Murray Birrell has nearly thirty years’ experience in the field of tenants’ alterations and associated Licence to Alter (LTA) work, during which time we have administered over 4,000 Tenant applications. This makes us perfectly positioned to assist clients in the process of dealing with Landlord’s consent for tenant’s alterations on buildings of any type.
A number of major property-owning clients use us on a regular basis, and our specialist team of surveyors and administrative staff, led by David Betteridge MRICS, has extensive experience in dealing with applications from tenants to alter their premises.
Who needs to make an application?
Applications tend to be mainly from three groups:
- tenants occupying apartments within a larger building or block directly managed by the Landlord or their agent;
- or a long leaseholder of the whole building who has covenanted to seek consent from the Landlord to alter the premises, possibly by way of extension, change in external appearance or other structural alteration;
- some property or estate owners also manage alterations to freehold properties on their Estates by means of an Estate Management Scheme (EMS). These tend to cover the more major alterations to an existing building, such as changes involving structural alterations or alterations to the exterior.
What controls the process?
In all cases mentioned above, the basis of the Landlords’ or Estate Managers’ “control” is set out in a Lease or, in the case of a freehold building, an Estate Management Scheme. These will be the first and overriding documents to look at when an application to alter premises is first received. However, most leases contain a clause which states “consent cannot be unreasonably withheld,” so this also needs to be considered with any application.
Establish the ‘site rules’ at the outset!
Where we are instructed to act for a Landlord who directly manages a property, either by their own staff or through managing agents, it is essential to establish whether there are any pre-existing “site rules.” These will usually have been given to the tenant as part of the package of information when taking on the Lease, or subsequently through the property management process.
On a directly managed building, there will always be more rigid Landlord requirements to be imposed on the applicant because of the nature of the building and the proximity of other occupiers likely to be affected by the works. If certain controls are not put in place at the outset it may be difficult to instruct on appropriate corrective measures later on.
Minimise disruption to other tenants
The question regarding the use of internal common parts, or access to an apartment via an external scaffold, will always be controversial. The condition of the common parts and in particular the health, safety and well-being of other residents or users of the common parts must be paramount when assessing this problem. The easiest route for access, i.e. use of common parts, may not always be the most appropriate from a management perspective, even though the tenant will usually favour this means of access on cost grounds.
On a long leasehold property which has an express “not to carry out alterations” clause, the Lease must be carefully considered. The Landlord is naturally going to be most interested in any changes to the exterior or any structural alterations likely to affect the building, as well as change of use proposals.
There are also implications to consider after the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent case, in May 2020, that to provide consent to a tenant a Landlord may also require the acceptance of other tenants in the same building.
Where an EMS is in place, this scheme document will need to be reviewed to check:
- the specific conditions that it sets out to manage or control,
- the management of external and structural alterations,
- change of use which are likely to be the characteristics of the relevant part of the EMS.
Compliance with conditions
Once the proposals have been fully considered, perhaps altered to suit the Landlord’s reasonable requests, and the scheme of works approved, it is essential that the Landlord’s representative is able to check compliance as the work proceeds. Any instructions should always include a specified frequency/number of site visits to try and ensure that the proposed works approved by the Landlord are the works actually carried out.
On most jobs other than the smallest, it is advisable to carry out regular progress or compliance inspections. This can be done by a Clerk of Works acting on behalf of the Landlord, or by the Surveyor.
Signing the job off
Assuming that the completed works are the approved works, or that any variations to the approved works have been agreed, there are a number of usual documents which the Landlord’s representative would normally require before signing the job off. These will include:
- ‘As-built’ drawings, possibly including services installations.
- Mechanical and Electrical Services Completion Certificates, Warranties, etc.
- Building Regulations Certificate.
- Acoustic test results.
This list is not exhaustive and would be tailored to suit the type of approval described above. The directly managed building is likely to require the most record information because all of this will be relevant to the person managing the building going forward.
The process of approving Landlord’s consent to tenants of commercial buildings is similar, but there will usually be formal procedure guides and local roles controlling how works are to be undertaken in any given building. These measures are necessary to prevent the works adversely affecting the interests of other commercial tenants or indeed residents in a mixed tenure building.
Murray Birrell act regularly for a number of Landlords in relation to all the Licence for Alterations applications submitted by their Tenants. One such residential block management company Smith Waters LLP, who retain us as their Landlord’s Surveyor.
Having used us on numerous occasions at several Central London residential properties, we have built a close working relationship with them. Our responsibilities include an initial review of Tenant’s proposals; monitoring progress of the alterations; and signing off the approved works on completion.
A director of Smith Waters once referred to Murray Birrell as “the best Surveyors you have never heard of” – an excellent testimonial for quality services and repeat business being delivered efficiently and unobtrusively.
Here to help
For more information on this subject and the related services we provide, please contact David Betteridge or Keith Murray on: 01689 898288 or firstname.lastname@example.org.