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Property Surveying Blog
Written by Bradley Mackenzie

A Licence to Alter, or a Licence for Alterations, can often be tricky to obtain for leaseholders, with freeholder’s Surveyors often asking for a number of onerous considerations to be followed, implemented or installed.

In my experience, one of the most common areas of issues are changing in floor coverings.

Almost every lease out there will have some form of clause within it that confirms that floor coverings cannot be changed from carpet to another hard surface such as tile, lino or timber. However, at the same time, there are likely hundreds of thousands of flats and leaseholders that currently have a hard floor covering, despite having never gone through the Licence of Alterations procedures.

The background on this is that the noise transmission from a hard floor covering when compared to a carpet floor covering is far higher, meaning that the nuisance and noise level to the flat beneath is a great deal higher. Leases were therefore drafted to avoid this nuisance and ensure that leaseholders and flat occupants weren’t hearing the clicking of heels from the flat above.

Technology and advances in building material being what they are today, these days sound insulating underlay can be installed that ensures noise transmission is held at the same level as carpet.

My advice to best achieve this would be to:

1) Remove the existing timber floor boards

2) Install sound insulating underlay on the joists.

3) Re-install the timber floor boards

4) Install another layer of sound insulating underlay

5) Lay the final floor covering on top of that

While this is exhaustive in labour as all of the existing floor boards need to be removed, the noise insulating qualities are second to none and will therefore ensure that nuisance and noise to the flat beneath is as low as it can be.

Another, more cost effective option would be to simply lay noise insulating underlay and then the final floor covering on top of existing carpet. However, I wouldn’t advise this as there will likely be a ledge or step from room to room that is not only a recipe for stubbing your toe, but is also pretty unsightly!

There are a number of different brands of noise insulating underlay at different price levels and with differing noise insulating qualities. My advice is to always buy the best one you can afford, or are willing to spend.

I have seen instances when a leaseholder has installed underlay, to only have the freeholder insist on a higher insulating underlay being installed. Often rather than dispute the request, leaseholders will often just do what needs doing to ensure the Licence of Alterations is agreed and in place.

Licence of Alterations can be tricky to obtain and can often be a lot more stressful than expected for leaseholders. If you need advice on Licence of Alterations, get in touch with our team of Surveyors now and we will be more than happy to advise and assist you.