5th March, 2016
When you are buying or selling your home, one issue that often comes up is whether any alterations have been carried out that require Building Regulations consent. Property solicitor Diane Lawton has some tips.
The Building Regulations exist to ensure the Health and Safety of people in and around all types of building.
Anybody who wants to carry out building work which is subject to Building Regulations is required by law to make sure the work complies with the regulations and to use one of the two types of building control service available – either the service provided by your Local Authority or the service provided by an approved inspector.
“Building Work” includes building or extending a building, installation or extension of a service or fitting, an alteration project, cavity wall installation, underpinning the foundations of a building.
Some examples which would probably fall within the regulations include converting a loft space into a living space, installing replacement windows, installing washing or sanitary facilities, replacement hot water cylinders or fuel burning appliances of any type and installing foul water drainage and rain water drainage.
Certain work is exempt, for example building a porch or conservatory at ground level under 30 sq m floor area (provided that the glazing and any fixed electrical installation complies with the applicable requirements of the Building Regulations), building a greenhouse, garden shed or summer house (again as long as any fixed electrical installation complies with the safety requirements of the Building Regulations).
It is important before you start any building work to check whether Building Regulations apply. In addition, you should also check whether planning permission or any other consents are required for the work you wish to carry out since many forms of development additionally need planning permission and / or other consents such as Listed Building consent, depending on the property.
With regard to replacement windows, if you are replacing the whole of the fixed frame and opening parts of the window(s) in your house you will need Building Regulations approval.
If you use a FENSA (Fenestration Self Assessment Scheme) registered installer, then your installer should give your Local Authority a certificate to confirm the work complies with Building Regulations.
Your installer should also give you a FENSA Certificate which will need to be produced to any future buyers of your home. However, repairs to parts of a window, for example replacing the broken glass or rotten sash, do not require Building Regulations approval.
If you have installed a gas boiler and used an approved installer (either a CORGI registered installer or, after 1 April 2009, a gas safe registered engineer), you will not need to involve a building control service.
With regard to solid fuel, wood and biomass heating systems, the same applies if you used an installer registered with HETAS (Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme), and for oil fired equipment if you employed an installer registered with OFTEC (the Oil Firing Technical Association) to carry out the work.
What happens if you have contravened Building Regulations? The Local Authority has a general duty to enforce Building Regulations in its area. The penalty could be a fine of up to £5,000 plus £50 per day for each day the contravention continues after conviction.
Alternatively, or in addition, the Local Authority can serve an Enforcement Notice on the property owner requiring them to alter or remove the work in question. The Enforcement Notice cannot be served on the owner after the expiration of 12 months from the date of the completion of the building work, but this does not affect the Local Authority’s right to apply to the Courts for an injunction for the same purpose.
If you are buying a house and it becomes apparent that work has been carried out to the property without Building Regulations Approval, it is possible, in certain circumstances, to take out indemnity insurance to cover the lack of approval.
Such insurance may cover the cost of a penalty for the lack of Building Regulations Approval, but it is important to remember that indemnity insurance is no guarantee that work has been carried out to the requisite standard.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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