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Property Surveying Blog
February 10, 2020

Licence to Alter Tips

Written by Bradley Mackenzie

Licence of alterations can often be a problematic bridge to cross and can usually be one of the final stumbling blocks before a leaseholder can undertake work to their property.

Here at Berry Lodge we undertake numerous licence of alterations surveying jobs each year, and thought that we would look into some of the most common tips so that leaseholders can accommodate themselves with these in order to avoid some of the typical pitfalls that we have seen.

Freeholder Discussion

It seems like a pretty simple tip, however you would be surprised at how many leaseholders simply don’t engage in any form of discussion with the freeholder.

Well in advance of instructing your surveyor, architect or engineer, we would advise speaking to the freeholder to gauge how they respond to your discussions on the proposed works and importantly give you an idea of whether they will want to deal with it formally or informally.

Most freeholders will usually follow a standard in-house procedure, therefore knowing this in advance of instructing your surveyor will likely save time and cost which is obviously a very important point to consider.

Clear Information

Clear information is key to ensuring that the freeholder is fully informed of exactly what types of work you are undertaking.  Therefore we would advise having a definitive construction plan that you intend to undertake to the flat, and ensuring that this is stuck to as closely as it can be.

One of the most typical causes of delay and cost can be a leaseholder changing their mind or the plans evolving during the course of the work to the point where the freeholder wasn’t aware of the leaseholder’s proposals, which can often lead to added professional input and surveying visits which in turn carry with them unexpected costs.

Clear information is key to ensure that everyone is on the same page, therefore there are no unexpected surprises that could cause delay or cost to the overall licence of alterations procedures.

Contractor Selection

Be sure to select a contractor that is used to and aware of the type of stipulations that undertaking works to a flat carries with it.  You will also want to ensure that they are properly insured, as it is incredibly common for a freeholder to ask for a copy of the insurance.

It would also be worth speaking to your contractor at a very early date to establish if they have had any issues with freeholders in the past, that way you can both work together, pooling your knowledge to ensure that the freeholders can be best approached thereby reducing the risk of added cost and delay.

Drawings

As with any construction work, you will require a complete and thorough pack of drawings in place well in advance of the works commencing.

The freeholder will want to see that these are professionally and properly prepared, with appropriate scale bars, information and clarity on the proposed works.

We would therefore advise speaking to an architect at the earliest possible time, and putting in place a clear set of plans that accurately show the work that you plan to undertake.

Structural Information

If the works are of a structural nature for example removal of structural walls, widening of walls or the removal of any other structural members within the property, you will need to have a full and thorough pack of structural engineer’s information.  This will generally include structural drawings, structural details and structural calculations.  These should all be prepared by a qualified and experienced structural engineer and presented to the freeholder along with the other pack of information as soon as possible.

If the works are of structural complexity, it is also common for freeholders to request an advising engineer, or in-house engineer, to review the structural plans from the prospective of the building, therefore we would advise budgeting for that additional cost.

Neighbourly Considerations

One of the most commonly overlooked ones, however one of the most important, always consider your works from the perspective of your neighbours.

This is a simple thing to do, and can go a long way for future neighbourly relations while also ensuring that the freeholder is confident that the other leaseholders have been well considered.

This could be something as simple as speaking to neighbours in advance of the work to inform them of the type of works that you are planning to undertake, the duration, and giving them either your or your contractor’s contact details in the event of issue or emergency.  Furthermore, it could be considering how communal areas will be dealt with during the passage of materials and labourers from the communal door to your flat.  For example, installation of temporary floor coverings, rubbish management and material delivery.

The neighbours are likely going to be the people that are most affected by the work, therefore considering them in advance is a sure and sound way to maintaining a long and healthy relationship with them.

Construction Start Date

Ensure that your construction start date is clear and the freeholder is made aware of this well in advance of the works commencing.

Be sure to budget a suitable time for the licence of alterations procedures, as it isn’t uncommon for these to take weeks to months depending on the freeholder’s response time, complexity of the work and pack of information that you have available to you.

The last thing you will want to do is to be raring to go with contractors ready to start, only for the licence of alterations procedures to be well off being agreed.

 

Licence of alterations can be simple if handled properly and well in advance of procedures commencing, therefore we would advise speaking to a specialist surveyor who deals with licence of alterations in advance of your works commencing to ensure that the most beneficial outcome is reached.

If you would like to discuss your licence of alterations requirements with one of our surveyors, get in touch with us now and one of our experienced and qualified surveyors will be happy to assist you.