Following on from our blog about the changing requirements of property owners, many of those home owners who are not looking to move house, are looking at how they can change their living arrangements to suit working from home. When making alterations to your property, it is vital to consider whether they require planning permission or building control documentation. If they are necessary but the proper permissions or documentation hasn’t been sought, not only could it cause problems with the local authority but it could cause issues when you come to sell your property.

When is Planning Permission Required?

Planning permission may be needed for extensions, structural alterations, changes of use, and the erection of additional buildings within the boundaries of a property. Certain types of work fall within the ‘permitted development’ category, such as small extensions or replacing windows. It is important to check this with the local planning department though or an architect to ensure works do not fall outside of this category. It is also important to bear in mind that properties that are listed buildings or in conservation areas are subject to greater restrictions.

Changes to properties for which planning permission is required but is not obtained are enforceable by the local authority for up to 4 years from the date the work is substantially completed. Enforcement action would usually be noted against the property on the Local Land Charges Register with an Enforcement Notice.

As many more people are now working from home, it may be necessary to obtain planning permission for a change of use of your property if you are running a business from it. Factors that will determine this will include (but not exclusively) if there will be increased numbers of people coming and going from the house and if the business use will disturb the neighbours. A change of use without planning permission is enforceable for up to 10 years in the same way as breaches of planning for physical changes to the property.

The existence of an enforcement notice on the Local Land Charges Register can impact upon future sales and even if there is no enforcement notice registered against the property, solicitors acting for buyers will likely require an indemnity insurance policy to protect the buyer against potential enforcement action by the local authority after completion. Typically, these policies only provide cover for the buyer in the event enforcement action is taken by the local authority and not against defects in the quality of any building works unless the rectification of these are a requirement of an enforcement notice.

When is Building Regulation Approval Needed?

Even if you don’t need planning permission, you may need building regulation approval and a completion certificate to ensure that the quality and safety of the works complies with building control regulations. Unlike planning, there is no general defence for missing building control consents, so it needs to be handled correctly. Dealing with it retrospectively can cause issues as building standards change over time, so while works may have been acceptable 20 years ago, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case now.

Breaches of building regulations are most commonly dealt with upon the sale of a property by way of an indemnity insurance policy, which protects the buyer against potential enforcement action by the local authority after completion. These policies only provide cover for the buyer in the event enforcement action is taken by the local authority and not defective workmanship or materials.

Planning Portal and Surveys

When considering whether a change of use or works to a property need either planning permission or building regulation approval, a useful tool is the Planning Portal Interactive House. This tool enables you to look at the most common types of work in different types of houses and provides advice as to what permissions and/or approvals are required.

The limitations of indemnity insurance policies for both lack of planning permission and building regulation approval highlights the importance of obtaining a survey when buying a property, especially as the valuations carried out by lenders are for their own purposes and provide very limited information compared to a proper inspection report such as a Home Buyers Report.

For legal advice on any residential property matters, the team at Farleys are here to help. Call 0845 287 0939 or alternatively, you can submit your enquiry through our online contact form.