If your lease or transfer document (TP1) specifies that you need a licence to alter [ often referred to as a “Licence for Alterations“] before you can carry out any works or alterations on your property, yes you do. If you are not sure whether or not your lease permits you to apply to your landlord for such a licence, make sure you an experienced solicitor take a look at your lease and confirm it either way.
Common reasons where a Licence to Alter may be required
There are many reasons why a licence to alter could be require which mainly involve some form of structural alteration – including;
• Altering the internal structure eg changing to room sizes or moving – especially work that fundamentally alters the layout of your flat eg converting a one bed to a two bed flat
• External alterations eg replacement windows
• Cutting through or removing a wall
• Fitting hard floors [ new wood floors or floorboards are likely to need consent – but your lease may permit, for example, a new laminate floor)
• Installing a new heating system
• Adding a new bathroom
• Moving or installing a new kitchen
How do I go about obtaining a Licence to Alter?
The first step is to read your lease carefully – to make sure you actually need a licenc, e and if so is there a particular process set out for gaining permission to the changes you are planning.
Making sure that you get the necessary planning permission, regulatory approvals and statutory consents and that the nature of the alterations or works and the provisions of the licence are agreeable to your landlord and any other leaseholders, head lessors and your mortgage provider can be a complex undertaking.
Again, using a specialist solicitor will help ensure that you don’t miss any of these requirements. A solicitor specialising in licence to alter issues will ensure that every requirement for a successful application is correctly fulfilled whilst keeping your costs to the minimum.
Among the factors that your solicitor will need to deal with (and your landlord will undoubtedly have diligently double-checked) are:
• Confirming that the lease permits the landlord to grant Licences for Alteration
• That the nature of the proposed works/alterations is permissible under the terms of the lease (some leases will not allow for licences for structural alterations)
• Getting advice from a surveyor regarding the effects of the works/alterations on adjoining flats/properties. Such effects might include noise, access, inconvenience and the potential for damage
• Getting the necessary planning permission
• Getting the necessary regulatory approvals
• Getting the necessary statutory consents
• Ensuring the Licence for Alterations permits the landlord the rights to inspect the works and specify how and to what level of quality they are carried out
• Making sure that full technical details of the proposed alterations/works including plans showing as existing and as proposed, usually to a scale of 1:50 are professionally prepared and sent to your landlord
Will my landlord/freeholder agree to a Licence to Alter?
Landlords will generally agree to grant Licences for Alterations if:
• Your solicitor has diligently performed his responsibilities as detailed above
• They are assured that the effects of your proposed alterations will not be to undermine the value of their reversionary interest in the property
• The alternations/works will not jeopardise the safety of the building when balanced against your investment in improving your property
• That your alterations will not cause a noise or other type of nuisance [Click here to read more about nuisance actions]
How long will it take to get the licence?
The length of the process will be dependent both on the complexity of the proposed alterations/works and on the speed of those involved – but generally tend not to exceed two months from the date the plans are deposited.
Licence to Alter – what will happen if it all goes wrong?
Should a leaseholder be granted a Licence for Alterations and then fail to undertake the alterations in accordance with that licence, the landlord has the right to withdraw the licence as the leaseholder will be in breach of his lease.
This kind of situation, especially if the leaseholder is unwilling or unable to restore the property to an ‘as was’ condition could potentially, in the final instance, result in the leaseholder exposing themselves to forfeiture and possession actions by their landlord.
Click here to find out more about lease forfeiture and possession.
Altering my leasehold flat – is my landlord’s consent all I need?
Depending on a number of factors including the lease, your individual circumstances, the terms of your mortgage and on the alterations you are planning, you may need other consents [in addition to the consent of your landlord ] before starting building work.
In particular you need to consider the whether you need consent in respect of following;
- The freeholder – if your landlord is not the freeholder, and is a leaseholder themselves, then you may well need the freeholder’s permission
- Bank or mortgagee consent – if you have a mortgage or loan secured on your flat, it’s possible you could need, in certain circumstances, the approval of the bank or mortgage company for any alterations.
- Planning permission – while most internal alterations shouldn’t require planning consent, do be careful if you’re extending your property in any way or carrying out any substantial work to the exterior of the building. Planning permission could be required.
- Building Control Approval – if you are planning to carry out more substantial work which is defined as ‘building work’ in the building regulations, you will need to apply for approval.
- Party wall approval – this could be required in certain circumstances, including if any planned building work might have an effect upon the structural strength of the party wall or cause damage to your neighbour’s side of the wall
- Listed Building Consent – Any substantial alteration to listed buildings is risky thing to do without professional advice. Consent is often required even to internal alterations – especially if they affect the character of the building. Failing to do so could lead to a criminal prosecution – conviction could result in an unlimited fine and up to 2 years in prison
What is a retrospective licence to alter?
These come into play when alterations to your flat have already been made – by you or a previous owner – or are in the process of being carried out, all without consent from your freeholder in the form of a relevant licence to alter.
If you are in this situation, you really do need to let your freeholder know about the alterations as soon as possible. In theory, and depending on contents of your particular lease, it is possible that your freeholder could try to forfeit your lease – i.e. to terminate your lease completely and immediately, regardless of the remaining term and without needing to pay any compensation to you.
However thankfully, in reality, forfeiture in this way is highly unusual.
However, there is a downside. You will still need a licence – and that will be a retrospective licence. And to get that licence you will need to compensate your freeholder to remedy that breach of the lease. You will need to provide full details to your freeholder of the alterations already carried out. You are not in a terribly strong negotiating position – because you have breached your lease. However normally these kind of retrospective licences are agreed between the parties on reasonable terms.
One tip – if you are aware of the need for retrospective licence and you are thinking of selling your flat, get hold of that licence ASAP. Or you risk problems with your sale – and give more negotiating power to your freeholder.
Need specialist advice on a Licence to Alter ? Call us now
When it comes to granting a licence to alter, our specialist property team act for tenants, landlords, freeholder and developers throughout the UK.
• Call our team on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 for FREE initial advice or
• Complete the contact form below – or we can arrange to ring you back when it suits you
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