Introduction to altering a flat

Many changes require permission. Under the lease, from the Barbican Estate Office. From regulatory authorities for building works or physical changes.

Listed building consent. Some major changes to the fabric of the flat may require listed building consent, because the Barbican estate is a grade 2 listed building. If you do works, requiring listed building consent without getting it, you are committing a criminal offence. You need to check the rules and ask the City’s planning department for confirmation on the position before starting work.

Landlord’s consent. Almost any significant work you want to do will require landlord’s consent, under your lease. This has to be provided by the Barbican Estate Office. It’s by no means an instantaneous operation. You need to put the request in well before you plan to start work, and find out how long it will take before the approval will be issued.

Building regulation consent. If you do anything which affects the plumbing or ventilation, or involves work to the main services of the building, you may need building regulation consent, which will be issued by regulatory authorities. If you do work without getting the necessary consent, they can require you to open it up for inspection and redo anything they don’t approve of.

Permission may not be given. You need to bear in mind that not all alterations will necessarily be approved. If you carry out works which don’t have the proper prior approvals, you might be forced to undo them while you still own the flat. Or you may find it makes it difficult or impossible for you to sell the flat. Buyers, their lenders and solicitors will insist on all necessary approvals being in place, which you may not be able to obtain.

Please don’t be a bad neighbour. Because they’re not actually living there, some new owners who are putting a building team into their new flat to renovate it, have no qualms about destroying the peace and mental health of their future neighbours by employing builders to drill and hammer for weeks on end. Don’t do it. There are limitations to Barbican flats in that many things have to be surface mounted and can’t be channelled into the concrete walls. You have to accept that. Otherwise, you’ll be very unpopular when you move in. You do have to share the lift with your neighbours.

Official Home Improvement Pack. The Barbican Estate office have produced an OFFICIAL HOME IMPROVEMENT PACK which sets out the rules you have to follow on what you can (and cannot) do and how you must carry out your works. [The web address may change.]

Carpets and wooden floors. Strictly speaking, all floors are required to be carpeted. It is in the lease. Wooden floors are not allowed. Many have been laid informally in the past. You may need consent if you wish to do it in future. There is a zero-tolerance policy. If a neighbour complains about noise resulting from your wooden floor, you can be required to remove it or carpet it.

Remember the underfloor heating. If you do any work to the floor, even carpet fitting, you must make sure your contractors are aware of the under floor heating and how to deal with it (i.e. not to hammer nails into it).

Unapproved alterations done in the past. Mortgage lenders for your buyers may require to see approvals for any alterations carried in the past, even before your time as owner. You will have to obtain retrospective approval from the appropriate authority. If it is refused, you may have to undo the alteration and restore the flat to its original condition. If you are thinking of selling your flat, and you know that there are unapproved alterations, you would be well advised to bite the bullet and start getting retrospective approval well in advance. It’s a problem that cannot actually be avoided or pushed under the carpet.

Salvage store. Please give all the original stuff you take out to the Barbican Salvage Store .