The importance of obtaining freeholder consent for alterations can often be overlooked or ignored by leaseholders but can be one that proves to have vast and costly consequences.

Typically most residential leases will contain a clause which requires leaseholders to obtain prior written consent from the Landlord / Freeholder before undertaking alterations to their leasehold property; this could be an extension, removal of a party wall, alterations to plumbing or electrical services or even changing the flooring.

By failing to obtain the relevant consent, leaseholders can leave themselves susceptible to future problems when they wish to sell their property.  Equally, provision of consent without understanding the process or requirements, can leave Landlords or Directors of RTM and RMC Companies open to future legal challenges.


The Good:

Putting aside any legal requirements, communicating any aspirations you have in altering your unit, prior to carrying out any works, with the managing agent / Freeholder is highly recommended. Doing so:

  • Allows the managing agent / Freeholder to notify you of the requirements of your lease as well as any potential pitfalls
  • Allows the managing agent / Freeholder to communicate with your neighbours to inform them of any potential disruption
  • Allows the managing agent / Freeholder ensure your contractors are competent, sufficiently insured and made aware of all Health and Safety information relevant to your building

Including the fact there almost certainly is a legal requirement for leaseholders to obtain consent, quite simply, why wouldn’t you? The process shouldn’t be too strenuous and consent should not be unreasonably withheld.

If you have any queries, please contact us. It is your home after all. We are here to help where we can.


The Bad:

We often encounter the attitude, “I own the flat and I can do what I want”. Whilst it is an understandable position to adopt, legally this is incorrect. Nevertheless and putting the legalities to one side, why wouldn’t you want to:

  • Keep your neighbours onside? If the shoe was on the other foot, wouldn’t you appreciate the heads up about works potentially taking place?
  • Make sure the contractors you hire are looked after and aware of any potential risks, not only their own health / life but that of neighbouring residents within the building

Cutting corners does not save time nor money… indeed, as you will hear below, it could be quite the opposite.


The Ugly:

(Based on true events) No consent was sought from the leaseholder and their contractors were instructed to start renovation works. Unfortunately the contractors cut into the ceiling and, unbeknown to them, disturbed asbestos present in the roof space. The contractors had spent days working in and around asbestos, in complete ignorance. By chance we were undertaking a routine inspection of the block, and were meeting with the asbestos removal contractor, when asbestos materials were identified and the error was uncovered.  We had to ask the contractors to immediately down tools and leave site, as well as isolate the area. As a result of all this, the leaseholder had to pay thousands in clean up costs, the works were pushed back weeks… and still had to go through the process of applying for consent to undertake the works.

The moral of the story? If you are unsure, please contact us. If you don’t get Freeholder consent, and are required to, it could prove dangerous, costly and incredibly time-consuming.


Of course, it’s not just leaseholders who are impacted by all this.

Directors and Freeholders need to make sure they are aware of their responsibilities. As previously mentioned, most leases state permission cannot be unreasonably withheld but that does not mean Directors / Freeholders should just agree. There are other potential trip hazards which need to be taken into consideration, such as Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent Limited. Here a landlord in a block of flats breached a mutual enforcement obligation, by licensing one flat tenant to carry out alterations where there was an absolute prohibition against those alterations brought into focus.

Basically, when faced with requests for consents under a lease, landlords should only grant it where the terms of the lease allow them to do so.

As you can see, this whole area can be incredibly tricky. Or it can be if you don’t have experienced and knowledgeable property managers. At Wishtower, we work with our leaseholders, clients and/or directors to ensure the process of consent for alterations is dealt with smoothly and efficiently. We’re on hand to offer guidance so that you don’t experience unnecessary stress, nor incur unnecessary costs. We try to offer guidance to leaseholders, Right to Manage companies and Residential Management Committees on their obligations, and ensured that they approach alterations and improvements in the right way. We do this to maintain good relationships with all parties, to keep everyone safe, make the process as stress-free as possible as well as trying to ensure compliance.


This update is provided free of charge for information purposes only: it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of Wishtower or by Wishtower as a whole.