Alterations to a flat with the consent of the freeholder (if the lease stipulates that such permission is required) means that the freeholder issues a license to alter which then becomes part of the title deeds. There are no legal guidelines as to what the freeholder can charge and if it is later discovered that alterations were made that required the consent of the freeholder which was neither sought nor granted then the freeholder can insist on a retroactive licence during the conveyancing process. Again, there are no legal guidelines on what can be charged.

The most common requests for alterations are:

  1. Works to the structure such as the cutting through of walls, or the removal of either the whole or part of any wall and whether internal, external or a partition;
  2. The install new heating or alternative service installations;
  3. Replacing/changing windows;
  4. A skylight insertion;
  5. Installation of a new kitchen, bathroom, toilet, shower etc which is likely to increase the amount of waste water/sewage being removed from the flat;
  6. Modification to communal services such as the re-routing of a radiator attached to a communal heating system.

If the leaseholder wants to carry out minor modernisation work, such as internal decorations, consent will not usually be required and if the lease is silent on alterations (highly unlikely) then the tenant is free to carry out the alterations as he/she chooses.


The Protocol for Applications for Consent to Carry Out Alterations (the Alterations Protocol) is designed to ensure that leaseholders and freeholders exchange information in such as way as to minimise claims, reduce financial burdens for both parties, and reduce the scope for disputes between them and, should they arise, enable them to be resolved as easily as possible.

Leaseholders seeking permission to carry out alterations are usually subjected to alteration clauses within their lease of which there are usually one of three (or a mix).

They are:

  1. An absolute covenant which completely prevents the alteration and the leaseholder will only be able to make alterations if the landlord is prepared to waive the clause;
  2. A qualified covenant which prevents alterations except with the landlord’s consent;
  3. A fully qualified covenant which allows the alteration with the landlord’s consent, which the clause specifies, must not be unreasonably withheld.

All freeholders who receives an application for alterations are bound by legislation to a) give consent and not unreasonably withhold it (except where it is reasonable not to), b) give written notice to the tenant advising whether consent is to be granted along with any conditions (which in turn must be reasonable) and c) if consent is not granted, then reasons as to why.

These responses must be undertaken within a reasonable period of time.

Note: Legislation such as the Landlord and Tenant Acts of 1927 and 1954 provide that where alterations are necessary to comply with statute, consent cannot be withheld.


The leaseholder is responsible for setting out the proposed scope of works to the landlord and where necessary, reference should be made to the ‘As Built’ drawings and specifications to ensure their accuracy and to avoid any dispute at the expiry of the lease. The leaseholder must also provide an undertaking that all works will comply with all relevant statutes, planning consent, bye-laws, building regulations and good working practices for which the burden of proof will usually be on the landlord to show the duties have been complied with.

If the proposal is complex then the freeholder will likely appoint their own professional team to review and approve the design, structural and building service drawings, calculations or specifications put forward. If this happens then the costs of such advice would normally be chargeable to the leaseholder under the terms of the lease.


The Licence to Alter is normally prepared by the freeholders solicitor. This will then be issued to the leaseholder’s professional team for approval, with the cost of the License chargeable to the leaseholders. This License then becomes part of the Title Deeds.

Any further changes by the leaseholders will require either an addendum to the original licence, or a new Licence to Alter drawn up.

Subject to the lease terms, it is normal to have a reinstatement clause, whereby the tenant has an obligation to reinstate their property to how it was prior to occupation. All works would be at the leaseholder’s own cost.

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