Consent For Alteration Addition and Conversions

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    Consent For Alteration Addition and Conversions

    Part 1 General Matters

    Rule 1 The most important thing to remember is that obtaining consent is not the last thing to do-it must be planned at the outset as it may take weeks not days, and is rarely obtained on demand. Work must be carefully considered and planned and arranged well in advance as you cannot expect that others will, or even can, work to your, often overnight, demands.

    A Why Do I Need Consent?

    1 A lease has to be handed back at the end” the reversion” (unless you extend or want to be a renting tenant) and the landlord is entitled to get it back as originally sold though kept in repair/updated, and without anything you have done affecting it’s value.

    2 Work carried out will affect others and the common parts and therefore restrictions on working hours and location, storage of goods and waste etc are often required.

    3 Work may affect the building its structure or services which requires consideration and managing to ensure that the building is not damaged and others or services affected.

    4 In some cases walls or floors being worked on are party walls or structures which require a specific process and notice to be followed under the Party Wall Act 1996.

    5 Alterations and conversions are red flags to a knowing buyer or solicitor who looks at a lease and sees change. In most cases they will want to see that permission has been obtained. While that may seem pedantic, there is the risk that when it comes to light, the landlord, at your cost, will want to inspect or open up, and perhaps costly rectification, or at worst, reinstatement, even a lengthy and costly legal dispute.

    Rule 2 To what extent consent is required depends on the individual wording of your lease and the scope of the works.

    B What Does the Lease Say?

    Leases are obscure not always well written and need to be read front to back.

    Absolute Covenants prohibit something completely and the landlord need not be reasonable. While they may choose to do so, where all leaseholders have the same covenant e.g. not to alter the outside they are prohibited from doing so if others will seek to enforce that covenant.

    (Fully)Qualified Covenant prohibit or restrict matters without prior consent and/or with certain conditions or limitations
    -the latter cannot be unreasonably withheld or delayed under the LTA 1927, 54 and 88, but that is considered by the Courts to be weeks not days or by return

    Silence is where the lease makes no prohibition or restriction then you are generally free but see below

    General Lease Covenants restrict or require limits on activities that affect others so sensible landlords and agents will impose restrictions on access working time areas noise and services interruption to avoid problems or disputes, and balance your interest with those of other residents. Never assume that a right should or does exist, but notice and an early request is often accommodated.
    -Just because they could assemble the kitchen in the hallway, or leave items to be collected in the garden, or put a skip “over there” doesn’t mean that you can, as in most cases your rights to areas outside your flat are limited to walking or driving back and forth, and therefore no presumption that you should be able to do anything other than that.

    Reserved Property As in C below the lease demise/description and plan must be read to work out
    -what is yours
    -what other rights you have outside your flat
    -what is owned by other people and their rights
    -the reserved property ie the parts which a landlord has not demised in a lease(s)

    For example it might say that structural alteration (which is not limited to load bearing walls but anything that relates to the structure or a structural function) are permitted with consent, however that does not mean that if the wall is not yours to alter, that it is permitted.

    C What is Reasonable?

    Qualified covenants require that consent or conditions thereon are not unreasonably withheld and that depends on the individual circumstances, the lease, the use age character and construction of a building, and of course, the proposed works.

    While straightforward works and reasonable sensible well planned arrangements are made are unlikely to give rise to problems, most issues arise over
    - the impact and suitability of works e.g removing chimneys and load bearing walls in a Victorian House is likely to affect and strain the whole building and cause extensive disruption for which the landlord has obligations to the other owners to not breach their quiet enjoyment or rights to a building in repair by granting consent to invasive extensive work, no matter how desirable
    - small issues of detail
    - assumptions that services can be relocated externally or be interrupted
    - timing and notification and work arrangements
    - accepting that consent is required on a home that you own


    D Is It Yours to Work on Alter or Convert?

    Very often what you assume is yours might not be, or no right to do work, exist. Most leases are eggshell, the space inside and the plaster(shell) of the walls, so walls or floors, internally or adjacent to the eggshell , whether load bearing, structural or not, or services, may not be yours, and even if they are, restricted or prohibited from being changed or interrupted.

    This is particularly important when considering works like
    -changing doors or changing or enlarging windows
    -when changing a window to a patio door the lower wall may not be yours to take
    -altering floors or ceilings which might be reserved or shared or split between you and the adjacent owner
    -building services such as mains water pipes or communal hotwater/heating pipes communal/shared flues or air ducting are often reserved and you are not permitted to work on them to change a kitchen or bathroom, to prevent interruption or imbalances in a system and restrictions placed on water/shower pumps that starve other flats. Even if they are not reserved working on them is often restricted to an approved contractor
    -running services in walls voids or outside your “eggshell” are often limited to replacing existing runs so new pipes or altering a boiler flue or pipes to new or larger location may require consent or in some cases relocation not be permitted
    -even landlords fixtures and fittings, generally the pipe work, wiring and kitchen and bathroom, can be subject to consent as their change can affect the reversion(above) if they are not done correctly or adequately

    E Layout

    The lease may be quite restrictive and consent may be required or withheld. There is a preference in buildings for mirroring room use e.g. beds above beds, keeping wet areas over like and not habitable rooms, to minimise damage or scalding, and alteration to pipe work and wastes. This may be limited or prohibited as above, as the under floor or ceiling area might only permit the existing services to be run or replaced and not additional services.
    -too often joists are crippled by a good plumber but who is a bad structural engineer, or improperly cased lights cause fires, or your “saniflow” or pump is over someone’s bed.

    F Cellars Extensions and Loft conversions

    These and enclosing the dead end of the corridor, a bit of a garden, even co-opting a roof space, are common problems where owners have to look carefully at what rights, if any, they have to those areas in their leases or in law. The presence of a door or loft access might be one of convenience or history, to maintain the building or give access for long removed aerials, water tanks or meters or coal, or a refurbishment saving by the builder. Their use might be limited to access storage or neighbours with rights to those long gone tanks or aerials or coal. Just because they are accessible does not mean that the area can be co-opted, or to a buyer’s mind, that if it has, the landlord may not be aware or have consented.

    Reading the lease and plan may clarify this, past use by owners might allow rights or ownership to be acquired over time, or an argument that under the LPA 1925 that they should be included in the flat title where the lease is not specific in qualifying, excluding or restricting the ownership use or access. Where there is doubt each case needs specific advice.

    Even if that is so, you need then to check that you can tank the walls or make a hole for a window, place a dormer or vellux in the roof, put a deck down, even whether you can run news services, as they may be reserved or work is prohibited.

    Similarly extensions may not be possible if the garden is identified and restricted as use as a garden, or only for use rather then ownership, the exterior cannot be altered or the external walls are reserved and you cannot alter or fix anything to it, or that only the topsoil is demised. If the house is leasehold then it is often better to avoid a premium and fee and fees and buy the freehold first.

    Rule 3 You must fully understand what work you want to do and what parts of the flat or services will be affected, especially in areas that are outside the flat, and by carefully reading the lease, establish what you can or cannot do and what consent is required.
    Based on the information posted, I offer my thoughts.Any action you then take is your liability. While commending individual effort, there is no substitute for a thorough review of documents and facts by paid for professional advisers.

    #2
    Part 2 How Do I Get Consent?

    A Who Do I Get Consent From?

    It is from the person that granted the lease to you (or an earlier flat owner) who may use a managing agent, surveyor or solicitor (even all 3) except
    1 Where there is a Right to Manage Company they must liaise with the freeholder
    2 With a Party to The Lease Manager e.g. a Resident’s Management Company or private company that manages buildings, it is usually from them, though in some cases they have to liaise with the person that granted the lease to you
    3 Where there is head lease for the building the head lessor must liaise with the person who granted the head lease, which is common in the landed estates that own parts of London

    In addition you will/may need
    4 pubic consents from planning building control listed building consent etc
    5 estate management schemes party wall awards or right to access neighbouring land
    6 from anyone holding a charge on the property e.g. your mortgage lender
    7 any restrictive covenants on the land itself

    All works must meet heath and safety requirements as the employer you have primary responsibility especially to others and the public, not the contractor, and you must ensure that the contractor has complied with
    8 Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 etc and the extensive obligations on work and practices method statements and risk assessments
    9 Construction Design and Management regulations
    10 any consents or licences they may need e.g. for scaffold on public streets

    As above you will need to ensure that you have
    11 You and the contractor have valid and adequate liability insurance
    12 That the building insurers are notified and the cover altered if required on completion

    B Planning For Works

    The biggest mistake is that owners make a plan get quotes and choose the materials and set a start date expecting that consent is certain and must be given overnight.

    For the reasons explained above they might find they cannot do the work it may take some time to consider, obtain answers and get consent. Too many assumptions are made about resolving problems when work has started or skips delivery working areas shutting off common services and putting pipes or wires where they have no right to do so, let alone altering things or entering areas that aren’t theirs.

    Unless works are very simple, do not under estimate using a qualified technician or surveyor to advise you on your specification and preliminary investigation.

    An architect or surveyor can, for around 8 -12 % of the works, advise you on
    -works and materials to ensure your builders are quoting on the same basis, and
    -for those with limited time, oversee the work while you are at work to ensure standards and deal with the problems if they occur,
    A contractor can do initial investigations, identify potential problems and services needing shut down, to
    -check stops cocks do work
    - an electrical test
    - a multi skill to lift floor boards to check joists and pipes runs,
    As
    - as landlord and agents with other things to do can take up to 3-5 days to arrange and notify others of losing services, not on demand
    -it is a good investment as it helps to get consent and ensure quotes rely on fewer assumptions. After all you will pay the extra cost.

    1 Plan of the Works

    Think carefully about your plan using common sense or a little help as above
    -services; where are they and where do they need to go, from electrics to water to gas to waste, and what common services are affected and how do I arrange that
    -building elements; what walls floors etc need to be worked on or altered
    -access; do I need access to common areas or adjoining land and do I have a right to that and how do I arrange that
    -work access; where can materials be delivered stored and waste put and for how long, where can work be carried out and do I need or can I get permission, where do contractors park or a skip go, and do I have to protect the common parts inside or outside from damage
    -layout changes does the lease restrict what I want to do and how does it relate to layouts next door
    -will the work negatively affect the value of my home on completion


    2 Read The Lease
    As explained above you will need to match that to the lease to ensure that you are permitted to do the works or obtain access or other arrangements needed, and
    -does the lease stop me from doing work at certain times and should I warn neighbours
    -will my lease % vary if I add an additional space or the number of rooms, or the buildings insurance cover adjusted due to new space change of use or adequately insure new or higher specification kitchens or bathrooms

    3 Timescales

    Along side 1 you need to use informed timescales not what you believe should apply, from material supply time to how quickly parties inspect report and deal with matters, alongside their other work
    -professionals often take 3-10 days to reply to correspondence, and consents may take several exchanges
    -builder rarely “run to B & Q” & rely on their own chain of suppliers
    -building regulations planning and listed building consent can take up to 8 weeks
    -party wall matters up to 3-4 weeks
    So be careful about committing yourself without complete information as your problem or emergency is not someone else’s.

    C Application For Consent

    The application will need some or all of the following
    -detailed list of or specification of works
    -a drawing or plan (1:50) of layout changes (especially if the lease plan is to be varied)
    -surveyors/ engineers details and calculations for structural alterations
    -drawings of old & new services-cables gas water and plumbing –changes and location
    -information on access storage waste removal including skips storage and protection of common parts
    -details of any public consents or party wall matters
    -contractors qualifications e.g. gas and electrics, adequate and valid public liability insurance, health and safety policy, risk assessments and method statements

    In turn the landlord or agent will look for, in addition to their fees,
    -undertakings on timescale/completion
    -production of any certificates or warranties
    -require that local authority consents and staged inspections are completed before commencing work(stages of work)
    -allow access on demand and notice to inspect
    -payment of any additional insurance premiums or costs arising from non compliance
    -indemnities against any claims arising from the works
    -compliance with the agreed works and conditions

    There is no one standard approach and much depends on the complexity of the works, so it is clear that having understood fully what you want to do and read the lease
    -have an initial discussion with the landlord/agent
    -decide on whether to make an outline in principle so that problems like ownership access and rights are ironed out beforehand avoiding wasted time re tendering or changing specs
    -if detailed examination or inspection is required whether to do that before tendering
    -if a detailed application is required before hand
    Most have a standard generic response and it is a question of discussing that as above and playing pick and mix as to what applies to you.

    D What Type Of Consent

    These vary from a simple exchange of letters/emails to a letter licence or formal licence or a deed of variation. All of these can be granted as conditional on completion with a letter saying it is completed, or on agreed terms with the licence or deed issued on completion.

    Which is appropriate depends on the work and complexity and bearing in mind that when you wish to refinance or sell whatever you have must persuade a picky buyer and their jobsworth solicitor.

    E Why Do I have to Pay Fees or costs

    1 In some cases a landlord may charge a premium or fee (not fees see 2 below)
    - For their waiver or consent to work or conversion where it involves an item or area which is reserved or prohibited absolutely or where no rights exist or are limited e.g. converting a loft or basement or moving a wall or changing a window to a patio door, permitting wooden floors where carpet is required, running services in a loft, or putting a deck on a flat roof.
    As they need not give permission in these instances, bear in mind that their behaviour fee or premium is not restricted nor has to be reasonable.

    -Where the works that you will carry out will reduce or damage the reversion of the property to him, such as converting a 2 bed flat into an open studio or going from 2 to 1 bathroom, merging two flats into one or changing the specification of fittings e.g. bath and kitchen and services to a minimum and reducing the saleability and value of the flat.

    2 Even if the lease is silent on costs that are professional fees of an agent surveyor engineer or solicitor, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1927 allows for the reasonable fees to be recovered or granting consent under leases.

    As the landlord has to protect their reversion the building itself and the interests of other users, they are, as above, right to incur their own legal advice, surveyors engineers and agents to deal with this.

    Some “pile on fees” that are not fully justified, & some may charge a token amount for a cursory exchange of letters/email. Each case has it be judged on its merits on the maxim “who, why, what for, and how much” with due regard to knowledge of the skills work and costs thereof rather than “what you think”.

    As to what extent these are reasonable can be determined at the Tribunal under Sch 11 of CLRA 2002. If the delay unreasonably the county or high court can deal with applications to grant consent and award damages.

    And don’t forget to budget for the fees and costs from skip licences to local authority fees and VAT.
    Based on the information posted, I offer my thoughts.Any action you then take is your liability. While commending individual effort, there is no substitute for a thorough review of documents and facts by paid for professional advisers.

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