5. What amounts to “structural alteration”? Can the tenant make any structural alteration to the premises?
“Structural alteration” refers to alteration or interference with the form, fabric or framework of the building capable of affecting the integrity of the structure. Examples of structural alteration include demolition of a load-bearing wall, erection of a canopy or making an opening on the external wall of the building.
Usually the terms in the tenancy agreement prohibit the tenant from making structural additions or alterations to the premises. For tenancies of domestic premises entered on or after 27th December 2002, there is a statutory implied covenant under section 117(3) of the Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance (Cap. 7) that the tenant not to make or suffer or permit any structural alteration to the premises without the prior written consent of the landlord.
Separately, the deed of mutual covenant of the building most likely prohibits owners and occupiers from making structural alterations to the building.
All necessary approvals from government departments, for example those under the Building Ordinance (Cap. 123), must be obtained before the commencement of any structural building works.
If in doubt, the tenant should notify the landlord in advance and obtain the landlord’s consent, preferably in writing, prior to the commencement of any works which may potentially involve structural additions or alterations.