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Property Litigation Q&A: Licence to Alter

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Property Litigation Q&A: Licence to Alter

Leaseholders will often want to renovate and modernise their property. Minor interior makeovers will not typically require consent from the Freeholder, however what about more substantial works?

In this article, Property Litigation Specialist Michelle Hayter provides advice on Licences to Alter in residential leasehold properties.

What is a Licence to Alter?

A Licence to Alter, sometimes referred to as Licences for Alterations, typically applies to a residential property that a tenant (leaseholder) occupies under a leasehold agreement.

If a leaseholder would like to undertake changes within the property it will often require legal consent from the landlord (freeholder).

A Licence to Alter is a formal legal document. It sets out the alterations to occur and the conditions that they are subject to – providing clarity and certainty to both the leaseholder and the freeholder as to what works will be carried out and what specifically is approved.

How can I get a Licence to Alter?

There are two ways to obtain a Licence; by consent from the Freeholder, or by an Application to the Court/Tribunal.

We’ve put together a complete guide to leasehold property alterations, which includes how to obtain a licence. You can read it here.

Do I need consent from my landlord for a Licence to Alter?

After reviewing the lease to identify the required works and permissions, approach your Freeholder for consent.

Typically, you will need to evidence your Application, with supporting documentation from a surveyor/architect.

The Freeholder will then typically instruct their own surveyor to asses the documents/works and the respective parties can negotiate and agree on the final form of the works.

A Solicitor can then draft the Licence for Alterations for each party to sign.

Do I need a Licence to Alter if I own a share of the freehold?

We’ve written a dedicated article on this very topic, which can be read here.

Please read on for advice on contentious situations arising from property alterations…

Can a freeholder refuse consent for a Licence to Alter?

Each lease will vary, however in the vast majority there will be a clause stipulating that Freeholders cannot unreasonably refuse consent.

This means that your freeholder cannot reject your requests for alterations for minor reasons. This therefore should make obtaining a Licence for Alterations straightforward.

However, on occasion there can be acrimonious relationship between Freeholder and Leaseholder. Disputes over permission and consent can therefore arise, especially given the subjective nature of ‘unreasonable’.

If this is a situation you find yourself in, we recommend that you take immediate legal advice to protect your position.

When is a Licence to Alter required?

A Licence to Alter is typically required for any change that will affect the structure of the property, for example the removal of internal walls or supporting structures.

The need for a Licence to Alter will be dependent on the nature of the changes the tenant intends to make and the lease terms of the property.

What if I make alterations to my property without consent?

Without the Freeholder’s consent or having the restriction waived, you will not be permitted to undertake the proposed works.

If you proceed with the works regardless and the Freeholder fails to provide a retrospective Licence for Alterations, the Freeholder could take action against you in the Property Tribunal or County Court.

You would likely be liable for the costs of reinstating the works to their original state, along with the Freeholder’s legal costs. It is therefore important that you do not proceed with any works that require permission before the formal Licence for Alterations is granted.

You may also have difficulty selling your property if consent has not been provided.

Licence to Alter: Our advice

If you’re looking to obtain a licence to alter, and would like some assistance in doing so, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your Leasehold Property Team here (they’re specialists and one of the biggest in the area).

If matters between you and your landlord have become contentious (due to alterations or not) then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Property Litigation Team.

We can help you resolve your dispute in a timely and efficient way and would be happy to assist you in court if need be. Get in touch with our bright experts here.

We offer a free initial chat for all new clients.

Read our comprehensive residential landlord's guide here.

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Michelle Hayter, who specialises in Property Litigation matters, authors a monthly Q&A which covers a wide variety of Property Litigation related topics.

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Or, speak to Michelle Hayter if you’re seeking advice. Will would be happy to assist with enquiries of this nature.

The content of this article, blog or video is not intended as specific legal advice. For tailored assistance, please contact a member of our team.