What’s a maisonette?

If you're on the hunt for your next home in London, chances are you've encountered this term. Let's delve into what a maisonette entails and whether it aligns with your housing preferences.

What does ‘maisonette’ mean?

Originating from French, "maisonette" translates to "little house." However, its meaning can vary globally. In the UK, a maisonette typically refers to a self-contained two-floor flat within a larger building, boasting its own staircase and entrance. These properties are commonly found in converted period houses or urban settings above commercial premises.

In Scotland, a maisonette is part of a duplex setup within a housing block, accessible via a communal entrance.

Meanwhile, in the US, they're often termed "duplexes" due to their split-level layout, typically occupying the top floor of a high-rise building, sometimes referred to as a penthouse.

What’s the difference between a flat and a maisonette?

While flats are usually housed within blocks with shared entrances and communal spaces, maisonettes offer direct access to the outdoors from your front door.

Moreover, maisonettes feature living spaces spread over two floors, akin to houses, unlike flats that are confined to a single level.

Maisonettes vs houses

There are similarities between houses and maisonettes, such as private gardens and garages, as well as individual external access. However, maisonettes are smaller in size, typically offering fewer bedrooms than houses.

Additionally, houses often come with attic space, while maisonettes may lack accessible loft areas.

Are maisonettes leasehold or freehold?

Regarding ownership, maisonettes can be leasehold or freehold. Leasehold properties entail paying ground rent to the freeholder, while freehold maisonettes grant more ownership rights, potentially even the entire building's freehold.

Understanding the responsibilities of maisonette ownership is crucial. For instance, each floor may have distinct maintenance duties, such as roof and guttering for upper floors and foundations for ground floors. Additionally, communal areas and exterior upkeep may require collaboration with other occupants.

Considering the pros and cons of maisonette living


  • Affordability: Maisonettes are often more budget-friendly than houses, making them ideal for first-time buyers.
  • Unique Living Spaces: Maisonettes offer bespoke layouts, often within converted period buildings, providing distinct character.
  • Additional Storage: External storage options like garages can provide valuable space.


  • Limited Expansion Options: Unlike houses, maisonettes may require planning permission for significant alterations.
  • Space Constraints: Growing families may find maisonettes lacking in space compared to traditional houses.
  • Shared Responsibilities: Collaboration with other occupants is necessary for exterior maintenance, which can be cumbersome.

Ultimately, whether a maisonette suits your needs depends on factors like space requirements and your stance on leasehold versus freehold arrangements. While maisonettes may appeal to first-time buyers seeking affordability and unique living spaces, those with long-term expansion plans might prefer traditional houses.

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