Internal flat alterations and retrospective licence fee

by Readers Question

14:05 PM, 3rd November 2015
About 3 years ago

Internal flat alterations and retrospective licence fee

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Internal flat alterations and retrospective licence fee

I own a flat in a block of flat and recently I have received the following email from managing agents:flooring

“I understand you have carried out internal alterations to this flat without obtaining the Commissioners’ approval which included removing an internal partition and laying timber flooring. If this has happened, the works carried out will be subject to the Commissioners’ review and if they are prepared to allow this to be retained a retrospective Licence to Alter and Deed of Variation will be required to be issued before your flat is sold.

We do request Knight frank’s fees are paid at this stage for our administration and the Building Surveyor’s fee for inspecting and reviewing the work carried out. This is £2,150 plus VAT. I attach our bank details as I imagine it will be easier to pay by BACS”

Whilst I have changed the floor more than 7 years ago (no complains from neighbours at all) I didn’t touch the partition. I find the fee of over 2K is just exuberant – do I have any rights in relation to refusing to pay that amount for things that a) for partition I haven’t touched and b) replacement of the floor.

It would indeed be cheaper for me to lay the carpet – would I still need to pay for the inspection?

Many thanks
Angelika



Comments

Tony Atkins

15:06 PM, 4th November 2015
About 3 years ago

The fee is of course outrageous and could be challenged: competitive quotes should ideally be obtained from a number of surveyors (offer to administer this yourself, to avoid being charged for the agents' time), and details provided of how Knight Frank reached the figure for their fees.

However, in my experience, if you challenge these people, they will dig in their heels and hide behind "procedure". I suggest instead that you be terribly nice to them, say you want to be cooperative and minimise their workload, and offer to find and employ a surveyor yourself to write an independent report.

It is not rocket science to inspect a wooden floor and its underlay, and assess any risks and the potential noise impact on the people below you, but I'm afraid you appear to have broken the rules, so unless you can negotiate a method of resolving this, Knight Frank and the surveyor will see this as an opportunity to make some easy money, all dressed up with the usual "professional" flannel.

Also check the terms of your leasehold agreement and your management company Articles of Association, to see on what basis Knight Frank were appointed and where their fees were specified.

I'm afraid if you replaced the wooden floor with carpet at this late stage, they will still insist on an inspection, never mind how many photos and invoices you provide.

Angelika Bee

15:21 PM, 4th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Thank you so much Tony, you are so very helpful! I will let you know what it comes to, great advice!

John Simpson

16:11 PM, 4th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Does this license apply to all freeholders and any home improvements. So if say I replaced an old kitchen and bathroom with new ones do I need to apply to my freeholder for a license? And what is this license. Simply their agreement to my doing the works? Does this apply to every leasehold property?

S.E. Landlord

16:57 PM, 4th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Angelika

You say the freeholder referred to the need for a license and deed of variation before the flat is sold, assuming you are not in the process of selling you have time to negotiate with them.

I would be inclined to respond and -

Ask for a breakdown of the fees and you will then know how much is being asked for administration and separately for the inspection. This may also set out what is apportioned to the removal of the stud wall inspection and that to the flooring.

Advise that the layout of the flat has not been changed since you purchased it.

You could comment that you are prepared to relay carpet if the wood flooring is an issue - I assume the wood flooring is over existing flooring and not replacement. If a carpet is put back I tend to think that a charge could not be made for this element of the inspection, or if there is, it is a modest charge to reflect work involved, but I am not an expert.

I would also check the lease for reference to charges for permission to make alterations.

S.E. Landlord

17:10 PM, 4th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "John Simpson" at "04/11/2015 - 16:11":

It does not apply to all home improvements and the lease will specify when permission is needed. For example leases may refer to permission being needed for replacing a kitchen or bathroom. In most cases it is just asking the freeholder for their permission to make the changes which they usually agree to.

Tony Lilleystone

18:09 PM, 4th November 2015
About 3 years ago

As always, check the exact wording of your lease.

Leases of flats invariably contain a tenant's covenant prohibiting alterations to the property and the removal of a partition would fall into that category. But as you say you haven't removed the partition you aren't in breach of this covenant.

Many leases also contain a covenant specifically requiring the flat-owner to keep the property carpeted. This was designed to prevent the sound of people walking about in an upper flat being heard in the one beneath. Of course this was in the days before timber flooring became popular.

If your lease contains such a covenant and you are prepared to replace the timber flooring with carpeting then you can inform the agents accordingly and therefore you will not require any Licence for Alterations and Deed of Variation.

I note that the email from the managing agents refers to “obtaining the Commissioners' approval” and I am wondering whether your freeholders are the Crown Estate Commissioners. If so this might explain why they are using Knight Franks and trying to charge such exorbitant fees.

Administration charges for such things as Licences for Alterations are subject to a reasonability test and can be challenged. See the extensive notes on Administration charges on the Leasehold Advisory Service's webpage http://www.lease-advice.org/publications/documents/document.asp?item=18#7 for more information.

Joe Bloggs

18:16 PM, 4th November 2015
About 3 years ago

many leases prohibit hard flooring (rightly imo) as they result in impact noise transmission far more than carpet.

the fee is high. why not ask them why they think a partition has been removed...they must provide some reasonable explanation/justification. also ask the occupier below if there is a noise transmission problem. if there is then fit carpet on a good quality underlay.

Angelika Bee

14:14 PM, 6th November 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Tony Lilleystone" at "04/11/2015 - 18:09":

Thank you everyone (wow this website is AMAZING!). To answer your questions:
- no problem with noise downstairs - I know the guy who lives below me, I had no issues with him
- yes trying to sell the place which is how it all came up!

Will keep you in the loop with developments, for now thank you and I really appreciate your help!


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