If you own an apartment/flat with a long-term lease, as most do in Central London you may have concerns about what you can and cannot do in relation to updating your property. This is where a Licence to Alter or Licence for Alterations comes into play.
Do I need Licence to Alter for an Apartment?
As an apartment/flat owner, you have likely heard of a Deed of Variation. We find many property owners are confused about the difference between this Deed and a Licence for Alterations for an apartment. They are actually part of the same process. Getting Deed of Variation and Licence for Alterations for an apartment both are the same.
Even though you purchased the apartment and have a long leasehold interest, meaning you own the property, you will be bound by the lease terms, both from a legal perspective and contractually, your ownership of the lease will expire and revert to the Freeholder upon the expiration of your lease. This means that you can’t undertake property changes as a Leaseholder prior to obtaining consent from your Freeholder.
What If I don’t have a Licence to Alter?
“What happens if you didn’t realise that you required the permission of your freeholder prior to making changes?”
If you are a tenant with a particularly long lease, it is unlikely the landlord would claim a fundamental breach of contract in an attempt to terminate your contract. Over the years, a frequent outcome is the courts awarding damages to the landlord, these large costs are best to avoid, the simple way to avoid this is ensuring you have a Licence to Alter in place.
A common issue that arises, is when the leaseholder puts the property on the market. During the conveyance, a missing licence to alter will be flagged. As a leaseholder, you have two options, seek a retrospective licence to alter or provide indemnity insurance to the buyer. On the rare occasion, the freeholder could inform your mortgage provider, which can cause issues.
Types of Changes Likely Require a Licence to Alter
Anything that changes the fundamental structure of the property or affects service provisions usually requires a licence to alter.
The most common are:
- Changing Windows
- Removing structural walls
- Changing the internal layout of rooms
- Structural changes
- Changing Toilet or Bathroom location
- Adding a new heating system or changing an old one
- Flooring changes, i.e. from carpet to wooden floors
The requirement for a Licence to Alter or Licence for Alterations will be dependent on the lease and the clauses within it. The legal lease standard has changed over time, so ensure you are aware of the facts within your own time frame.
The requirement for a Licence to Alter usually surprises flat owners, if you require formal consent, you must ensure that you get good legal advice, as early as possible.
Here at Icon Surveyors, we are happy to assist with your Licence to Alter requirements. Get in touch with our team of experienced Party Wall Surveyors now.