5 things to know before you embark on flat renovations as a leaseholder
Posted on 10.07.2018
Conducting any sort of renovations to a property is both exciting and daunting at the same time. Whilst the initial stage of planning your dream kitchen & picking out work surfaces and basins is good fun, there are many pitfalls to remember if you are a leaseholder of an apartment. Often overlooked until the last minute, you need to apply for a licence to alter if you are changing the lease plans; this can be for anything from knocking a door through, to restructuring the entire apartment. Typically a licence to alter takes about a month to be processed and approved, and while that might seem agonisingly long when you and your contractors are itching to go, it will save you lots of problems to ensure it is all compliant and legal before proceeding. Here are 5 things you need to know to make sure your project runs smoothly
Stick to the plan – As part of the process you will need to supply the current plans of the flat along with the proposed new flat plans. Should you decide to differ from these plans once the work has started, this will require a second license and would invalidate the original. Remember, a surveyor will be coming to inspect this following completion, so if the plans show a second door to the new bathroom, make sure he gets what he’s expecting!
Inform the other leaseholders – Property management agencies will often do this on your behalf, but you need to give 5 days’ notice prior to commencing any works to leaseholders and tenants alike. Not only is it polite, but it stops further arguments down the line. You are perfectly entitled to do works even where there’s noise involved, providing you follow the councils regulations on timings (typically 8am-5pm on weekdays.) If you haven’t given good notice, difficult neighbours may delay your start.
Instruct your contractors carefully – Whilst we engage with contractors all the time and most are well meaning and diligent, it is important they understand the ground rules prior to the commencement of work. This means;
a. Not keeping any items in the common parts during the works (tools, materials, shoes! etc),
b. Ensuring they cover the common part floors up to the apartment to maintain the carpet
c. Ensuring they clean up every evening if there is mess in the common parts.
d. Not to use the lifts!
It may seem harsh making your builders carry bags of plaster up 5 storeys, but unfortunately all of the above will be coming back to the leaseholder should things get broken, dirtied or damaged. We often take a deposit for eventualities and most of the above is easily avoided provided you are specific about the rules from the outset.
Be wary of hardwood floors – In the instances of kitchens and bathrooms this does not apply and tiling or laminate is fully permitted. However, in other parts of the flat, most leases expressly do not permit hardwood floors. This is mainly to prevent noise disturbance to other people in the building as hardwood floors are significantly louder than carpet. Legally, other leaseholders could have you re-cover your floors with carpet and the all that money spent would be wasted. Whilst we wouldn’t want to deny you hardwood flooring in your dream home, just make sure you have looked into your lease covenants and obligations, and try and be as neighbourly as possible. Sometimes substantial insulation can reduce noise and agreements between neighbors can be reached.
- Manage your costs – As well as the cost of actually paying contractors to do the work and cost of materials, you will need to pay surveyors fees and solicitors fees to do the license to alter. As a guide, at Hillgate Management we charge £850+VAT for the legal fees and £850+VAT for the surveying fees. It is worth the investment as if works were done without the freeholder knowing, they could make you put your flat back the way it is in the current lease, all at your own expense.
It can be frustrating when you want to crack on with your highly anticipated renovations, but it’s worth taking the time to make sure you have done all the above correctly, and have the correct permissions in place before you start.