Consent for works in leasehold properties
In England there are two ways of owning property – Freehold or Leasehold.
Freehold means you own the building and the land it stands on – you are the ‘freeholder’, otherwise known as the ‘landlord’.
Leasehold means that you own a flat/maisonette (leasehold houses do exist, but are rare) – but you do not own the land it sits on – you are the ‘leaseholder’, otherwise known as the ‘lessee’ or ‘tenant’.
A flat/maisonette is a self-contained unit within a larger building. A leaseholder has a contract/tenancy with the freeholder for that flat/maisonette which details the legal rights and responsibilities of both parties – this is the lease.
Some of the responsibilities disclosed within a lease place obligations or restrictions on the lessee in having certain major/specified works carried out to the property. Some of these works will either not be allowed at all, or only allowed with the written consent of the freeholders. These requirements differ from lease to lease, so it is necessary to thoroughly read the specific lease to clarify what works can and cannot be carried out, and which works will require the freeholder’s consent.
Typical examples are:
- That the lessee will not make any structural alterations or structural additions.
- The lessee is not to cut, maim, or remove any of the party or other walls.
- Not to reside or permit other persons to reside in the flat without the floors being covered with underlay and carpet.
- No changes or alterations permitted that may render the buildings insurance policy void or increase the premium.
- The lessee must not replace the windows or alter the external appearance of a property.
- The lessee must not erect anything on the exterior walls.
- The lessee must not use the roof space for any other purpose than has been defined – ie. for storage only.
Our role as surveyors is to act on behalf of the freeholder in inspecting a subject flat/maisonette and advising on whether consent should be granted for such alterations or additions. Whilst we are acting for the freeholder, the cost is usually borne by the lessee who wishes to carry out works to the property.
Whilst a surveyor should be instructed prior to any such works being carried out, we are increasingly being called in to inspect when works have already been carried out without consent – the lessee is selling the flat/maisonette and the purchaser’s solicitors have queried the works carried out and the status of their consent – any works carried out that would have required consent must be declared by a seller on the ‘Leasehold Information Form (TA7)’ which is filled out by the lessee when a prospective buyer is found.
Please be aware that the decision is ultimately at the discretion of the Freeholder: You may not be granted consent for planned works, which becomes a bigger issue if you have already carried them out. Regardless of outcome, the lessee maintains responsibility for the cost of the surveyor’s involvement.
As the lessee, your solicitors should always send the consent enquiry to the freeholders/their solicitors in the first instance – the freeholder may well have their own surveyors appointed already. If not, and they are happy for us to act for them then we can provide your solicitors with an instruction letter for the freeholder, or communicate with them directly.
Once formally appointed and instructed, we would need to obtain a copy of the subject lease and carry out an inspection on the subject flat/maisonette. It is our aim to turn consent reports around within three working days of inspection, whenever possible.
We quote on a case-by-case basis, but for information the typical cost is £300 – £400 + VAT. Payment of our costs is either in advance of inspection, or by solicitor’s undertaking.