Licence to Alter Unreasonable Delay

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    Licence to Alter Unreasonable Delay

    Hi all,

    Hope I'm posting in the right area. I purchased a two bedroom flat with 950+ years just before xmas. The flat (and building) is in need of work and after exchanging I had my architect measure up and draw some plans to alter and improve the flat. I submitted the plans to the managing agent in early January requesting a licence to alter and it's been a nightmare ever since. The agent refuses to take my call (I call every other day), intermittently responds to emails (averages 5-10 working days per reply), and has finally come back a few weeks ago with some costs which I believe are unreasonable. The costs are as follows:

    - £900 for Solicitor Fees
    - £300 for Managing agent admin fees
    - £2500 for Freeholder fees.

    I've had a read around the Landlord and Tenant act as well as getting my solicitor involved and he has instructed me the following:

    - Unreasonably Delaying is the same as Unreasonably Denying my request for consent to alter.
    - The Freeholder fee is illegal requested as there is no loss of interest/demise being caused to the property and the alterations are improvements.
    - The Managing Agent fees should not be paid due to the unacceptable service.

    It's been 3 months now and I'm not able to move into the property as it needs work, so I'm having to pay rent as well. Am I correct in thinking that I've been patient enough and within my legal right to begin the alterations as there's been an Unreasonable Delay. My main concern for waiting is that I'd like to have a licence so that I'm not rushing around to get one in the future in the event I choose to sell the property.

    I should also mention the main changes to the property are listed below:

    - Moving of Kitchen to Living Room (complies with Building Regs for ventilation)
    - Opening of Chimney Breast rooms with a Concrete Lintel for support (consulted a structural engineers agency and complies with Building Regs)
    - Addition of Ensuite Bathroom (again in accordance with Building Regs)

    Your help is much appreciated.


    Sounds reasonable to me as the freeholder doesn't have to allow you to mess about with HIS building.
    The agent probably has to consult the freeholder which may take time too as the freeholder may be a group of directors or may even be abroad and these things take time or he may have to wait for the next freeholders meeting.
    If you want to do serious building mods perhaps you should have bought a freehold property?


      It all depends on what your lease says.

      Does it say "no alterations are allowed" or does it say "alterations are allowed if consent has been granted"? Normally it's some form of the latter rather than the former.

      In which case the "freeholder fee" of £2.5k is unenforceable, your solicitor is right with this.
      The MgmtCo admin fees sound about right. The solicitor fees sound very high because this will be only to draw up the license?
      Also, I'm surprised there's no surveyor fee? Because this would be the main thing that the freeholder needs to see.

      I think your choice should be setting them under notice to proceed with the license or go down the route of the FTT. You shouldn't simply start the works.


        A response to your request should be given within weeks, not months.

        But you have had a response, but no authorisation.

        The Chimney Breast is not yours or within your demise, assuming there are extra bricks on the outside showing it is clear there is an external brickwork to form the Chimney.
        If you have flats below or above, you cannot block off the flow of gasses from these fires, either coal, gas or electric.

        Form what you state, the Chimney would be a no no, and the freeholders fees may very well inculde surveyors fees, and you are responsible for paying all management fees and freeholders fees in investigating the validity of the conversion, andthe purchase of the Chimney void.
        To me you should not expect to be able to do the conversion, but all fees, including freeholders surveyors fees will be payable by you, even if they come back and state you cannot do the conversion.

        The freeholder has to satisfy themselves that they do not give away for free, parts of the building you do not own, and to ensure that the work is not a "future" problem for the rest of the building.


          Thanks for your replies. Mattl, while I can't remember the exact word for word on the lease, there definitely isn't any explicit terms that alterations are not allowed. I'm happy to be the management fees, but given the agent can't find 5 minutes to have a conversation to keep me updated or respond to an email, I'm questioning what it is I'm actually paying for. I'm sure there will be a surveyors fee as well at some point, which again is justified.

          Tipper, I agree, a freehold property would have been easier. Whilst there are quite a few modifications, I wouldn't deem any of them as serious, just lots of minor.

          Ram, perhaps I did not describe the works relating to the chimney breast accurately. I am on the ground floor and my proposition was to insert a concrete lintel quite high towards the ceilings to open the large face of the chimney whilst still retaining the side structural elements of the chimney. This would be used for shelves. Both chimney breasts are internal and back onto another internal wall. It is partially opened now anyway for the use of the fireplace so what would be the difference in supporting the opening further up rather than lower down as you would if it was for the functioning use of a fireplace? I do agree however, if the £2500 was clarified to be used for surveyors fees etc, I would have no problem in paying, however the response to me was that this was the typical amount that is always charged for alterations to the lease (if that was the case, what am I paying the solicitor for the drafting of the licence?).


            chimney breasts, either internal or external do not belong to you as they are part of the structure of the building belonging to the freeholder.
            Only the plaster on the walls will be yours to alter.

            But as no one has mentionted this YET, and you have got a blanket monotone standard reply, I don't think the freeholder is concerned, and just wants the money.

            Until someone inspects your flat, they cannot give you a finanl price.

            I give out licences, it's just a headed paper stating permission to sub-let, / permission to replace window or bathroom, etc.
            The lease to be changed involves redraawing the plans to show the new layout.
            Nothing fancy, and just replaces the plans that were with your lease originaly.

            Sounds like you have a freeholder who does not care what you do so long as it's done right, and to ensure it's done right, the fees charged would have to cover every eventuality, hence the blanket price given.
            You can of course ask for a breakdown of prices, and get them only if they can be bothered, but me, I would insist on a breakdown, as they will know what all the alterations are.

            Also remember as advised, the managing agent cannot give you permision until the freeholder says it's o.k. to proceed


              Originally posted by agios View Post
              I can't remember the exact word for word on the lease
              The exact words are all important. All comment without knowing the exact words is speculative and on that account potentially misleading.


                I couldn't agree more.


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