When a client first instructs us to act in a property transaction the first question that is almost always asked is “How long will it take?” The Million Dollar question!

The difficulty with conveyancing is that you never know what problems you may encounter until you start work.  What I can tell you is that one of the major causes of delay within residential conveyancing is a lack of Building Regulation Approval for alterations that have been carried out to a property.  So here is some guidance on what Building Regulations are and what can be done to keep the transaction moving.

What Do Building Regulations Cover?

The essence of Building Regulations is compliance with broad objectives such as structure, fire safety, hygiene, glazing, insulation, gas and electrical safety as well as energy conservation amongst others.

What Are The Consequences of a Lack of Building Regulation Consent?

  •  Enforcement Action by the Local Authority – the Local Authority have the power to serve a notice requiring the owner of the property to either remove a dangerous structure or stipulate what improvements/renovations must be made in order to bring the works into compliance with the Building Regulations.
  • Lack of a Completion Certificate means that the owner of the property is unable to provide any evidence that the works have been carried out to the necessary standards and are structurally sound. It is often the case that such works should in fact be reported to both any future insurer as well as to prospective mortgage lender.

What Options Are Available?

  • Regularisation Certificate – it is possible for the owner of the property to obtain a Regularisation Certificate from the Local Authority. This will confirm, as far as possible, that the building standards appropriate at the time when the building works were undertaken were met, although it is not conclusive evidence.  It may however be necessary for the Local Authority to “open up” works in order to decide whether or not any remedial work is needed in order for a Certificate to be issued.  The owner of the property may not be prepared to allow the disruption of such woks.
  • Indemnity Insurance – often it will be suggested to put an indemnity policy in place in respect of the lack of Building Regulation Approval. It is important to note that this will only insure against the costs of any remedial works required by the Local Authority should it choose to take enforcement action.  It will not provide any cover for poor workmanship or in fact if the Local Authority issues an Enforcement Notice following a subsequent application for building regulation approval, such as a new extension.  It therefore offers very limited protection.

Mortgage Lender’s Requirements

If you are buying with the assistance of a mortgage we have to consider the requirements of your mortgage lender. If the valuation report requires us to check on the availability of Building Regulation Approval, or makes the assumption that the necessary consents were obtained, we shall need to refer the lack of consent back to them to allow them to weigh up any potential risks.  Buyers need to be aware that this may effect a mortgage lender’s decision to lend on the property.

Advice to Clients

The best advice is to always check if you need Building Regulation Approval BEFORE starting work.  Your local Building Control department is usually very helpful and many local authority websites provide excellent sources of guidance and information.

If you are selling a property, speak with your Solicitor first.  Do not approach the council straight away as this may invalidate your ability to put indemnity insurance in place.

If you are buying a property you should always have a survey carried out and you should take advice from your surveyor about any alterations that have been undertaken and what steps they recommend should be taken before proceeding.

For further help or advice, please contact any member of our Residential Property team.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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