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Property Surveying Blog
Written by Sadek Miah

Licence to Alter

If you have a residential lease, then its terms most likely state that you need to get the permission of the landlord before you make any structural or material changes to the property.

This is a relatively simple process which is called an application for a licence for alterations.

For What Work is a Licence for Alterations Needed?

It all depends on the specific terms of the lease, but the following types of work are normally going to require a Licence for Alterations:

  • Building a new bathroom, kitchen or toilet (‘Wet Rooms’)
  • Add a new, or replacing the existing heating system
  • Making changes to the dimensions of any rooms
  • Adding new rooms
  • Removing Walls
  • Changing Windows
  • Cutting Through an External Wall

Whether the landlord grants you consent for the changes will largely depend on the scope of the works that are going to be carried out and the exact wording within the lease.

When Do I Need Consent?

The lease will contain one of three types of covenant and this will let you know what type of consent you need.

  • Absolute Covenant – This is a blanket restriction on any type of alterations being made to the property. If you have this, you will need to get the landlord to waive this clause to proceed
  • Qualified Covenant – This states that you are unable to make any changes without the landlord’s consent.
  • Fully Qualified Covenant – This states that you are unable to make any changes without the consent of the landlord but that the consent will not be unreasonably withheld.

If the lease is silent with regards to any changes or alterations, then you are free to make changes without having to obtain permission from the landlord first.

In our experience the most typical covenant is a fully qualified covenant.

Why Do You Need a Licence for Alteration?

The licence to alter helps protect you as a tenant in the property. If you don’t get the licence to alter before carrying out the works, then you are most likely in breach of the lease.

This could mean that you could face court action from the landlord. It could also mean that the property becomes much harder to sell going forward.

Whilst it is possible to get a licence to alter retroactively this places all of the negotiating power into the hands of your landlord. This means it is likely to cost you much more to obtain and is likely to be fraught with issue.

Tenant’s Responsibilities

The Licence to Alter should contain all of the details about the works to be carried out.

This will likely include detailed specifications and technical drawing of both the property before and after works have been carried out. The idea is that the licence should be a complete and accurate record of all the works carried out. This could be particularly important if the lease contains a reinstatement clause. This clause requires the tenant to restore the property to the condition it was in at the start of the lease. This could mean that any changes made need to be removed when vacating the property.

If you are planning on undertaking works to your property and believe that a licence for alterations may be applicable, get in touch with our team of Surveyors now and we will be happy to assist you.