The Business Legal Services Blog

Building Regulations and when do I need to consider them?

Building regulations apply to “building work” and includes:

The erection or extension of a building Some installations

  • The internal alteration of a building
  • Work required where there is a material change of use to the whole of the building
  • Inserting installation into a cavity wall
  • Underpinning a building
  • Work required in relation to change of energy status, thermal elements or improvements to energy performances.

Building regulations apply to almost all buildings but there are a few exceptions including, buildings not frequented by people, greenhouses, buildings erected for less than 28 days, small detached buildings and extensions with a floor area of less than 30 square meters.

The function of the building regulations is principally to ensure the health and safety of people in and around buildings.

The difference between planning permission and building regulations is principally that planning permission looks at the effect of a building project upon neighbouring properties and the wider environment.  In contrast, building regulations set standards for design and construction and building control checks the work of builders and architects to make sure that projects are built properly and are safe to use.

You will need to apply to your local Council Building Control Surveyor to apply for a building regulation certificate. For large projects detailed plans will need to be submitted to the building control team at the Local Council. The plans are checked by a surveyor to make sure they meet the regulation standard. Work can only start once a surveyor has assessed the plans and given the go ahead – this usually takes around 5 weeks but varies from authority to authority.

If the works to be carried out are of a more minor nature, a simple form and site plan are submitted to the Local Council Building Control Team for assessment; work can start after two days after submitting the information.

If work has already taken place you can make a retrospective application. Acceptance is based on the Local Council Building Control Surveyors assessment of the work.  If building work contravenes building regulations the Local Authority Building Control Service can:

  • Serve an enforcement notice
  • Apply for an injunction
  • Prosecute in the Magistrates Court

Enforcement Notices

The enforcement notice requiring alteration or removal of works must be served within 12 months from the date of completion of the building work that is in breach.

Injunction

There is no time limit for an injunction application. Injunctions tend to be used for those situations that are urgent and where the cost can be justified by the risk of serious danger to health and safety (for example where a nightclub or cinema is at risk of fire).

Prosecution

These are relatively infrequent and generally brought only for fragrant or wilful breaches. The person responsible for a breach may be liable for a fine of up to £5,000 and an additional £50 per day for each day the contravention continues after conviction. For breaches committed on or after 22 September 2008 prosecutions must be brought within 6 months of the breach being discovered provided that action is taken within two years of completion of the building work that is in breach.

If you are buying a property it is imperative that you obtain copies of all building regulation consents irrelevant of how long ago the works were carried out. Some practitioners limit their investigations to the previous ten years as this sits comfortably with the period for which planning permission should be investigated for breach of condition. In addition to building regulation approval, completion certificates for works should be obtained. If approvals and certificates cannot be obtained from sellers then, on completion of any purchase of the property, you are at the risk of the Local Authority Building Control Services using their enforcement powers. Requests can be made directly to the Local Authority for any missing consents and certificates; however, this might alert the Local Authority to unauthorised works and precipitate enforcement action so consideration needs to be taken to assess the risk.

Indemnity insurance might be available to cover the risk that the building works do not comply with the building regulations and that no consent was obtained but the availability of the insurance may be prejudiced by an application to the Local Authority Building Control Services for missing consents and certificates.

You can apply retrospectively for a Building Regulations Regularisation Certificate; however, they may request unauthorised work to be “opened up” and will then decide whether remedial work is required to make it comply with the building regulations.

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