Brady Solicitors’ Lesley Brentnall talks about the process of Licence to Alter for leaseholders wishing to make changes to their leasehold property.
Home improvements are part of the experience of property ownership. However, leaseholders need to tread with caution when embarking on improvements that go beyond superficial alterations. As a flat owner you might be familiar with discussing matters with the landlord or managing agent and, if the proposed works are minor, a letter from the landlord granting permission will often suffice. However, for more substantial works, a Licence to Alter is needed.
A Licence to Alter is normally required for the following types of property alterations:
- Removing or making openings in walls (such as a new doorway for example)
- Fitting a new kitchen or bathroom
- Installing a new heating system
- Laying hard floors
- Making external alterations such as replacing windows
Your lease will specify the basic requirements that you need to follow if you plan to undertake works on your property. It is very important to take account of these provisions before making a start on any of the work. If in doubt ask your Solicitor to review your lease and explain the steps you need to follow – which may include applying for a Licence to Alter.
Applying for a Licence to Alter
A Licence to Alter is a formal written document from your landlord, giving approval to the changes you wish to make to the property. To start the process you will need to supply the landlord with:
- Full details of the alterations you want to make including plans of the proposed works, and
- If structural alterations are proposed, you should also include engineers’ calculations and drawings
If the works require planning consents and or/building regulations approval then you do not necessarily need to obtain these consents in advance of obtaining the Licence to Alter, as it is usual for the obligation to undertake the work in accordance with such consents to form part of the licence agreement. It is advised that you should find out whether the works you are planning will require consent so you can account for timescale and additional costs. Many people do not appreciate that the installation of new heating systems or bathroom facilities generally require building regulations approval for example, and evidence of such consent will be needed if you come to refinance or sell the property.
Landlord’s consent cannot reasonably be withheld
If you have supplied the relevant paperwork and can provide evidence that the works will be carried out properly, the landlord cannot reasonably withhold their consent. You will however be liable for the landlord’s solicitor’s costs as well as your own, so remember to bear this in mind when considering the total costs.
Do not be tempted to start the works without the Licence to Alter having been granted as this would be a breach of your lease and could result in an action for forfeiture. It is not unusual for landlords to also charge a premium to grant a licence when they are aware works have already been commenced – another good reason for seeking approval before you dive into making the improvements!