Though most will have heard of a Tyneside flat, many may not understand exactly what one is and what you may need to be aware of when buying or renting one of these unique properties.
Tyneside flats were first designed and built over 150 years ago to provide affordable housing to industrial workers close to where they worked along the River Tyne, as well as part of the attempt to improve public health amongst the increasing population in Newcastle and Gateshead. They remain popular today, particularly amongst students and young professionals.
So what is a ‘Tyneside flat?’
Sometimes referred to as a ‘criss-cross scheme’ or ‘cross over lease arrangement’ a Tyneside flat is a two storey property split into two completely separate ground and first floor flats. From the outside, the property resembles a terraced house, but what makes them distinctive is that they have two separate front doors, usually side by side. One of the doors leads into the ground floor, the other leads straight up the stairs into the first floor flat above.
The Tyneside flat scheme only works because the tenant of each flat is made the landlord of the other. Practically, this means that the leasehold owner of the ground floor flat is the freehold owner of the first floor flat, and the leasehold owner of the first floor flat is the freehold owner of the ground floor. The ground rent in respect of the leasehold title will normally be a ‘peppercorn.’
What do you need to know?
When buying a Tyneside flat you will be buying the leasehold of property that you will be either living in or renting out, and the freehold of the other. If you are obtaining a mortgage, the lender should take security against both titles.
The leasehold title and the freehold reversion will contain covenants which prohibit the sale of one without the other. This should also be noted by way of restriction against the title at the Land Registry.
This is because whilst the two flats are completely separate, they rely on each other for support and shelter and this means that each tenant can enforce the covenants in respect of maintenance and repair directly against each other without having to deal with an external landlord or management company.
When obtaining building insurance you should be mindful of your insurance obligations under the lease and exactly what it is that needs to be insured. Normally, the lease of the ground floor flat will include the foundations as part of the demise, and the lease of the first floor flat will include the roof. It is usual to see an insurance provision in the respective leases which requires both tenants to insure the property in joint names as well as any mortgagee.
Ordinarily, leases under the Tyneside flat arrangement also contain provisions which require the cost of repair and maintenance of common parts to be shared between the two flats. This can include gas and water pipes, drain pipes and sometimes include shared garden paths or courtyards at the front or rear of the property.
You may see restrictive covenants in many Tyneside flat leases which control the use of the property. One restrictive covenant which is commonly seen is a restriction on the use of the property to ‘a private residence in the occupation of one family at any one time’.
If you are buying with the intention to rent the property out to students or young professionals, this is something to bear in mind, though it is likely that indemnity insurance may be available in most circumstances.
Whilst the Tyneside flat arrangement (or ‘criss-cross scheme’) originated in Tyne and Wear, ‘Tyneside flats’ can also be seen elsewhere in the country; though sometimes they have not been set up correctly. You should always ensure that the lease contains the correct provisions to ensure that the arrangement will work in practice.