What is a licence to alter?

If you live in a flat, whether it is purpose built or part of a converted house, and want to refurbish or make any changes it is likely that you will need to obtain a licence to alter.

Depending on the conditions within your lease, it is likely you will require the landlord’s permission to carry out the proposed works, even if you own a share of the freehold.

The works that require the licence to alter usually include altering the structure in any way, moving services, changing internal walls or replacing doors and windows. Minor changes might be permitted without the permission of the landlord and these would include putting up shelves, redecorating, and laying new carpets.

Alterations to leasehold premises are a common cause of dispute, and if there is any doubt about whether works require a licence to alter, you should consult your freehold landlord in the first instance.

Obtaining permission can be time consuming, particularly if it coincides with submitting planning applications for the work and can delay you moving into a newly refurbished flat.

Our advice would be hold back on appointing designers and builders to carry out works until you have the final okay from the landlord in writing. To start the process, you should consult your landlord as soon as possible to find out if a licence to alter is needed and what are the chances of it being granted. You should also enquire of the likely timescale and application process.

As a guide, an application for a licence to alter might need to include:

  • A written description of the works you want to undertake;
  • The programme and timescale for the works;
  • Any drawings of the existing layout and any proposed changes;
  • Structural drawings and calculations especially if you are moving or demolishing walls;
  • Services drawings, ie if the changes effect drainage from a bathroom;
  • Specifications, such as the materials you will be using;
  • Risk assessments and method statements to ensure the heath and safety of the contractors;
  • A copy of the F10 notification if applicable, though this is usually only needed for larger refurbishment projects;
  • Evidence of the contractor insurances, which is essential to cover unforeseen issues that may arise;
  • Evidence of necessary planning permission, buildings regulations permission and other statutory approvals;
  • Evidence of compliance with the 1996 Party Wall Act to ensure your neighbours aren’t adversely effected;
  • Completion certificates, which is evidence that the work was carried out in accordance with Building Regulations;
  • Schedule of condition of affected common parts, which should be carried out before the work starts because it will be your reference document if your neighbours accuse your contractors of damaging the common areas.

An added issue more common these days is the desire to lay down timber flooring as part of the refurbishment. You will need to check that this is allowed within your lease and, if so, if you need to provide additional sound proofing beneath the new flooring. It is best to check early to avoid an irate downstairs neighbour who can hear your every movement. Wooden flooring magnifies the smallest sound, especially at night.

If you would like advice on applying for a licence to alter, contact McCarthy Partnership.

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