So you want to make alterations to your leasehold property?

Modern dentistry is a constantly evolving business; new equipment, new techniques and a patient base whose expectations and demands are in a continual state of flux makes it necessary for dental professionals to adapt. More often than not, this requires making changes in the dental practice, to reflect the different equipment needs and regulatory requirements that are intrinsic to running a successful dental business.

 For many dental professionals, the chance to update their practice is welcome. If they have taken over a practice from a previous principal, for example, it represents the opportunity to make the workspace their own, to put their own individual mark on the practice. For others, it’s a great way of modernising the practice by installing new technology. It could also be necessary to increase the business, bring in new team members and, as such, expand the workspace.

 Whatever the reasons to make any changes in the dental practice, dental professionals should always be wary of the permissions they may need to make them. This is particularly true with leasehold properties, where the dentist is renting the property from a landlord.

 Indeed, many dentists with leases of around 15-20 years will often find that they will need to make some alterations to the property within that time – but they may not be aware of the restrictions in place that may make any planned changes less straightforward than they would expect. More often than not, they will also be surprised by the additional costs they may incur in undertaking any alterations, on top of the usual planning consents and building regulations approvals.

 With many leases of dental practices, it is common to find that external alterations are not permitted – which could prohibit a practitioner from adding that much-needed extension to the premises. Often, there is very little that can be done to change these restrictions – so dentist should carefully consider their future plans before taking on a leasehold property.

 Internal alterations, on the other hand, are normally acceptable – providing that they are non-structural and the landlord has given their consent. Unfortunately, it is usually at this stage that the additional costs start to add up.

 A landlord will likely require their legal fees to be paid by the tenant for providing their consent. In all likelihood, they will also charge a separate bill for their surveyor’s costs too.

 In nearly all cases, the landlord’s consent will be in the form of a ‘licence to alter’ which might also contain provisions as to how the alterations will affect any future review of the rent and regarding potential reinstatement of the property at the end of the lease. The landlord may also require the tenant to produce detailed plans and specifications of the works that are to be carried out – and these costs will have to be shouldered by the dentist.

 Naturally, the possibility of incurring these additional costs should be factored into any plans to make changes to the practice premises in advance – not to mention the time it will take to have plans drawn up and to obtain all of the required consents and permissions. This alone has the potential to cause delays in getting started with the work.

 It goes without saying that no work should be commenced before the relevant consents are obtained: jumping the gun and making any alterations that you are not yet legally allowed to make could put you at risk of incurring further fees; for example, in perhaps obtaining retrospective consent but it is likely, in any event, to put you in breach of your lease.

 As with any project that will alter the physical space of a property, the very best approach is to plan carefully and seek out the advice of the experts. For a leasehold premises, this is even more important, since there may be hidden costs to pay and extra hurdles to clear before the work can even be started. To ensure that you have the best advice, always consult with a dental-specific property team who understands the legal intricacies of the dental sector – such as the solicitors at Goodman Grant. By doing so, you will know exactly what your options are and, hopefully, any costs that do arise during the process will not be so much of a surprise!



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