When Building Regulations Approval Has Not Been Obtained

Building regulations are designed to ensure that building works are done to set standards of safety and energy efficiency. The framework for the law is set out in the Building Act 1984. This statute allows regulations to be made as and when necessary to update the law and there have been several editions since the Act.

It is not uncommon to find that work has been done to properties without building regulations approval having been obtained. Often people either don’t want the hassle of making the application or genuinely don’t realise that approval is required. This often comes to light when they attempt to sell the property and find that the buyer will not proceed until the property is sold.

What Works Actually Require Building Regulation Approval?

Section 1 of the Building Act 1984 states that the following types of work may be subject to building regulations; “any work which involves the design and construction of buildings (which includes extensions and alterations to an existing building), the demolition of buildings or services, fittings and equipment provided in or in connection with buildings”.

The purposes of the regulations are stated to be as follows:

  • securing the health, safety, welfare and convenience of persons in or about buildings and of others who may be affected by buildings or matters connected with buildings
  • furthering the conservation of fuel and power
  • preventing waste, undue consumption, misuse or contamination of water,
  • furthering the protection or enhancement of the environment,
  • facilitating sustainable development,
  • or furthering the prevention or detection of crime

In practice, in terms of a residential property, this might mean extensions, structural alterations, loft conversions and/or garage conversions (particularly where these are being converted to provide living space) electrical works, gas installations and replacement windows.

Works Which are Exempt from Building Regulations Approval

Certain works are exempt from building regulations. Full details are set out in Schedule 2 of the Building Regulations 2000 but for residential properties for example a single storey extension (including conservatories) with a floor area of less than 30m2, provided there is no electrical, gas or plumbing work involved and no external doors are removed (even if they are replaced) would be exempt from building regulations. If the extension is a conservatory however and it is at least partly glazed, a FENSA certificate will be required.

Completion Certificates

When some work is properly completed and signed off by a building control inspector, a completion certificate will be used. This will only be issued when the work is completed and the relevant fee is paid. If the certificate is lost then copies can be obtained from the building control section of the local authority.

New Properties Covered by NHBC

New properties are subject to building regulations approval and a completion certificate should be obtained, however the Building Act 1984 allows for “approved inspectors” to be appointed and NHBC is one such inspector. This means that where the development is covered by NHBC they may sign the property off for building regulations on the local authority’s behalf.

This does not mean that they always will and if they have it will be clear from the NHBC insurance documentation. Either a separate certificate will be issued confirming that NHBC were the approved inspectors or for older properties, there will be a note in the left hand margin of the insurance certificate itself.

New/Replacement Glazing

As mentioned above, one of the aims of the building regulations is “furthering the conservation of fuel and power” and with that in mind rules were introduced to regulate new and replacement glazing, to ensure that it meets the minimum insulation standards thus reducing the amount of energy required to heat the home.

Rather than have the local authority inspect all of this work and issue certificates, which would have placed a tremendous burden on them, it made sense to allow installers to self-certify their work. Installers (of the firms that employ them) must therefore be registered with FENSA in order to issue a FENSA certificate, which is evidence that the installation complies with building regulations. If the installer is not a member, or if you do the work yourself, then the council will need to be asked to inspect the work when done and issue a completion certificate.

Electrical Works

Electrical works (other than minor works such as changing a ceiling rose or replacing a socket) should be carried out by a NICEIC registered contractor, who is able to issue a certificate of compliance with building regulations. If the contractor is not NICEIC registered then an inspection will need to be carried out by building control and a completion certificate issued.

Gas and Gas Appliances

Works to gas supplies or gas appliances (such as boilers) need to be carried out by engineers who are registered on the Gas Safe Register (formerly CORGI). A certificate should be issued by the engineer. It is not legal for a non-qualified engineer to carry out such works though if this does happen it will be necessary to have the work inspected by the local authority building control department.

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