Want to replace the windows in your flat? Read this first!

Home maintenance and DIY in a rented home is always a tricky issue. What do you need to run past the landlord first and what can you just get on with? And is there going to be a planning permission issue you need to obtain? In the case of replacing windows in a flat, however, we would always recommend checking that you have permission to do so first, otherwise, you could land yourself in some pretty hot water. And that’s true whether you’re renting or whether you own it.

What should I do first?

As winter approaches, it’s only natural that renters living in flats with badly maintained or single glazed windows would want to replace them, but it’s not as easy as that if you live in a shared apartment building. First, you’ll need to reach out to your local authority’s planning department to obtain permission as some councils like to ensure that all replacement windows adhere to the design aesthetic of the original installation.

Indeed, many local councils might be surprisingly specific regarding which windows they will allow you to install and could legally file you a Planning Enforcement Notice that could mean you’ll either have to have the windows removed, face a hefty fine or both. There’s a lot of political guff surrounding this reasoning but basically, it’s because council planning departments like to retain aesthetic control of their buildings.

Get it in writing

To ensure there is absolutely no blowback, always obtain written permission from the freeholder. If you are renting, meanwhile, you’ll also need to get permission from your landlord. It’s even trickier if your flat is located in a conservation area, as you’ll need to apply for what is essentially double planning permission – the first to ensure the windows satisfy an ‘article 4’ notice and the second for the replacement windows themselves.

Is it worth it?

With all the effort behind replacing windows in your flat, some might ask if it’s worth all the hassle. Honestly, that depends on how badly you think they need replacing and how willing your local council will be to work with you, rather than against you. The best course of action is to open a line of dialogue with the planning department and make sure you’re both on the same page, because if you’re not, something you might consider in-keeping with the design rules might be a blot on the landscape to them.

It’s also worth noting that the council has the legal right to force you to replace any windows they haven’t approved of with windows they have approved of and you’ll be stuck with the bill for both. So, in essence, it’s only worth it if you know your planning department or management company and know that they are not going to give you any grief. If you ever want to sell the flat, it can also lead to further complications, as the company might refuse to allow you to sell until the unauthorised windows have been replaced.

So, the bottom line? Think before you make this choice and never be too careful. Ask everyone you think might be interested and don’t pull the trigger until you are 100% certain there will be no legal or social repercussions.