Making improvements to a leasehold property – Licence to Alter

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In order to carry out home improvements on a leasehold property, you may require a licence to alter. The following information explains what a licence to alter is, when you will need one, and how you can obtain one.

What is it?

Essentially, a licence to alter is the permission to change or improve a leasehold property. When renovating, extending, or developing a leasehold property, you might need a “license to alter”. Both residential and commercial leases are affected by the right to alter.

A licence to alter is official written permission from the landlord to carry out the work.

A licence to alter exists to ensure that any improvements you make to the property will not adversely affect the building’s owner or other leaseholders or tenants. License to alter, or LTA for short, is also sometimes called a licence for alter

Do I need one?

A licence is required only if your property is leasehold. Apartments and flats are typically leased. Some houses may be owned on a leasehold basis, although most are owned freehold.

Licenses to alter are generally required if you are making what is known as a material or structural modification. The question of whether or not you need a permit depends not only on the work you plan to perform, but also on whether or not your lease requires a permit for that work.

Please note that a licence to alter is not the same as planning permission.

Types of home improvements you may require a licence to alter for include:

  • Alterations to the structure of the building.
  • Removing internal walls and also moving or adding internal walls.
  • Creating a new doorway or opening in a wall.
  • Installing or replacing windows.
  • Moving or installing an additional bathroom or ensuite bathroom.
  • Installing or changing heating systems/central heating.
  • Changing the flooring type, especially from carpet to a hard floor, which could increase noise levels.
  • Extensions, such as a loft conversion.

Alterations a licence to alter is not normally needed for:

The majority of minor cosmetic works and minor repairs, as well as interior painting and decorating, do not usually require a license. The replacement of an existing kitchen or bathroom may not require a license to alter. In any event, it is advisable to verify whether or not a license to alter is required under your lease.

How to apply:

Please review the lease to determine what improvements are permitted and whether a license to alter is necessary. The lease should contain a clause addressing this issue.

Alterations are typically divided into those that are not permitted at all (which are governed by an absolute covenant) and those that are permitted with the landlord’s consent (which are governed by a qualified covenant).

In situations in which an alteration is not permitted at all, an alternative option is to request that the landlord waive the restriction.

Next, find the right party to apply to. Generally, permission for alterations is granted by the landlord. There is a possibility that your landlord is also a leaseholder, in which case a licence needs to be obtained from their landlord or freeholder.

It is possible to apply for a licence to alter by making both informal and formal inquiries of the landlord.

As a first step, it is a good idea to approach the landlord in an informal way. Describe the improvements you wish to make. A landlord should be able to indicate whether a licence to alter is required, what additional information is needed and what the procedure is for making a formal application for a licence to alter.

A formal application can then be made if a license to alter is required. In this application, you will need to elaborate on the changes you wish to make in more detail.

Depending on the circumstances, a licence application may require relevant plans, drawings, or calculations. These may require the services of an expert. To remove an interior wall, for instance, the application should be accompanied by structural engineering plans and calculations.

An application for a licence to alter may also need to include other details, such as:

  • Details of how the work will be carried out.
  • Specifications for materials.
  • A schedule of conditions for the property.
  • A timetable for the work to be carried out.
  • Risk assessments.
  • Details of what measures will be taken to mitigate disturbance to other residents.

A licence to alter is typically granted subject to the application of other relevant consents. The types of approvals that may be required include planning permission, building regulations approval, and listed building approval. If you have a mortgage, you may also need the approval of your lender.

If it is granted, then a licence to alter is issued by way of a licence deed, or sometimes by way of a letter licence for simple works.

The application process for a licence to alter can often be complicated. If necessary, you may require the assistance of a surveyor or lawyer who is experienced in licences to alter in order to prepare your application and proceed with the landlord.

This article is intended only as general guidance and not intended to form legal advice on the subject of licences to alter. It is recommended to take advice from a solicitor who is experienced in leasehold law and in applying for licences to alter.

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