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Licence for Alterations Absolute Covenants

May 16, 2022

In today’s property surveying blog post topic, we are going to be looking at License for Alterations, or License to Alter matters and the procedures that a leaseholder or tenant will find themselves in if they find their lease contains an Absolute Alterations Covenant. 

License Alterations requirements apply to almost all leasehold properties within England and Wales.

They effectively mean that if you are planning on undertaking modernization, alteration, development, or changes to your property, you will need to request your landlord/freeholder’s consent.

In most cases, you will also need to go through the various procedures and meet the different requirements to gain that consent.

License Alterations procedures can cover works far and wide, however generally speaking include:

  • Structural alterations;
  • Changing locations of bathrooms or kitchens;
  • Adding bathrooms or kitchens;
  • Removing internal walls or adding internal walls;
  • Changing windows;
  • Changing doors;
  • Changing boilers;
  • Undertaking any electrical upgrade or installation works;
  • Undertaking any other service upgrade or installation work;

License Alteration procedures are there to ensure that the envelope of the building is not at risk from any of the planned works that are being undertaken.

They ensure that the proposed works are carefully considered by a property professional to ensure they are not only in accordance with the most up to date and applicable procedures and best practices.

Furthermore, that any neighbouring leasehold properties are carefully considered to ensure that any nuisance or knock-on effect of the work is kept to an absolute minimum.

So what happens if your lease is restricted in respect of alterations?

If your lease is restrictive, it is what is legally known as having an Absolute Covenant.

This effectively means that the lease clause that governs alterations will have wording to the effect whereby the freeholder or landlord doesn’t need to provide consent for the planned works to the leaseholder or tenant.

Yes, you are reading this correctly. 

In some cases, leases can fully restrict any changes to the property, no matter how minor or insignificant they are. 

Absolute Covenants will likely see the simplest of plans, such as changing carpets to wooden floors, installing an open plan kitchen, or even and en-suite be thwarted by the legal requirements and stipulations surrounding Absolute Covenants. 

An Absolute Covenant will effectively mean that in order to gain the consent of the landlord or freeholder, they will need to specifically waive the Alterations clause altogether and depart from the legal wording of the lease.

Freeholders are usually very reluctant to do this, as it can actually open them up to legal claim from other leaseholders, and can place them in a position whereby they’ve knowingly allowed the lease to be deviated from. This could set a precedent or benchmark for matters going forward. 

It is also worth noting that if your lease does have an Absolute Covenant, here at Stokemont, we would have expected your conveyancer or solicitor to have pointed this out to you at the time of purchase.

This type of addition to a lease can significantly restrict the end use of the property, and make it far less commercially sellable when compared to other similar properties in the same vicinity or area.

In many cases, leaseholders will be quite surprised that they are unable to make these planned changes. The issue is only noted once architects have been instructed, engineer’s designs have been done, planning permissions or statutory consents have been applied for, then at the last minute, the freeholder or landlord will point out the issue which can result in great concern and upset to the leaseholder or tenant.

The covenant effectively means their planned works are unlikely to go ahead. 

Not only are they unable to complete the proposals they wanted to, they are effectively out of pocket for all of the funds they have paid out for the various professional input.

License Alterations matters are, at the best of times, towards the complicated end of the spectrum, and a good License Alteration surveyor should take into account not only the over-riding legal principles set out by the lease, and landlord and tenant Acts, but also the considerations and observations of the neighbouring tenants or leaseholders, and the overall envelope of the building as a whole.

If you would like to discuss the License Alterations requirements with our team of qualified and experienced surveyors here at Stokemont, give us a call today and we will be more than happy to assist you.

Did you know that we also offer 30 minutes free advice?  Whereby we can look at your lease and confirm the type of alterations covenant you have, as well as give you some subjective and corrective advice, based on the types of work you are planning. 

If you would like to take us up on this offer, pop over your lease and proposed plans now and we will happily review those and come back to you.

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