What Does a Tenant Need to Consider before Making Alterations?
Making alterations to business property
Most tenants will want to make alterations to their premises, to make them more suitable for the tenant’s particular use. Before starting work, however, the tenant needs to consider whether there are any restrictions on what can be done and whether any consents are required, either from the landlord or from a third party.
Planning and Building Regulations issues
Some alterations, notably those affecting the structure or exterior of a building, will require planning permission. The tenant should engage with the local authority planning department at any early stage to establish what they are likely to allow.
If the property is listed or is in a conservation area the requirements of the local planning authority will be more stringent. The tenant needs to have discussions with the conservation officer to establish whether the proposed works are feasible.
Building Regulations approval will be required for certain types of works. The Building Regulations approval regime is separate from the planning permission system. For some types of works, both approvals will be needed; for some, one but not the other; and for others, neither.
Is the landlord’s consent required?
The tenant must also check the terms of the lease to establish whether the proposed works are:
•Permitted unconditionally (this is rare but sometimes the tenant will be allowed to carry out certain types of internal alterations)
• Permitted subject to obtaining the landlord’s consent (such consent not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed) or
• Absolutely prohibited.
If the works are permitted unconditionally the tenant can go ahead with the works, as long as it complies with any conditions imposed in the lease. For example, the lease may require the tenant to notify the buildings insurer before commencing the works and to provide “as built” drawings to the landlord when the works are complete.
If the landlord’s consent is required, the tenant should make a formal application for consent. This is discussed in detail on the following page.
If there is an absolute prohibition on carrying out the works, the tenant can still approach the landlord to see whether the prohibition can be waived for these particular works.
If the tenant’s lease is an underlease, it will usually be necessary also to obtain the consent of the superior landlord.