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Property Surveying Blog
Written by Berry Lodge Surveyors

If you have bought or are the owner of a property on a leasehold (meaning you own it for a specified period of years), whether this is a flat or a house, if you want to make internal or external changes to the property then you may not know that you need to get a licence to alter agreed and in place with your freeholder before you make those changes.

What is a Licence for Alterations?

A Licence to Alter, or Licence for Alterations, is a formal written document or contract from your landlord, also known as the freeholder. The licence permits you the legal right and authority to make changes to the structure or material of your leasehold flat. Failure to obtain this document pre work on site will likely see a breach of the lease and this could lead to all sorts of problems with the freeholder, your neighbours, future construction work and issues when it comes to selling the leasehold flat.

What do I need the Licence for Alterations for?

A licence to alter will be needed if you make fairly major changes to your leasehold property and demise. The requirements to obtain the licence will ultimately be determined by your lease, however generally speaking these include things like changing the sizes of, or altering the number of rooms. For example, if you want to squeeze another bedroom into the property, the lease will likely require you to obtain the landlord’s consent via the licence, so Think knocking down, or building walls!

Moving, widening, or blocking doorways are also usually covered by a licence of alterations.

Moving or fitting a new kitchen, bathroom or utility room (so-called ‘wet rooms’ under the definitions of the lease).

Getting replacement windows fitted, installing new central heating, or even installing hardwood floors in carpeted areas, known as hard surfaces and soft surfaces under the definitions of the lease.

All of these are types of works conventionally require the tenant (leaseholder) to obtain a Licence for Alterations from the landlord (freeholder) as the works are deemed to have an impact on the landlord’s rights.

However, that being said, it is worth bearing in mind that a freeholder cannot unreasonably refuse a leaseholder’s request or requests. Therefore so long as the works are well thought out and have the necessary documentation in place, the licence for alterations should be a straightforward process.

How Do I Go About obtaining a Licence for Alterations?

Well, you will need to discuss the proposals with your landlord or freeholder in the first instance. Be aware that you will need to provide detailed specifications of the changes and this may well include architectural and structural drawings, details of the changes, planning permissions, building regulations approvals, structural engineering input and all necessary documentation related to the changes.

Upon receipt of the necessary information, the landlord will then proceed to instruct a solicitor who will draft the licence to alter, and they may well send a surveyor or engineer (or both) to the property as well to inspect in context.

As the leaseholder, you will need to get everything agreed between yourselves and the landlord so that it is contained within the licence to alter. This will then generally be appended to the lease for all future leaseholders to be aware of.

What else might the Licence for Alterations involve?

The licence to alter might also specify things like the hours during which work is permitted, what noise regulations you need to comply with and whether there will be any effect on other leaseholders. This may be because of things like party walls and other shared portions of the property.

So, you will need to bear all of this in mind. The work will be expected to be done in compliance with building regulations and best practices as well. So, you need to expect all of this and be well prepared. The last thing you will want, is to have the contractors in place, materials ordered and start date in the diary, to then find out that your freeholder requires a great deal more information!

What if I don’t get a Licence for Alterations?

If you have already completed the work and have failed to get a Licence to Alter, then technically you could be in breach of your lease.

However, it is very unlikely if you are a good tenant that the landlord would seek to terminate the lease. The most likely course of action is for the court to award damages.

That being said, it is possible to get a licence to alter retroactively, though this puts all of the negotiating power into the hands of your landlord.

The main issue will be the future sales position, if you don’t have the licence to alter this could cause problems when you look to sell the property and will be a big red flag for the purchasers solicitor.

A licence to alter doesn’t have to be a mine field! Get in touch with us now and we would be more than happy to assist you.

You can also take a quick look on the project page of our website and select “Licence to Alter” properties to see some Licence to Alterations jobs we have done in the past.