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Property Surveying Blog
Written by Beau Davies

Depending on the terms written into the lease, a leaseholder proposing structural or material changes will normally require formal and written consent from the landlord to make such changes.

As the Licence for Alterations is governed by law,  this landlord’s consent is not to be unreasonably withheld from the tenant and should be provided in a written format. This is called a Licence To Alter (or Licence For Alterations) and it protects both the landlord and the tenant’s rights under the terms of the lease.

What Format does the Licence for Alterations take?

The Licence to Alter will normally be drafted by the landlord’s solicitor and it will contain all of the details of the changes to be made to the property. However, do bear in mind that there isn’t a specified legal procedure, so there is also nothing stopping the leaseholder’s legal advisors drafting the Licence.

Once the Licence for Alterations is drafted and in place, it will then be revised and updated following input from professionals such as Surveyors, Engineers and Solicitors to take account of specific details and input required work dependent along with the  characteristics of the building.

The Licence for Alterations will also include any impact upon other leaseholders who may be indirectly affected. Generally speaking, the works should be considered from the perspective of these flats or properties to ensure that they pose the least amount of risk, nuisance and inconvenience, both short and long term as possible.

What works require a Licence to Alter?

The licence to alter is required for changes that have a substantial impact upon the demise or the property.

Taking a general approach, these are things such:

  • Altering, moving or removing internal walls
  • Making changes to or adding a heating system
  • The removal of load-bearing walls
  • The creating of new openings
  • Changing windows
  • Switching floor types from carpet to wood
  • Addition of extra bathrooms or WC’s

However ultimately, it will all depend on what is specified in the lease and the wording of it. Overall, some minor changes are unlikely to require the landlord’s consent, for example renewing kitchens, bathrooms, floors etcs.

It is also worth bearing in mind, that on rare occasions, the lease has no mention of alterations and in this case, the tenant is free to make any changes they wish. However, before doing so, it is strongly advised to seek the advise of both a Solicitor and Surveyor! The last thing you will want is to misinterpret the lease (conveniently or otherwise!) and then find yourself in a pickle with the freeholder.

How does the Licence to Alter process work?

Generally speaking, the first step is for the leaseholder to approach the landlord (either informally or formally) with a proposal around the works for which they want to take place to their demise.

Upon receipt, this will then be looked at by the landlord and their Surveyor to determine whether the nature of the changes requires that a Licence to Alter be issued. If it is decided that it is needed, the tenant (leaseholder) will be informed of this and onward from there they should proceed and produce the full specifications and drawings.

The full pack of information will then generally be prepared and presented to the freeholder for their perusal and comment.

Work dependent, the pack of information will usually include:

  • Architect’s drawings
  • Engineer’s drawings
  • Engineer’s Calculations
  • A Specification of Works
  • A timetable of Works
  • Confirmation of temporary works
  • Confirmation of temporary protections
  • Schedule of Condition Reports of adjoining flats and communal areas
  • Health and Safety considerations
  • Building Regulations Certificates
  • Material or Installation Information

What Happens During the Licence to Alter Works?

 Whilst the construction works are taking place to the leaseholder’s property, the landlord may send their Surveyor or Engineer to inspect the work at regular periods. These are known as interim inspections and will be at the leaseholder’s cost.

The aim of the inspections are to ensure that any agreements or terms within the Licence of Alterations are being adhered to and points such as compliance with noise and working hours practices are being enforced. This will also ensure that the leaseholder is not breaching any of the terms of the lease or the licence to alter.

When these inspections take place, it is worth being present, or having a senior member of the construction team present. There will often be directions or requests for action from the Surveyor or Engineer, therefore making sure these are actioned quickly is key.

What Happens Post Work Completion?

Once the construction works have been completed by the leaseholder’s team, then the landlord’s Surveyor will normally conduct a final inspection and make sure that the work has been completed to satisfaction and as per the the Licence of Alterations’ requirements.

If building regulation approval is required, this may also include a building completion certificate being issued to the landlord so they can ensure their rights are protected and the works have been done in accordance with the local authorities best practice.

If there have been small, non licence work alterations, final drawings may also be done at this stage and any deposits lodged with the landlord will be returned.

Getting a Licence to Alter is vitally important, not only is it required by your lease, but it can often g a long way to reducing the impact of the works on your neighbours.

If you think you require a Licence of Alterations, get in touch with us now. We would be happy to review the works and the lease and confirm if they do indeed require your freeholder’s formal consent.