Licence to Alter a Flat
Leaseholders are always required to request permission from the freeholder to make changes to their property which, if granted, takes the form of a Licence to Alter.
Such alterations could be:
- Additional windows (not replacements);
- Addition of new doors (not replacements);
- The removal or addition of internal walls.
For houses, such alterations could be:
- The addition of a conservatory;
- Extension work to the building;
- A loft conversion;
- The extension or creation of a driveway;
- Any radical change of the land attached to the freehold (including the construction of new buildings on the land or radical landscaping).
Some work will need planning permission and building regulation approval and others will not. For example, planning permission might not be required for a house because some types of extensions/loft conversions are considered to be ‘permitted developments’. Permitted development rights however do not apply to blocks of flats, although if there are no plans to alter the external appearance, or the use of the building, planning permissions would probably not be required.
However, nearly all building work and structural alterations needs building regulations approval to ensure that building work meets the minimum standard of the national building regulations.
In any event the process is as follows:
- Drawings for the proposed works will be submitted to the freeholder who will send the plans to be reviewed by a surveyor who will determine whether a Licence to Alter is required. If it is, the surveyor will require further details of the project including drawings and full specifications;
- The surveyor will then visit the property to see the plans in context and review the effect this work may have on any joined or adjacent properties;
- The surveyor will then report back to the freeholder and advise that the Licence to Alter is written up by a qualified solicitor;
- Once checked and approved, this document is sent out to all parties for their signatures and deposits;
- If everything is finished satisfactorily, the building control surveyor issues a building regulation completion certificate, which is necessary legal paperwork when it comes to buying/selling property.
The freeholder has the right to object and compel the leaseholder to either reverse the changes or demand financial compensation but when a property is put on the market and consent was neither sought or granted, it is not only a breach of the lease but the changes will not appear on the title deeds.
This means that new buyers are effectively held to ransom in order to obtain retrospective consent and to enable the sale to move forward. There are no statutory guidelines in this (and many other) areas so buyers may well end up paying well above the odds!