Chartered Building Surveyor at Davis Brown
Licence to Alter
Tony Guerguis studied Economics at university to Masters Level before deciding on Building Surveying as a career. He has over ten years’ experience in dealing with a broad range of Building Surveying aspects including specification writing, contract administration, dilapidations and insurance valuations. His main interest and area of specialisation is party wall matters.
First things first Tony – what is a Licence to Alter?
A Licence to Alter is a formal document which sets out the terms and conditions in the event that a leaseholder wishes to make alterations to their property. It is essentially an agreement between the leaseholder and the freeholder (also known as the landlord) and act as a formal consent for the works to go ahead. A Licence will be required wherever the Lease states that Landlord’s consent is required for any alterations.
Why is a Licence to Alter required?
Where a lease requires consent for alterations, a leaseholder carrying out alterations to the property in the absence of a Licence to Alter, would be in breach of the terms of their lease. The leaseholder would be at risk of enforcement action being taken against them by the landlord, which could result in a costly and lengthy legal dispute. A Licence to Alter is designed to protect the landlord’s interests and ensure that the proposed works do not compromise the structure or functionality of the property and comply with up to date building regulations and legislation.
What kind of alterations invokes the need for a Licence?
Structural Alterations – this includes removing internal partition walls, building new partitions, inserting/removing beams etc.
Service Alterations – the installation of a new bathroom or kitchen, moving existing pipework to service a different room or installing new electrical circuits.
External Alterations – this involves works to the exterior of the property including the installation of new windows, applying a new roof covering or replacing a section of brickwork. Before committing to external alterations, the extent of the demised premises should be clarified within the lease.
Additional work which usually requires a Licence is the installation of a new hard floor covering.
How is the process of producing a Licence to Alter typically carried out?
The leaseholder proposing to carry out the works would engage with the landlord in order to obtain consent in accordance with the terms of the lease,. He or she would have to provide details of the proposal including a specification and drawings. The landlord’s solicitor would draft the Licence and an appointed surveyor would review the proposal and make recommendations to the Landlord. If the lease contains an absolute prohibition then the landlord can refuse or impose unreasonable conditions. If the lease contains a qualified condition then Landlord’s consent cannot be unreasonably withheld where work is classed as an “improvement” (s.19 (2) Landlord and Tenant Act 1927).
Depending on the extent of the works, the surveyor would inspect the property intermittently during the works to ensure the terms of the Licence are complied with.
Who pays for the Licence?
All fees (solicitor, surveyor, managing agent if applicable) would typically be covered by the leaseholder planning on carrying out the works. It is prudent to check with the terms of the lease beforehand.
What advice would you give to a leaseholder who is about to engage with their landlord in order to obtain a Licence to Alter?
Check that you own the whole of the demise you intend to carry out works to! We have seen leaseholders do everything they need to do and pay all the required fees without realising that the area they propose to work on isn’t actually demised to them. Ideally they should take professional advice before applying for a Licence. At Davis Brown, we act for freeholders wishing to assess applications for Licences to Alter and provide advice and assistance to leaseholders wishing to apply for Licences.