Property: `If someone wanted to bring in tarantulas, or 15 dogs, the residents' association could say no ...'

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The Independent Online
The price of living in a new, sought-after development may be Draconian rules. Mary Wilson reports on the estates where dogs are not welcome, washing cannot be hung outside - and unmarried couples have to be careful who dies first.

If you live in a detached house in the middle of nowhere, you have the freedom to do what you want when you want - clean the car, paint the house a garish colour, play loud music or keep a pack of huskies in your back garden. Should you decide to trade down to a new apartment, which is easier to run and more secure, you may find some of that freedom curtailed.

The lease will have conditions and restrictions in it to prevent un-neighbourly behaviour, but not all incoming residents are happy to be so constrained.

Apartment blocks may not be controlled quite so severely as in America, where the residents' board vets incoming purchasers, but there has to be some level of control, especially in high-value, low-volume developments.

"At a new development in north London, the wording of the leases is such to protect people from each other's excesses," says Trevor Abrahmsohn, of Glentree Estates (0181-458 7311. Owners will need a dog or cat licence from the landlord; they are not permitted to sublet; they have to clean their windows at prescribed intervals; the colour of their outdoor furniture and style of sunblinds has to be approved; and certainly no washing can hung outside to dry.

"Other restrictions include being barred from putting down hard floors anywhere they like, because of the acoustic insulation, or being unable to play an instrument out of social hours," says Abrahmsohn.

The biggest contention is over pets. Someone moving in with their beloved pooch will not be best pleased to discover that there is a restriction on the sort of pet, if one is allowed at all. The usual proviso is that it be small, well-trained and quiet, which cuts out bouncy Rottweilers and yappy Yorkies.

At Parkbury, for example, an apartment development in Branksome Park, Dorset, with 1.7 acres of private communal woodland and gardens - perfect for morning walkies - owners are allowed a pet only with the prior written consent of the landlord.

"At the moment that is the developer, Artesian, but when all the flats are sold the landlord will be the residents themselves," says Paul Grimwood, the marketing manager. "So if other residents decide that your pet is a nuisance, you will have to do something about it."

The 12 large, three-bedroom apartments and two penthouses are being sold by the agent Stephen Noble (01202 557766), at from pounds 242,500 to pounds 345,000. He says: "At some developments there is a lifetime agreement, which means that when your pet dies, it cannot be replaced."

At Crosby Homes (Midlands)' Symphony Court development in Birmingham, the company was as helpful as it could. "The lease stipulates that pets are allowed only with the permission of the landlord," says Keith Pepperdine, the sales and managing director. "So if someone wanted to bring in a horde of tarantulas or 15 dogs, we, or the residents' association, could say no.

"However, we put in a cat tunnel for one person, and, for another purchaser, built a couple of steps. Her cat was rather old, and she was worried it wouldn't be able to get up to the flap," he explains.

Leases nearly always have a nuisance clause in them, to prevent owners making an untoward noise, but this can be difficult to control. You may be told that you can have only fitted carpets, or be forbidden to play a television set or stereo loudly after midnight.

Another common prohibition is the erection of a satellite dish. Not good news for an avid sportsman, unless the building has one large, communal dish, as at Gleeson Homes' (01433 651532) conversion of Bamford Mill in Derbyshire.

At some developments you are not allowed to wash your car, nor can you keep commercial vehicles or carry out repairs. "I remember a builder, who bought a property at a development in East Kent, not being allowed to park his work van, with his business logo, in the car park outside his home," says James Best-Shaw, of Cluttons Daniel Smith.

At Springwood Manor, a Honeygrove development near Tonbridge in Kent,owners are not allowed to erect any external structures except for a sun blind,which has to match those already fitted, or to keep a boat, caravan, motor home or pick-up trailer unless they are hidden away in a garage, or carry out spray-painting or welding.

"Most of these restrictions are welcomed by our apartment owners, because they are designed to promote and enhance neighbourly relations and living in a communal environment," says Andrew Henry, of Honeygrove. (Apartments are for sale from pounds 240,000 to pounds 650,000, 01732 369935).

Where there is a minimum age limit, the rules may be complex. At a Crosby Homes' development of apartments at Sutton Coldfield, only people over 55 are allowed to buy. This is not a retirement development; the planning restriction was implemented to reduce the use of cars.

A married couple aged 45 and 55 years old can live at the development, and should the older partner die, the remaining spouse will be able to stay in perpetuity. If he or she were then to marry someone younger, and later died with the other partner still under 55, that partner would have to move out. However, should an unmarried couple buy there, with one being under 55, and the older partner dies, the remaining partner will not be allowed to stay on.

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