Even if you live in a house rather than a flat, you may still have common responsibilities that apply to the housing estate around you.

Problems may often occur on:

  • estates that used to be entirely in social housing (council or housing association) ownership
  • newer private estates
Social housing areas

In areas which used to be in council or housing association ownership, title deeds often made owners responsible for paying a share of landscaping costs across the whole scheme. Sometimes, there can be differences in what owners are responsible for within the one estate (this often came about because the council transferred open space maintenance between different departments, which affected owners who purchased after the transfer of responsibilities, but not those who had already purchased).

Where the estate is now managed by a housing association, owners as a group may find it beneficial to discuss changes to title deeds with the housing association. However, housing associations are charitable bodies and are required to devote their resources to those in housing need. This does not generally include home owners, and they may not be allowed to subsidise individual owners by letting them off paying landscaping costs, no matter how unfair the situation is.

Another possibility is to ask the council to adopt the open space. Some councils will consider this on payment of a sum to cover maintenance for the next 10-15 years.

Privately developed estates

In modern estates, the council often obliges developers to make private arrangements for management of the landscape areas. This makes owners jointly responsible for landscaping, sometimes including roads, play areas, and sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS). Sometimes, ownership of the open space is transferred to a company who are obliged to provide a specified level of service and then recover costs from owners. In other cases, ownership of the open space areas is transferred to an owners’ association, who then take on maintenance contractors, often using a property manager.

Maintaining these areas is important for keeping up property values and there is seldom any way that owners can get out of paying for open space maintenance. Decisions about maintenance should be taken according to the provisions of the the title deeds.

If you are unhappy with the level of service provided by a company that owns the open space areas, you should see if you can negotiate a better level of service. It may be difficult to change a service standard that is set out in your title deeds but there may still be some alternatives. Some of these companies are also willing to transfer ownership of the land to an owners’ association, as long as this is carried out according to the provisions of the title deeds. In addition, the council and original developer may also have to give consent. You may also be able to refer the maintenance company to the Housing and Property Chamber.

Forming an owners’ association for your estate could be a useful way of getting all owners to participate in estate maintenance. This is likely to be more successful in areas where owners tend to stay for some years.

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