Perhaps you plan to remove the living room ceiling to ensure Tinkerbell has more headroom atop the tree this year? Maybe you’ve finally decided to install that romantic open fire because Nat King Cole seems to know best when it comes to chestnuts? Or (much more likely), you’ve been gripped by John Lewis fever, bought the piano, but now face the small dilemma of having to remove your living room wall in order to accommodate it!
Well Ho Ho Hold on leaseholders, because whatever the extent of your DIY ambitions this winter (or anytime for that matter), it is always advisable to thoroughly check the terms of your lease before reaching for the toolkit.
Broadly speaking, your lease may restrict your ability to make alterations by either:
- Containing an absolute prohibition against alterations and/or additions, which is essentially a blanket ban on changes of this nature. Unfortunately, this could mean your prospects of even decking the halls are limited, hopes of Christmas cheer are slim and your landlord’s name is probably Ebenezer. You could, however, approach your landlord to establish if consent may still be granted notwithstanding the absolute prohibition in your lease; or
- Requiring your landlord’s consent to any proposed alterations and/or additions. If this is the case, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1927 implies that such consent is not to be ‘unreasonably withheld’ by your landlord, providing the lessee with a degree of protection against difficult landlords. Consent is normally granted by a formal ‘licence’ commonly known as a ‘licence for alterations’. Restrictions of this nature are similar to any good selection box - a lot of different options, each requiring further consideration before making the most appropriate choice; or
- Making no reference to alterations or additions whatsoever. If this is the case, you should be able to make any alterations/additions you wish, provided they do not damage the building or cause the property to become less valuable. This is therefore the ideal scenario for those festive enthusiasts intending to turn their property into a legitimate Santa’s grotto.
- It is also important to establish whether any restrictions apply to alterations in general or just structural alterations. Clearly, a restriction 'not to carry out any structural alterations or make any structural additions' is less restrictive than a clause prohibiting 'any alterations or additions'.
- Your lease may also include certain obligations regarding the way in which any proposed alterations should be carried out, e.g in a 'good and workmanlike manner', or 'using new and good quality materials'.
- If you realise you have undertaken alterations/additions without consent and consent is required pursuant to your lease, you may be able to agree with your landlord to the grant of retrospective consent.
As you can see, there can be an awful lot to consider before making any alterations or additions to your property, and any failure to do so can put you in breach of your lease terms. This could have potentially serious consequences including payment of damages, legal costs and ultimately even forfeiture of your lease. Failing to obtain appropriate consent to alterations or additions could also make it extremely difficult to sell your flat.
So for expert advice on what you can and can’t do, the extent to which you can do it, and whether or not you require a licence for alterations, please contact a member of our specialist Leasehold Team.
In summary, bring us your lease, we’ll check it (at least) twice, and help persuade your landlords to not be naughty but nice...