It is not unusual for a tenant to carry out work to a property without obtaining consent from its landlord.
Is this a breach of the terms of the lease? Yes, almost certainly. But there are often good reasons behind this. Typically, the landlord may have delayed in providing consent, or the tenant has simply overlooked the terms of the lease. Whatever the reason, if you do find yourself in this scenario, the crucial question is – what do you do now?
Your options are quite simple. Either you keep your head down and hope for the best, or you explain your predicament to the landlord and ask for a retrospective licence for works. Clearly there is an element of common sense to be applied here. If you’ve just changed a few door handles, then you might get away with it – but if you’ve built a two-storey extension without your landlord’s consent, then you’re probably in a spot of trouble! Let’s assume, for the purpose of this article, that you’ve carried out some moderate works (eg. replaced the flooring, lighting and windows).
If you own up to your breach, the landlord could in the worst case scenario try to forfeit your lease or seek action requiring you to ‘undo’ the works. Alternatively, and perhaps more likely, the landlord may agree to a retrospective licence consenting to the works, but you would certainly have to pay their fees and expenses.
So why bother telling them, right? Why not just sit tight and pretend you haven’t done anything? Well, a couple of reasons:
- The landlord will probably find out regardless (eg. during a routine inspection), at which point they will almost certainly want to take action against you. This could be forfeiture, damages or removal of the works.
- If your lease contains a rent review and you haven’t declared your works to the landlord, then the works will be included as part of the property when determining the new rent. In essence, you could be charged more rent for occupying an improved property even though you actually paid for the improvements yourself!
Needless to say, in most cases the best option is to seek consent before carrying out any work. But if that’s not possible, it usually makes sense to own up afterwards rather than waiting for the inevitable.