The Role of the Surveyor in Licences to Alter – ‘News on the Block’ Magazine, Nov 2012
The factors to consider when assessing whether a licence is required or whether a letter of consent will suffice or indeed whether works need any consent are numerous but will for the most part be dictated by the Lease. Other advice might be contained within a buildings own Rules & Regulations and / or specific Licence To Alter Guidance.
Let’s assume a licence is required and that you appoint a surveyor on behalf of the Landlord to advise and report on the lessees proposals which are deemed not insignificant. Three questions for you:
- What to do with the Surveyors Report?
- Who has responsibility for ensuring the Licence is accurate?
- Is a surveyor required to monitor and sign off the works?
The Report requires interpretation. This is likely to fall to the solicitor drafting the licence or the property manager. Be certain! Avoid the situation where no one has interpreted the surveyors report or worse still someone has misinterpreted the report. If in doubt ask the surveyor to explain.
Should the report be appended to the Licence? If one considers that the report is to the Landlord and the Landlords’ advisers I would argue against appending the report. Commercial contracts between two or more parties do not append the pre-contract advice that each party received, so why should residential licences be any different?
Think about what the Report is for. It is to advise the Landlord on Leaseholder proposals. The Report should set out the main issues in play, it should include a technical assessment of the lessee proposals and it should contain advice on any steps that need to be taken and any stipulations (whether technical, managerial or statutory based) that need to be included in the Licence documents. The Report should also clearly list all relevant documents that accurately illustrate the Lessee proposals. Extracts from the Surveyors Report can and should be incorporated into the Licence but wholesale inclusion of a Surveyors Report is more often than not, inappropriate.
The Surveyors Report will provide a clear accurate record of the surveyors’ assessment but to really be of benefit the surveyor should be tasked with checking the final wording of the Licence before engrossment and signature.
Monitor & Sign Off
In most cases the surveyor should be retained to monitor the works as they proceed and sign off on completion. The surveyor is the one party who understands the technical aspects of any alterations proposals whilst also having the relevant experience and skill to check a licence to alter and to then further check that a lessee is doing what they are supposed to be doing.
In summary we recommend that a surveyor be instructed or at least consulted on all licence to alter matters. The property manager with estate management expertise will provide valuable knowledge of the client and the property and the solicitor will provide the legal framework in which all parties must work. If these three parties work effectively together the landlord (and the lessee) will benefit.