Making Alterations To Your Leasehold Property

Home renovations are not always a straight forward process. This year has seen many articles about leaseholders who have been hit with alteration fees. To help make the process a little clearer, we have explained the do’s and don’ts of leasehold property alterations.

Making Changes to Your Home

If you find yourself in the position of wanting to make a few home improvements or alterations, then you should:

  1. CHECK THE LEASE: Some may stipulate that you require permission for any work you carry out, others may state you only need permission for major works.
  2. CONSULT FREEHOLDER/MANAGING AGENT: They will want to know if the alterations will affect the structure of the building, and if it will improve/lower the value of the property.

If the lease states you are not able to make any alterations, you may be able to negotiate amendments at the cost of a premium. You will still need to read through the terms within your lease even if you own the freehold. It is also important to note that even though you may have access to an area (for example a loft) this does not mean you have legal rights over it, so may be restricted from making any changes to the area. Permission from the landlord may come with restrictions, such as putting the property back to its original state in the future.

Permission would normally be needed for:

  • Changing internal structure i.e. converting one bedroom into two
  • Changing windows
  • Installing hard floors
  • Electrical, plumbing or gas work
  • Installation of new boiler or air conditioning
  • Cutting through/removing a wall (solid/partition)
  • Moving or installing a new bathroom or kitchen

Depending on the nature of the works, permission can be given a variety of ways. A simple letter from the freeholder will cover small works, however larger renovations may require a License for Alterations. Consent cannot be unreasonably withheld by the freeholder unless the works will affect any of the communal or structural areas of the building. Even though the dismissal of alterations to your property can be a frustration it is important to remember that the lease is drafted to protect the interest of all parties and ensure nothing is done to:

  • Harm the structure of the building
  • Diminish the value of the property
  • Invalidate the landlords building insurance
  • Disturb any other residents within the building

Costs of Alterations

Aside from the cost of the renovation itself, you will also need to factor in other charges. You will have to pay for any of the costs incurred to the landlord due to the alterations. This could include:

  • General administration fees
  • Legal costs e.g. solicitors drawing up a formal license
  • Hiring of engineers/surveyors e.g. checking plans and works itself
  • Granting permission (depending on nature of the changes)
  • Reinstatement clause

Any fee you feel is unreasonable can be challenged.

Going Ahead Without Permission…

If you fail to gain permission for any of the alterations you make to your property, you are exposing yourself to risks such as:

  • Breaching the terms within your lease which may lead to financial implications
  • Difficulty in selling your property if buyers ask to see written consent
  • May be required to put the property back to its original state
  • May be difficult/costly to seek to apply retrospectively for consent once works have been completed

Whether you are currently living in or considering the purchase of a leasehold property, you should always consider where you would legally stand if wanting to make alterations. It is always important to examine the lease carefully.


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