Licence for Alterations
Residential Lease Licence To Alter
Homeowners often need their landlord’s permission before making structural alterations to their leasehold property. This page will answer any questions you may have about residential Licence for Alteration, including when a leaseholder might need one and what the process will involve.
Shilpa Mathuradas Partner
Helping residential leaseholders improve their homes
A Licence for Alterations or Licence to Alter is a formal, legal document that a leaseholder requires before making certain alterations to their leasehold flat or house. It sets out the conditions under which the alterations may be carried out and ensures that no unexpected conflicts will arise as a result of the work. At Osbornes Law, we have experienced residential property solicitors on hand to guide leaseholders and freeholders (landlords) smoothly through the Licence for Alterations process. Combining legal and technical expertise, we make sure that all alterations made to the property are accurately recorded, protecting your property investment for the future.
It is not unusual for the owners of leasehold flats to want to make alterations to their homes to modernise or extend them. Most residential leases restrict the type of work you can do, either by prohibiting the work completely or requiring the freeholder’s permission before the work can be completed.
It is important that the leaseholder obtains the correct permissions or they may have trouble selling their home in the future. The freeholder, on the other hand, will want to make sure the property is not damaged structurally or aesthetically, and that the works will not result in complaints from other leaseholders in the building.
With over 40 years of experience, our lawyers can advise both leaseholders and freeholders on the terms and conditions of consent, ensuring the proper protections are put in place. We can also assist with dispute resolution, including a service for retrospective permissions where work has been carried out without the prior knowledge of the landlord.
For expert advice or to find out how we can help with your Licence to Alter, please call our specialist residential property solicitors today or fill in an online form and we will call you back.
Licence for Alterations FAQ
What is a Licence to Alter?
Under most residential leases – even ones that have 150 or even 999 years to run – the leaseholder will need to obtain consent from their landlord before making alterations, extensions or other major changes to the property. A Licence to Alter is a document that contains written permission from the landlord and sets out all the terms and conditions under which the alterations may be carried out.
On one level, a Licence for Alterations is a straightforward permission given by a landlord to a leaseholder. However, the document can be more complex than it first appears. Often, we have to take the considerations of multiple parties into account, including the landlord’s surveyor, the local planning department, building control, banks and mortgage companies, and possibly other leaseholders in the building.
If you’re thinking about making alterations to your leasehold property, then the first step should always be to seek professional guidance. Otherwise, you unwittingly may be breaching the terms of your lease.
When is a residential Licence for Alterations needed?
Whether or not landlord’s permission is required depends on the scope of works the leaseholder is planning, and what the lease says. One of the first jobs for a solicitor is to ascertain whether the proposed works do indeed require a Licence to Alter.
Generally, a long residential lease will contain one of three provisions:
- Alteration is absolutely prohibited. The tenant can still ask the landlord for permission to make the home improvement, but the tenant has no come back if the landlord says ‘no’.
- Alteration is prohibited except with the landlord’s consent.
- Alteration is prohibited except with the landlord’s consent which must not be unreasonably withheld. This means the landlord can only refuse permission for a legitimate reason, such as a concern that the works will weaken the building’s structure or decrease the value of the property. However, the scope of what is unreasonable can be quite complex. This is why you should seek legal advice before any works are started, or any permission is given.
While every lease is different, a leaseholder will not usually need permission for minor home improvements that do not affect the structure or exterior of the building. Some common works that usually will require consent include:
- Moving structural walls, for example, to change room sizes, reposition door openings or move stairs
- Relocating or adding kitchens, bathrooms or wet rooms
- Extending the property
- Loft conversions
- Doing anything to the exterior of the building – this might capture seemingly trivial alterations like installing a satellite dish, so it is important to check the terms of the lease.
Why do you need a Licence to Alter?
A Licence to Alter stops leaseholders from making unsuitable alterations that could be dangerous or diminish the value of the property. It therefore protects the interests of the freeholder and other leaseholders in the building.
If a leaseholder carries out unregulated work to the property, they will be in breach of the terms of the lease. This has a number of consequences:
- The landlord can take enforcement action, such as requiring the property to be returned to its original condition
- It may be more costly and time consuming to obtain retrospective consent once the work has been finalised
- The tenant may experience difficulties in selling the property
- In some rare cases, the tenant risks losing the lease.
What is the Licence to Alter process?
The process will vary from case to case but generally, the leaseholder will provide a description of the proposed works to the landlord including technical information such as plans, drawings and structural calculations. The landlord or its surveyor will consider the impact of the works on the building and decide whether to give consent, and what conditions should be attached to the consent.
The landlord’s solicitor is responsible for preparing the draft Licence for Alterations. Some of the clauses the landlord might seek include:
- The ability to monitor the works whilst in progress
- The ability to inspect the works once completed
- An obligation on the leaseholder to obtain planning permission, building regulations approvals and valid insurance
- Restrictions on carrying out the work during unsociable hours so as not to disturb other occupiers in the building
- An obligations to pay for the repair and redecoration of any communal areas that are affected by the works
The leaseholder’s solicitor can advise on the suitability of these clauses and whether they are reasonable given the scope of the works and the lease provisions.
How much does a Licence for Alterations cost?
The leaseholder is responsible for paying their own costs and also the costs of the landlord in dealing with the Licence to Alter. This includes the costs of the landlord’s surveyor, solicitor and other professional advisors. The tenant also has to pay any subsidiary costs, such as the cost of obtaining planning permission.
For complex works, costs may rack up quickly as the landlord may have to bring in additional advisors, such as an engineer. The help of an expert legal professional is invaluable in making the process as streamlined as possible, keeping your costs to a minimum. Contact us about our services and pricing today.
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If I had another reason to have to seek legal advice again, I wouldn’t hesitate to use Shilpa, and would recommend her to anybody who needed legal advice.
Shilpa was professional, realistic, and unflappable. Shilpa managed to persuade a reluctant witness to come forward to support my case. She obviously knows her subject very well.
I always had full confidence in Shilpa keeping my best interests at heart. I often didn’t understand the legal language, and she would follow this up with a phone call and patiently explain.
Our Licence to Alter solicitors come recommended
Not only do we have over 40 years’ experience in securing Licences to Alter for residential property owners, we also have the technical knowledge to ensure your licence is dealt with efficiently to avoid any delays. Our skills in this area enable us to provide clear and jargon-free advice to both leaseholders and freeholders, and we specialise in licences for major alterations to high-value homes.
Contact us today for a free initial consultation regarding your project. We’re happy to answer all your questions and advise you on what to do next.
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The Property Litigation Team View the whole team
William Ford Partner
Housing and Social Care
Shilpa Mathuradas Partner
Muna Adam Solicitor
Rory Matheson Solicitor
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James Mayall Solicitor
Ellie McEvoy Paralegal
Alex McMahon Senior Associate
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