Building regulations (or lack of compliance with them) often crop up as an issue when it comes to buying or selling a property. Often building works have been carried out on a property which required buildings regulations consent which has not been sought.
Building regulations exist to ensure that building works carried out comply with certain standards to ensure they are safe and energy efficient.
Building regulations applying in England and Wales are made under powers provided in the Building Act 1984. The current edition of the regulations is ‘The Building Regulations 2000’ (as amended) and the majority of building projects must to comply with them.
The regulations are fairly complex but we have produced a question and answer article which deals with the most common issues: Building Regulations Q&A.
If there is a particular issue you are concerned about that is not dealt with please contact us.
If the local authority discovers that work has been carried out without building regulations consent then they have 12 months (from the date of the work being finished) in which they can serve a notice (a Section 36 Notice) instructing the land owner to either undo the works or carry out such further works as are necessary to comply with the building regulations.
Beyond the 12 month period the local authority can apply to the court for an injunction to prevent the land affected by the works from being used. Considering that the court would have to consider whether it would be in the public interest to grant the injunction it is unlikely to do so for minor works like the erection of a small extension or for replacement glazing. However, it might do if it was for the erection of a whole building, or a structural change to a substantial part of one.
It is important to note that it is the land owner who is responsible, which might not be the person who carried out the works. This means that if you buy a property that has had work carried out without building regulations consent you will become responsible for any consequences.
You can apply for retrospective buildings regulations approval (or if you are buying the property request that the seller does so) from the local authority. This will involve the building control department inspecting the work and, if they are satisfied, issuing a regularisation certificate.
Of course, if the work carried out does not comply with the regulations then remedial work will be required, which could prove costly in terms of time and money.
A common way to deal with a non compliance issue is to take out lack of building regulations approval indemnity insurance. The policy would cover the holder against any future losses should the local authority take action.
In a typical conveyancing scenario the seller would be expected to pay the premium for the policy, which would be taken out in the buyer’s name.
An indemnity policy is sometimes cheaper than obtaining retrospective approval and is certainly much quicker (often only taking minutes to arrange). The downside is that the risk of enforcement action still remains.
Try the government planning portal.