Do I need a licence to alter my leasehold property?

There are many reasons why owners of leasehold flats may wish to make alterations to their residential premises. Sometimes they want to change the premises before moving in.
The exact process for making the alterations will depend on what is stated in the lease, but in most cases the leaseholder will have to apply for permission to make changes from the freeholder, and obtain a licence to alter.

When do I need a licence to alter?

Not all alterations or changes need a licence. Minor alterations such as putting in new flooring, painting internal walls or putting up new shelves typically do not need permission from your freeholder. However, more substantial work such as alterations affecting the structure of the building, internal doors or anything which falls under the remit of Building Control will need freeholder permission.

Avoid breaching the terms your lease – get the right legal advice

Making changes to residential leasehold property can often cause disputes, and it is always best to consult your freeholder and have the lease checked over by a solicitor before you start making any changes to the fabric of the building. Not getting permission to make changes puts you in breach of your lease, and could mean substantial financial penalties for the leaseholder.

However a word of warning. Getting permission to make alterations often takes quite a while, especially if you are trying to get this at the same time as agreeing the terms of the lease itself. This can lead to a dilemma for the leaseholder – should you go ahead and get builders and other contractors on board to start work which he may not be allowed to do? It is therefore essential to get the ball rolling with your freeholder as soon as possible to work out whether a licence to alter is needed, how long getting one is likely to take, and work out the mechanics of the application process.

Making the Application

When making an application for a licence to alter, you will normally need to include the following, depending on the work being proposed:

·       Drawings showing the current and proposed layout

·       Full description of proposed alterations

·       Breakdown of how long the job will take

·       Evidence that the correct Planning Permission or other permissions have been obtained

·       Insurance certificates

·       Evidence that the work complies with the Party Wall Act

The Legal Position – Making Changes to Rented Premises

Under the Landlord and Tenant Act, your freeholder is not allowed to refuse permission to make alterations unreasonably. If the work is needed to bring the property in line with statutory requirements, in many situations he cannot refuse permission.

Licence to Alter – What It Might Contain

The Licence to Alter which is drawn up lays out the changes which have been agreed and any conditions under which the work has to be done. It should contain:

·         A description of what work has been agreed

·         Any conditions on doing the work (for example in terms of noise, working hours or disposal of waste)

·         Requirements for insurance

·         The agreed drawings and specifications

·         Any statutory obligations which have to be adhered to

·         How the costs are to be split. The leaseholder may have to cover any costs incurred by the landlord when preparing the licence as well as extra costs for insurance or even some work the landlord has done to items such as the security system.

It can be difficult to schedule work which is dependent on the granting of a licence to alter, and this is even more difficult when the work coincides with the leaseholder moving in for the first time. In these cases you have to coordinate the work with agreeing terms for the lease, organising relocation and removals companies, buying new office equipment or fixtures and fittings, and terminating the lease for their previous property.

Failing to get all of these variables to come into line can result in the leaseholder incurring substantial extra costs such as having to pay for temporary accommodation.

Right of inspection

The freeholder also has the right to see the renovation work at the start of the project, while it is ongoing, and when it is complete.

Need A Licence for alterations – need expert advice? Contact our experts

Make sure that you have a specialist leasehold lawyer on your side. Our team have vast experience helping both freeholders and leaseholders with regards to work/alterations licences, so:

  • Call us today on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544, or
  • Send us an email via the contact form below