Definition of "Material Change" in Lease.....?!

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    Definition of "Material Change" in Lease.....?!

    Hi There,

    I was hoping for some guidance, if possible? I am on the ground floor of a small block of flats (2 stories high, about 20 flats). I'd like to change a cupboard and walk in ladder that I currently have into a second shower room and toilet. The lease says that you can't "make or permit or suffer to be made to the demised premises or any part thereof any material change or addition thereto whatsoever." I need to check if the walls in question are structural - my sense is they aren't. New pipes in any event would need to be run. I don't know if anyone else has made this change.
    My question is whether there is any agreed definition of "material" in leases - and whether, based on the above facts, anyone thinks that the change I have in mind might be possible - i.e. they would regard it as not caught by this wording? Any assistance gratefully received! Many thanks!

    #2
    "Material" is question of degree. I think that changing a larder to a shower has to be a material change.

    Comment


      #3
      Converting a "ladder" into a shower seems more magical than material to me
      But seriously what is the chance your freeholder will ever find out ? Only issue is when you come to sell , and then you have to say "it was always like that!".

      Comment


        #4
        Good spot on the "ladder" typo - sorry about that! Thanks so much for the responses. I think you're right - it's probably hard to say it's not material. I think it's likely that the freeholder wouldn't find out. I think the only sign of it occurring would be when the work is being done (which would be part of a general refurbishment) and whether any of the other flats might notice if any outside pavement was dug up to temporarily to allow access to the pipes. More broadly I wondered it if might impact the insurance taken out on the building? I think you are right also about the disclosure form on sale. I suppose if I say I took down internal walls, it's likely I will be asked to evidence permission for this, and I won't be able to do that. Just thinking it through, what is the worst that could happen? Is it that I could be told to "put it back to how it was" if the Residents Management Committee found out, or that I would have to reinstate it for sale, if it was picked up on selling that there was no permission for it? Thanks so much again!!!

        Comment


          #5
          You won't be able to say "it was always like that" as there will be a copy of the floor plan on your lease.
          You would need to inform the freeholder if you want your new fixtures and fittings to be covered under their buildings insurance policy. These are not usually covered under contents insurance policies unless you have made special arrangements to do so.
          If your new shower leaked and caused damage you might find yourself in trouble if you have no insurance.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by HELPPLEASE123 View Post
            I suppose if I say I took down internal walls, it's likely I will be asked to evidence permission for this, and I won't be able to do that. Just thinking it through, what is the worst that could happen? Is it that I could be told to "put it back to how it was" if the Residents Management Committee found out, or that I would have to reinstate it for sale, if it was picked up on selling that there was no permission for it? Thanks so much again!!!
            The worst that can happen is that you lose the flat under forfeiture for breach of lease covenant

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Harwood View Post

              The worst that can happen is that you lose the flat under forfeiture for breach of lease covenant
              Hypothetically, that's the worst that could happen, but realistically it won't happen unless 'HELPPLEASE123' doesn't act sensibly.

              There will almost certainly be a clause in the lease that potentially allows for forfeiture of the lease for breaches of this type, but in reality this means the loss of the cost of putting the flat back to its original state or the cost of whatever premium the freeholder (or relevant company) demands for retrospective consent plus any costs involved with this (including costs of checking the quality of the work and altering the lease) AND the cost of any legal action that the freeholder takes to reach the remedy they require.

              If you can't afford to get pay the costs involved, you would be expected to sell the flat at a price that reflects the fact that the buyer will have to pay these costs (which in reality means a reduction in price that is more than the expected costs).

              If there is any suggestion of court action pursuing forfeiture you will need to do whatever you can to agree a solution quickly - because the legal costs you will otherwise end up being expected to pay could be very high, and would be in addition to the cost of remedying the breach.

              Of course, all the above would only be possible if you went ahead with alterations without permission.



              Best case scenario is that you find out that the lease doesn't include anything that prohibits the type of alterations that you wish to make. In this case there may be no cost to you at all.

              Comment


                #8
                Thanks Macromia. I agree with your best case scenario, but think I will struggle to be able to evidence that the lease permits this when there is a provision in the lease saying that you can't "make or permit or suffer to be made to the demised premises or any part thereof any material change or addition thereto whatsoever."

                Thanks so much though for everyone's thoughts and advice and for all the time you have all taken to respond. I really do appreciate it.

                All the best

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