What consents do I need for building works to my flat?

If you’re considering carrying out works to your property, you may need to obtain consents from certain parties.  Works may need planning permission and building regulation approval.  For listed buildings, listed building consent may also be required.  Before carrying out any works, it is advisable to contact the local authority before carrying out the works to check whether such consents would be required and to obtain information regarding applying for these.

Leases often contain a covenant whereby the flat owner promises the landlord not to be in breach of planning legislation.  If you carry out works to a flat without obtaining the appropriate local authority consents such as planning permission, you would not only be risking enforcement action from the Council, but you could also be in breach of the lease.

If you own a leasehold property, then you may need to obtain the landlord’s prior written consent to carry out works.  Most flat leases contain a covenant whereby the leaseholder must obtain the landlord’s consent for certain works.  This particular covenant varies from lease to lease.  Some  leases will only require the landlord’s consent for structural alterations and additions such as removing a structural wall or adding an extension.  Some leases require the landlord’s consent for any alterations, even more minor works such as removing a partition wall or replacing a kitchen.  Some leases go into particular detail and provide a list of works that require consent.

Before carrying out works to your flat, it is advisable to read your lease to check whether you will need to obtain landlord’s consent before you start the works.

If you carry out works without any necessary landlord’s consent, then the landlord could take action for breach of the covenant in the lease which could result in costs and/or you could be ordered to reinstate the property to its original state.

Even if the landlord does not notice the works, lack of landlord’s consent could cause problems when you come to sell.  A buyer’s solicitors will ask to see a copy of the landlord’s consent for any works which require consent under the lease and will not proceed to exchange until this has been received or resolved.  Applying for retrospective consent is a possibility but would carry some risk.  The process could take some time as the landlord make require forms to be completed, costs to be paid and plans and specifications to be provided.  The landlord would likely want their surveyor to inspect the property as part of the application for consent.    The landlord could also require their solicitors to draw up a formal licence for alterations and ask you to pay their costs.  This process could cause a delay in exchange.  There is no guarantee that an application for retrospective consent will be successful.  The landlord could refuse consent and could order the property to be reinstated.  If the property is ordered to be reinstated to its former state, the buyer would have to decide whether to proceed in view that the property will not be the same as when they originally made their offer.  The buyer may consider asking for a price reduction if he feels that the unauthorised works that had been carried out increased the value of the property.

Another option could be to purchase an indemnity policy which is a legal insurance policy which should cover the owner of the property for costs or loss in value of the property in the event that the landlord seeks enforcement action as a result of landlord’s consent not being obtained.  This is not as adequate as having landlord’s consent but is a quick and easy solution to the problem and enables a quicker exchange.  Usually the legal insurer will only agree to cover works that are over a year old.  The indemnity policy is normally issued on the basis that contact has not been made with the landlord regarding the works and that an application for consent has not been made.  This means that if the seller contacts the landlord regarding the works during the transaction or makes a retrospective application for landlord’s consent which is delayed or refused, then it will be unlikely that a legal insurer will agree to provide an indemnity policy.  If the landlord is aware of the breach and an indemnity policy cannot be offered, then the buyer would have to decide whether to proceed in view of the breach, try to renegotiate the purchase price or to pull out.  If the buyer is buying with a mortgage, then the matter would need to be referred to the lender who could potentially decline to lend.

In view of the potential risks above, it is advisable to make sure that you obtain any required consents before carrying out works to your property.

If you are buying or selling a property, please contact Brian Craig on 020 7703 5034 or bc@meaby.co.uk for timely advice.