Licence to do what?!
Working as a building surveyor gives you some fascinating insights into how people live and what makes them tick. We’re often in and out of people’s homes, after all, and we’re trained to be observant! But perhaps there’s no aspect of a surveyor’s job more revealing than working on licence to alter (LTA), which provides a direct insight into how people plan to remake their living spaces in their own image.
In leasehold properties, homeowners require a licence agreed with the landlord before undertaking any significant works. Typically, these alterations fall into a handful of fairly predictable categories: new flooring, remodelling a flat for open-plan living or converting a spare room into a second bathroom, for example. Then it’s just a case of coming to an agreement with the landlord to ensure everyone is happy with the arrangements.
Every, so often, though, leaseholders come up with ideas that are really quite special. Here are a few of our favourites.
Cuthbert, Dibble, grub!
We regularly work on commercial properties and public buildings, so the installation of a fireman’s pole is not such a strange project. But in a private residence, to give the leaseholder a quicker route from his bedroom to the breakfast room? That really took the Weetabix!
Hot tub installations are not so unusual, either – except when a leaseholder wants one on a modest-sized balcony… That job involved cranes, and structural work to ensure the balcony could bear the load!
Another alteration that raised questions about load-bearing was the installation of a fish tank that would not have looked out of place in the London Aquarium. Whether the leaseholder had a massive goldfish collection or was adopting a small whale, we never did find out!
Who moved my soap?
They say good fences make good neighbours. The same principle seemed to apply for a couple who were not content with his and hers bathroom basins, but insisted on completely separate bathrooms!
Sometimes, leaseholders take liberties and make alterations without a licence. When this Russian chap was faced with complaints about his new hard floors from the neighbours below, he shrugged and offered to buy their flat. The answer was ‘nyet’.
Another greedy leaseholder owned ground and lower ground floor flats in Chelsea and wanted to purchase the communal garden and build a tunnel to an underground flat for the family’s nanny (or so he insisted). The landlord actually approved, but sadly, listed building consent was declined.
Taking to the trees
An even wilder request came from a leaseholder in St Johns Wood, who wanted a tree house built in the communal garden. It was to feature digital code entry and a slide for evacuation, as well as wifi, a games console and plasma TV. Sadly it was rejected – but only because the Board worried if they allowed it, everyone would want one!
Steamy Swedish living
Who wouldn’t want a sauna at home? A much more grown-up request. Unfortunately, if you live in a flat, it might not be possible, especially when there are hot coals to get past a fire safety assessment. This was also a no.
50 Shades of LTA
And who wouldn’t want a dungeon? Er… But this leaseholder clearly took his ‘slap and tickle’ very seriously, and designed a ‘sex dungeon’ that would have made the Marquis de Sade blush. After completing the paperwork, we made our excuses and left!
Of course, it’s not for a building surveyor to judge anyone’s lifestyle choices, but working on licence to alter certainly provides some eye-opening insights into human nature. Best job in the world!