Considering making alterations to your flat?
It’s difficult to take positives from the latest lockdown, but one glimmer of a silver lining could be the opportunity to tackle a long overdue home DIY project. However, tenants are strongly advised to check if their landlord’s consent is required before reaching for the tool kit…
How do I know if I need consent?
Most residential leases require tenants to obtain consent from the landlord and/or the management company before making any alterations to their property. Failure to do this could be a breach of the terms of the lease.
Whether or not consent is required will usually be determined by two factors:
1. The scope of the proposed works
Although there is no exhaustive list, the most common alterations which typically require a licence to alter include:
- Altering or modifying the structure of the property;
- Replacing carpet with wooden flooring;
- Demolishing or cutting through any external and/or internal wall;
- Changing the windows or external doors; and
- Installing a new heating system or an alternative service installation.
2. What the lease says on the subject of alterations
Typically, a lease will contain one of three restrictions (or a combination of the three) in relation to alterations:
- Absolute Covenant: prohibits the alteration absolutely – the landlord must waive the clause for the tenant to be able to make alterations;
- Qualified Covenant: prohibits alterations save with the landlord’s consent; and
- Fully Qualified Covenant: provides that the alteration may only take place with the landlord’s consent, but will set out that such consent is not to be unreasonably withheld.
How do I obtain the necessary consent?
The most common way consent is provided is by a formal written licence from the landlord, also known as a ‘Licence for Alterations’. This records the fact that permission has been sought and granted in respect of the work.
In applying for a licence, the primary responsibility of the tenant is to present the landlord with a full scope of the proposed alterations, which will typically encompass design, structural drawings and building services drawings, details of the likely timescales of the works and any other relevant specifications along with an undertaking that all statutory consents will be complied with.
What costs will I be liable for?
The tenant should be aware that, in addition to their own building costs, they may also be liable for the landlord’s costs (such as legal or survey fees) in connection with the preparation of the licence.
What if I don’t obtain the necessary consent?
If the tenant carries out the works without the necessary consent and licence, the consequences can be severe and far-reaching:
- They will almost certainly be in breach of their lease terms and vulnerable to the possibility of enforcement action being brought;
- The saleability of their property could be diminished by any unregulated changes; and
- It may also be far more difficult and costly to obtain consent retrospectively from the landlord once the works have been finalised.
Is the process regulated to safeguard me?
The Protocol for Applications for Consent to Carry Out Alterations (the Alterations Protocol) was recently introduced with the aim of simplifying the process and avoiding any potential disputes between landlord and tenant.
Both parties are encouraged to utilise the Alterations Protocol when possible, as it serves as a useful tool to improve communication and streamline the process.