A modern maisonette showing an internal staircase to the second storey. SAM Conveyancing explain: What is the Difference Between a Flat and a Maisonette?
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What is the Difference Between a Flat and a Maisonette?

(Last Updated: 17/01/2024)
6 min read
Key Takeaways
  • A maisonette is similar to a flat, with some key differences
  • They are often cheaper but come with some disadvantages
  • They can be a worth buying as an investment or an affordable first home, especially in urban areas where prices are high
  • If you are buying a maisonette, you should get a L2 survey

What makes a property a maisonette?

For a property to be classed as a maisonette, it must be:

1. One of multiple, self-contained dwellings in a single building

Maisonettes are often above, or below, a commercial premises, flat or another maisonette

2. Split across two storeys

Maisonettes have an upstairs and a downstairs, connected by a private, internal staircase

3. Accessed by its own front door

Maisonettes have private access onto the street, often via external stairs and walkways. The American term for a maisonette is a 'duplex'. Confusingly, they call a penthouse (the top floor apartment) a maisonette.

What is the difference between a maisonette and an apartment?

The main difference is that maisonettes are on two storeys, rather than a flat which is, well, flat. Apartments are a bit fancier than flats and can sometimes be split across two floors, but will, like flats, still be accessed through a communal front door and corridor, where maisonettes have their own access to the outside.

Usually, the external front door of a maisonette will open directly onto the street, or a private outdoor staircase which lands on the street. Maisonettes can also come in blocks, like flats, with external walkways which wrap around the building, giving each residence its own private access.

Is a maisonette bigger than a flat?

As a general rule, maisonettes are bigger than flats due to being split across two floors, but there aren't size limits on the definition of either. A large flat may be bigger than a small maisonette and you should consider the square footage of each individual property.

What are the disadvantages of a maisonette?

While a maisonette can offer more space and privacy than a flat, it is not as secure as a flat (which will have an external door between your own front door and the street) and has much less independence than a house.

Maisonettes are leaseholds and that comes with statutory and contractual terms and obligations, including service charges and limitations on any changes or developments. Older leases are also subject to ground rent.

Some maisonettes come with private outdoor space, while many do not. You will be living in closer proximity with your neighbours than in a house and may experience challenges including noise or even damp caused by leaks from above.

Not all lenders are willing to finance the purchase of a maisonette, however there are plenty of mortgage products available. If buying with a mortgage we recommend you enlist an independent mortgage broker who can present an impartial selection of suitable options and advise on their merits.

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Why are maisonettes cheaper than flats?

Maisonettes are often cheaper than flats because there are generally fewer or smaller communal areas. Take a converted four storey townhouse for example. The ground floor maisonette is responsible for the ground and first floor, the foundations and the garden.

The upper maisonette is responsible for the second and third storey, the roof, a private balcony and private access stairs. There are no communal areas for a service charge to maintain, so it will be fairly minimal, just enough to cover building insurance and other basic freehold expenses.

Whether you're looking at a flat or a maisonette, be sure to read our guide on Questions to Ask When Viewing a Flat before your viewing.

Do I need a Level 2 HomeBuyer Report on a Maisonette?

If you are purchasing a flat or a maisonette, the RICS Level 2 Home buyers report (now called Home Survey L2) is the survey for you. You will only need the Level 3 survey if the property is older, larger, or you are planning major works.

RICS Surveyors | Fixed Fees | Same week availability | Access arranged

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Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Written by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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