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Are you Compliant?

Are you Compliant?

These days, making sure any work you do on your house is compliant with all the latest building regulations is getting more and more complicated. It’s not just for major construction projects, either, it even includes some very minor jobs, such as putting in a new shaver socket in the bathroom or installing a replacement front door. You may not even know you’ve contravened the rules until you try to sell your house, when the buyer’s solicitor, or surveyor, is likely to flag it up and that can sometimes lead to serious problems.

So, what do you need permission for, how do you get it and what happens if you don’t?

The aims of the regulations are laudable - to ensure that any work carried out at your home is safe, energy-efficient and does not damage the local environment or your or your neighbours’ welfare. However, as with all these things there can sometimes be some bureaucratic overreach.

As you may already know, you will definitely need to get the work signed off if you are:

  • Erecting a new building
  • Extending or altering an existing building
  • Forming a room in a loft conversion
  • Changing the use of a building
  • Underpinning a building

What you may not know is that the requirement for permission also normally includes:

  • Putting in cavity wall insulation
  • Re-covering a roof with different materials
  • Creating a new opening for a door
  • Removing part of a chimney stack or chimney breast
  • Removing an internal load-bearing wall (not stud).

You may be even more surprised to discover it can also include:

  • Installing replacement windows and roof lights
  • Installing a new external door
  • Installing a new bathroom, kitchen or toilet where none previously existed
  • Putting new electrics in a bathroom
  • Putting in a new boiler or heating system
  • Installing a new toilet where none previously existed

These are not hard and fast rules, though, which means you should always check the details before commencing any work. The general principle is, though, that the only things that are not covered are very minor repair or replacement work. So, for instance, you can replace a broken plug socket, but you will need it signed off if you are installing a new one.

If you are undertaking construction work, your builder should be able to guide you through the process. Building regulations come under the remit of your local authority’s Building Control Department but you can also hire a private approved inspector. Whichever you are using, you first need to submit a set of plans to be signed off. The inspector will then often make several site visits to ensure the work is being carried out correctly, after which they will issue a building regulations completion certificate.

There are, though, also a number of schemes that allow some of the trades to sign off their own work. For windows and doors, they must be FENSA registered, electricians should be registered with organisations such as NICEIC, NAPIT, ECA, ELECSA and for gas, the contractor must be CORGI registered to certify their own work.

If you don’t get the work certified, you can apply for Retrospective Building Regulations Approval. To do this, you will need to get your local building control department to inspect the work. If they are satisfied it is up to standard, they will then issue you with a regularisation certificate. With this approach, though, there is the risk that the work will not comply and checking hidden aspects, such as foundations can prove tricky. If the work is non-compliant, you could be served with a section 36 notice, which will compel you to either bring the work up to standard or be removed or, in the case of an extension, pulled down.

There are time limits, though. Local authorities can take enforcement action for any breaches of building control for twelve months after the work was completed with a Section 36 Notice. After that, they will have to take you to a magistrates court, which they can do for up to 10 years using a Section 35 or 35a Notice. The fines can be up to £5,000 per offence and you may also have to pay a daily fine. You can still be prosecuted after 10 years but that requires a high court injunction, which it is fairly rare.

If you are having problems with non-compliant work while you are selling your home, the simplest option is often to take out indemnity insurance. There is just a single premium to pay and it then covers the purchaser and mortgage lender against any financial losses if a Section 36 notice is served. However, it is essential that neither the buyer nor the seller informs the local authority of the breach, as it will invalidate the insurance.

If you are looking for a doer-upper where you can add some real value, come and take a look at all the fantastic properties we have coming up at our next auction at Phillip Arnold Auctions, just click on this link.

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