Whenever a building is set to be erected or altered or when other building works are to be undertaken, it is important that proper permission from the local authority is sought. This is independent of the planning permission obtained from the LPA, and is undertaken to ensure that all health and safety aspects related to the building are taken care of. A building regulation is required even if the work comes under the term development for the purpose of planning control. Home improvement jobs like replacing/installing windows, installing central heating systems, electrical installation, and even plumbing jobs need permission.
There are two ways by which a person can apply for building regulation consent:
- Make a ‘Full Plans’ application: This is done by submitting the full plan and other details regarding the construction.
- Building Notice: This application involves submission of a form detailing the proposed changes.
On submission of the application, a building control officer visits the property and undertakes inspection of work. After inspection, the LPA issues a certificate of compliance. This certificate should be kept safe along with other documents relating to the property as it is an evidence to prove that all conditions are met.
There are several ‘self-certification’ schemes where competent contractors self-certify their jobs. For example, the FENSA or Fenestration Self Assessment is an organisation that offers self-certification schemes to members who offer replacement windows/ double glazing, etc. Such schemes are governed by the trade body which set the bar in terms of competency of installers and their understanding of regulations specific to their trade. On completion of work, the contractor issues the self-certification certificate and it is the job of the respective governing body to send a notification to the local authority.
A buyer must be very careful when dealing with a seller who does not have the necessary proof of compliance with building regulations. This is primarily, due to:
- Local Authorities’ enforcement powers: On noticing a breach of building regulation control, the local authority can bring forward a case for prosecution along with a penalty of up to £5,000. But, the proceedings must be brought within two years of completion of the job. An enforcement notice requiring removal or alteration of the work can be served on the recipient. This notice should be served within one year of the alleged non-compliance. There are several other notices that are not time barred.
- Structural Concerns: Building construction works that have been carried out without the compliance of the building regulation control may put the safety of the building at risk, or may require expensive and extensive repairs or other remedial jobs. This may impact the future marketability of the property. The solicitor for a buyer should strongly recommend a structural survey of the building to assess potential costs on the property.
The buyer of a property should ask for a regularisation certificate from the local authority which mentions the jobs required to be done to bring the building to correct standards. In instances where building regulation consent is not provided, insurance for the building should be obtained. But the insurance also should cover the cost of compliance with the regulations, if the local authority were to bring enforcement proceedings. It also does not cover personal injuries, or a loss of trade caused by a defective building.
Restrictive covenants and planning and building regulations control
The effect of existing covenants and their effect on any proposed development are discussed below:
Just as an owner complies with the building regulations and planning permissions, he should also consider the role of restrictive covenants on the property. It is to be remembered that each of these issues are separate and independent of each other. Thus, it is perfectly possible that a planning permission is obtained on a proposal, but such a proposal is directly opposed to a restrictive covenant on the property. Such a contravention will have to be dealt with separately.