Understanding Leasehold Flats

Leasehold flats are a common form of property ownership in the UK, where the leaseholder owns the flat for a specified period while the freeholder owns the land and building. Lease agreements, which can vary in length, outline the responsibilities and obligations of both parties, including maintenance and repairs.

Who is Responsible for Replacing Windows in a Leasehold Flat?

The responsibility for replacing windows in a leasehold flat largely depends on the terms of the lease agreement. Generally, the freeholder or managing agent is responsible for maintaining the building’s structure and completing exterior repairs, such as painting window frames. Conversely, the leaseholder is typically responsible for repairing parts of their individual property, like window hinges and locks.

Structural Alterations and Replacing Windows

Installing or replacing windows can sometimes be categorised as structural alterations, which are defined as changes to a building’s supporting elements, including bearing elements, partitions, columns, beams, and exterior walls. As such, it’s crucial to obtain permission before making any changes.

Obtaining Permission

Before replacing windows in a leasehold flat, you must obtain the necessary planning permissions. This responsibility falls on the flat owner, especially in blocks of flats where no individual flat has Planned Development Rights. Consent from the Freeholder and/or Management Company is often required for alterations, including window replacements. Always check if consent is needed before proceeding with any work.

Conservation Areas and Replacing Windows in a Leasehold Flat

Leaseholders within a conservation area must obtain permission before replacing windows if their local council has served an Article 4 notice. This notice means property owners must apply directly to their local planning authority to alter their property.

Article 4 Notice Criteria

Your property may be subject to an Article 4 notice if it is:

Double Planning Permission

To replace windows in a leasehold flat located within a conservation area, you must first seek double planning permission. This involves ensuring that the window materials comply with Article 4 and that the window design is appropriate.

Replacing Windows in a Leasehold Flat: A Checklist

Before proceeding with window replacements in your leasehold flat, consider the following checklist:

  • Are you replacing like for like? Your lease may require this, and any replacement must be “in keeping” with the rest of the development.
  • Have you obtained consents and permissions? Make sure you have the necessary planning permissions and consent from the Freeholder and/or Management Company like Strangford Management.
  • Are the window replacements considered structural alterations? If so, ensure you have permission before making changes.
  • Is your flat in a conservation area? If so, obtain the necessary permissions and comply with Article 4 notice criteria.

Addressing Window Issues in a Leasehold Flat

If you notice any issues with your windows, act quickly before the problem becomes severe enough to require a full replacement. This can save you time, effort, and money, as well as minimise disruption within the block.

The Importance of Planning Permissions

The planning department of your local council ensures that window designs and materials are consistent throughout blocks of flats. They have the right to make you replace any windows installed without planning permission. Not obtaining proper permissions can lead to a Planning Enforcement Notice, resulting in additional costs for replacement windows and potential disputes with the council.

Retrospective Planning Permission

Though it’s possible to obtain retrospective planning permission for window replacements, this is not the ideal approach. Waiting until you have already spent money on replacements can be risky, even if you try to ensure that the new windows are “in keeping” with the original ones.

Leasehold Flats: Case Study

In one example, a group of leaseholders in a converted industrial building in Wales faced a change of freeholder and were served with Section 20 notices for major works. The estimated cost for these works exceeded £500,000, with each leaseholder responsible for around £38,000. Upon review, it was determined that repairing the windows was the leaseholders’ responsibility, not the freeholder’s. This discovery ultimately led to savings of approximately £10,000 per leaseholder.


Replacing windows in a leasehold flat can be a complex process, involving various permissions and responsibilities. By understanding the terms of your lease agreement, obtaining necessary permissions, and adhering to conservation area regulations, you can ensure a smooth and successful window replacement process. Always consult with professionals, such as solicitors or property management companies like us at Strangford Management, for further guidance on your specific situation.

Read more…