If your business has outgrown its premises, you may be thinking about searching for a new one. However, an alternative option might be to extend your current premises, which would avoid incurring the costs and time involved in purchasing a new building, while hopefully increasing the value of the building.

You will need to make sure that the extension has the required planning permission and Building Regulations approval, but you also need to ensure that any legal limitations on your ability to extend are identified and dealt with appropriately.

A solicitor will be able to examine this for you and can help with implementing resolutions if there are any limits on your rights. It is preferable that any such issues are dealt with before the extension is carried out as the outcome could be detrimental and costly if not. It could result in expensive litigation and may cause problems when you come to sell the property, as the buyer will want to be sure that the necessary consents were obtained and the extension was not built in contravention with any requirements.

Planning Permission and Building Regulations

You should ensure that the required planning permission and Building Regulation consents are obtained. For certain types of development, planning permission is generally not required. These are called permitted developments. However, if the building is listed or it lies in a conservation area, these permitted development rights are likely to be curtailed. Further, planning permission for a new development may contain a condition which excludes permitted development rights. You should therefore carefully consider whether you need to apply for planning permission.

Legal Considerations

A solicitor will be able to examine the property’s title and other documents to identify any legal restrictions on your ability to extend. Below we examine some of the issues that may arise.

If you own the leasehold to the property, you may need the consent of the landlord to any alterations, or there may be a complete restriction on altering the property. A failure to comply with such a constraint could result in you losing the lease altogether and so it is imperative that it is identified and dealt with correctly. A solicitor can approach the landlord to obtain consent and ensure that this is documented in the correct manner.

If the property is let out, the terms of the tenancy will need to be examined to see whether the works are permitted under the lease whilst the tenant is in occupation.

From review of the documents, a solicitor will identify and set out to you the boundaries of the property. This will ensure that you do not inadvertently trespass on land you do not own by a misunderstanding of the boundaries. Doing so could lead to costly litigation down the line, which is evidently advisable to avoid.

If the extension is on or near a party wall, you may need to serve notice of the proposed works on the neighbour and comply with the legal process involved with this.

The property may be subject to restrictive covenants which limit your ability to, or the manner in which, you can alter or extend the building. For example, you may need the permission of the owner of a neighbouring property for the extension.

Other people may have rights over your land, where you are planning on extending. To demonstrate, there may be a sewer pipe running under the property or someone may be entitled to a right of way over the property. It is important to identify those rights so that you do not interfere with them and face litigation down the line. You could look at altering the plans so that the rights are left unaffected or if this is not possible, a solicitor could negotiate the terms of the release of the right.

If you are planning on extending upwards or downwards from the building, you should ensure that you own the airspace above or the ground below, as ownership may have been restricted in the past.

Extending your commercial premises could be a more cost and time efficient way of expanding your business, as opposed to seeking new premises. It is imperative that you are aware of any legal restrictions on your ability to extend before you embark on doing so, to avoid unwanted and costly consequences in the future. If you would like to contact one of our commercial property solicitors to discuss extending your premises, please contact us on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.