What do I need to consider when making alterations in my leasehold residential property?

Lease covenants

Lease covenants about alterations usually fall into two categories, an absolute prohibition on alterations or a qualified covenant. An absolute covenant means that you are not allowed to make any alterations to the property. Should this be the case, you may attempt to negotiate with the landlord possibilities of obtaining consent. This may need to involve the payment of a premium to the landlord as an incentive to grant consent. The landlord however is not under any obligation to agree.

A qualified covenant may permit certain alterations subject to obtaining the landlord’s consent. In such circumstances, there is an implied obligation on the landlord not to unreasonably withhold or delay consent. There is no clear answer as to what constitutes reasonably withholding consent. It will depend on the individual facts and circumstances.

In certain circumstances, your landlord may provide its consent subject to certain conditions. These conditions may be the payment of its legal fees and / or payment of a reasonable sum for any damage to the property or diminution in the value of the freehold interest of the property. Your landlord may also request an undertaking from you to reinstate the property at the end of the lease term. Any application under the lease will normally require you to pay the landlord’s reasonable costs, whether or not consent is given.

Planning permission

In addition to considering whether landlord’s consent is required, you will also need to consider whether you need planning permission, Building Regulations approval or Party Wall Awards. You may need the consent of any lender as well. You should also note that if you have a share of the freehold or are a shareholder in the landlord company, you will still need to obtain any consent under the lease from the other freehold owners or the company. Always make sure you have the consent in writing as you may need to provide this to a buyer when selling the property.

If you need any advice on carrying out alterations, you may wish to contact Karen Bright of Bishop & Sewell LLP who has substantive experience in this area.

Karen Bright is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell LLP, Dispute Resolution Team. Tel: 020 7631 4141

November 2016