It is becoming quite popular for top floor proprietors in Edinburgh tenements to extend into the roof
space above their flats so as to create another floor of accommodation. The ability to do so depends
on a variety of factors, but if all of the circumstances dictate that it is feasible it can be an excellent way of maximising space and adding value.
The first thing to consider is the title to the property. There are two main ways that a roof can be dealt with in the title. Usually the relevant deeds in a traditional tenement will be those when the tenement was first split into individual flats - so often the deeds are more than 100 years old and handwritten. Perhaps the most common way of the roof being dealt with in Edinburgh tenements is for the roof ownership (and that of the roof space between the top floor flat and the roof itself) to remain silent in the deeds - i.e. a right of ownership is not given to each proprietor. However each proprietor in the block would be designated a share of responsibility when it came to maintenance of the roof. In situations such as this it is then feasible from the title perspective to extend into the roofspace as in terms of legislation the owner of the top floor will own the airspace up to the roof, the roof itself and in the cases of sloping roofs some of the airspace outside the sloping pitch of the roof - imagine completing a right angled triangle using the roof pitch and lines going vertically from the outermost edge of the roof and horizontally from the highest point of the pitched roof - that airspace also belongs to the top floor flat, thereby allowing the likes of dormer extensions.
In some cases a right of shared ownership in the roof, and not just a shared duty of maintenance, is granted to each owner, which effectively prevents extensions upwards. It is important to have a solicitor check not just the title to your property, but also the titles to all the other properties in the block to make sure that there are no exceptions to the terms of the title which would give another owner a right of ownership. Usually the titles are consistent so if your title is checked first of all and seems to be suitable there is a good chance that the rest of the deeds are the same. If the title position suits then you need to then check the feasibility from a building control/planning perspective of extending
upwards. The likes of the height of the roof and the ability to have a suitable stairway created are relevant. I will not go into detail here about the various requirements as space does not permit, but consulting an architect and then a good builder would be required.
Struan Douglas is Managing Director at Purdie & Co solicitors and estate agents who are based in Haymarket. He has been giving advice to people buying and selling in Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland for 24 years and is very familiar with the important decisions that need to be made when you decide to sell a property. He knows that there are a variety of matters to consider and appreciates that it can be a bit of a minefield if you do not consider choices carefully, therefore can offer advice on all aspects of buying and selling.