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Property Surveying Blog
Written by Beau Davies

Licence To Alter for Flats

When it comes to owning a flat with a long-term lease you may be concerned about what you can and can’t do with it when it comes to making changes to the property. This is where a licence to alter comes into play.

Why is the licence to alter needed? 

As a flat owner, you may have already heard of a deed of variation and therefore be confused about what the difference is between this and a licence to alter. It may surprise you to know that they are all part of the same process.

Though you have bought the flat and have a long leasehold interest which effectively means that you own the property, you are still bound by the terms of the lease contractually and from a legal perspective you actually only own the property for the period of time that is set out within the lease.

This means that you the leaseholder can’t just make changes to the property without checking whether you need to obtain consent from your freeholder before you make those changes.

Does it matter if I don’t have a licence to alter?

So the big question that leaseholders always as-is:

“What happens if I didn’t realise that I needed to seek the permission  of my freeholder before I made those changes?”

Whilst it is generally true that if you are a tenant with a particularly long lease, then it is highly unlikely in contract law terms that the landlord would seek to claim a fundamental breach of contract and attempt to terminate the contract. Instead, the most obvious remedy that the court would seek is to award damages to the landlord, these aren’t the type of costs you’d want to put yourself in the range of!

The biggest problem that the tenant would likely have is in trying to sell the property on at a future date as they would either have to try and seek a retrospective licence to alter or provide indemnity insurance to the buyer.

An especially aggrieved landlord can also inform your lender of the issue which would cause a great deal of issues and could affect the standing of your mortgage.

What changes are likely to need licence to alter?

When it comes to making changes, anything that fundamentally changes the structure of the property or affects the service provisions within it is likely to require a licence to alter from the landlord.

This is included, but not limited to, the following:

  • Changing the locations Bathrooms or Toilets
  • Changing the layout of the internal rooms of the property
  • Removing structural walls
  • Changing the heating system, or adding a new one
  • Changing the flooring from carpet to natural or wooden floors
  • Structural changes
  • Changing Windows

What do you need to do next?

Whilst the list above is by no means complete, the requirement for a Licence to Alter will depend on the nature of the lease that you currently have and what clauses are contained within it.

This will change depending on the age of the lease as the legal standard has changed over time so make sure you are well aware of the facts as early as you can be.

Finding out that you need to get a licence to alter normally comes as a surprise to flat owners and so it is something that they should be aware of. If you discover that you need formal consent then you need to make sure that you do it properly and ensure that you get good legal advice.

Here at Berry Lodge, we would be more than happy to assist you with your Licence to Alter requirements. Get in touch with our team of experienced and qualified Surveyors now.