What is a License to Alter

A leasehold owner proposing structural or material changes to their property will generally require the consent of their Landlord under the terms of the lease. Such consent must not be unreasonably withheld but will typically be provided in the form of a written Licence to Alter (or License for Alternations) so that the interests of the Landlord and any other affected leasehold owners in the building are protected.

The legal document will generally be drafted by the Landlord’s solicitor and then revised following input from a surveyor to reflect the specific details of the proposed work and the characteristics of the building.

The first step will generally involve the leaseholder approaching their Landlord or managing agent with details of the work that they wish to undertake. Those details will likely be passed to the Landlord’s surveyor and/or solicitor to review and to determine whether a License to Alter is required. The leaseholder is responsible for their Landlord’s reasonable professional fees and an undertaking for fees is usually made at this point.

Assuming that a license is required full details of the proposed works, including detailed drawings and a specification must be prepared and submitted for review by the freeholder’s surveyor. The solicitor may choose to now draft the license, to which the surveyor may see the need to add to as their role progresses.

Once full information is available a site visit will generally be arranged so that the surveyor can consider the proposals in context and schedule the condition of any adjoining properties that might be affected by the works.

When the surveyor has completed his review of the proposals he will report to the Landlord and often add additional clauses into the license and request additional information from the leaseholder as necessary. Between the solicitor and surveyor, they need to ensure that the leaseholder has instructed appropriate professionals for specific tasks and that the project manager has undertaken their role, to ensure legislative compliance and best practice adherence. If it is deemed reasonable, the surveyor may need to instruct other third parties e.g. a checking engineer, if the scale and risks associated with the project warrant such involvement.

While the works are in progress the surveyor will visit from time to time depending upon the complexity of the works and will make a final inspection upon completion.

Certain documents may be requested at the end of the project and to allow the surveyor to sign off on the license, for example if the works require Building Regulation approval a copy of the completion certificate will be issued to the Landlord together with drawings confirming any changes to the original design prior to the deposit being returned and final letters being sent.

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