When is Building Regulations Approval required?
You would usually require Building Regulations approval if carrying out any of the following works:
- Putting up a new building
- Extending or alter an existing one
- Providing services and/or fittings in a building such as washing and sanitary facilities, hot water cylinders, foul water and rainwater drainage, replacement windows, and fuel burning appliances of any type.
- Certain changes of use
As part of the conveyancing process, I will review the information provided from the seller and consider the buyer’s valuation, to determine whether any works have been carried out to the property that may have required Building Regulations approval.
What if the seller has not obtained Building Regulations approval?
If works are carried out in breach of building regulations, one or more of the following may happen:
- The local authority may take enforcement action under Section 36 of the Building Act 1984, by serving a notice requiring rectification of works which do not comply with building regulations within 28 days. If the building owner does not comply, Building Control can carry out the works themselves and recover the cost from the owner of the property. The notice must be served within 12 months of the breach.
- The local authority can also apply for an injunction to require work to cease or to compel the owner to undertake works to rectify a breach. Due to the costs of bringing an application, injunctions are usually considered for the most serious of breaches. An injunction can be sought at any time after the carrying out of the works if they are deemed to be dangerous.
- Building Control can take action in the magistrates’ court, typically against the builder rather than the owner, usually resulting in a fine being issued. This is not very common either.
What happens in the conveyancing process when the seller cannot evidence compliance with building regulations?
Although a notice can only served within 12 months of the breach, there is no time limit on Building Control applying for an injunction.
If approval was not obtained it is possible the works were carried out in breach of the building regulations. The result could be that the building is dangerous and/or it could have an impact on the value or future saleability.
You cannot simply therefore disregard non-compliance with building regulations. It is also advised that the buyer checks that all works carried out to a building were in accordance with building regulations. Where works were carried out without approval, the buyer may require the seller to:
- remedy the works and obtain a regularisation certificate prior to completion. The works would be assessed against the standards subsisting at the time the works were carried out. The local authority will charge a fee for carrying out the inspection and may require plans of the works and for the property owner to open up parts of the property if the works have been covered up. They may need to specify works to be carried out before they will issue a certificate;
- reduce the price to reflect the cost of the works of rectification; or
- obtain indemnity insurance against the risk of enforcement action. However, such a policy is not a substitute for obtaining approval. An application for a regularisation certificate may invalidate the policy by alerting the local authority to the potential breach.
It is important therefore to consider Building Regulations compliance when buying or considering the future sale of a property. If works have been carried out, a solicitor will request evidence of compliance and a lack of available evidence may result in delays.
The following link provides further government guidance in relation to compliance with Building Regulations: https://www.gov.uk/building-regulations-approval/when-you-need-approval
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