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Do I need Building Regulations Approval?

If you’re thinking of having work done to your home that will require structural changes or extensive alterations, chances are you will need building regulations approval before you proceed. But the process to obtaining approval can be time consuming and confusing. Here we help you to understand what projects need approval, when, how and where to apply, how much it costs and more.

building regulations

What are building regulations?

Building regulations are minimum standards for design and construction to help protect the health and safety of people living in them.

They cover areas such as:

  • Structure. For example, any exterior work or internal alterations which will affect a load bearing wall, joist, beam or chimney breast. Or, which will affect access to a property. These may include:
    • house extensions (including those relating to garages, basements, roof balconies or terraces)
    • conversions (such as garage conversions, loft conversions or the subdivision of a property)
    • creation of ensuite facilities
    • cavity wall installation
    • replacement of floors (but not flooring)
    • or underpinning to foundations.
  • Electrical safety. For example, new fittings (such as fuse boxes or plugs), change electrics in a bathroom or shower area or undertake any work which requires new electrical wiring.
  • Installation of heating appliances. For example, if you install or replace an existing boiler, add extra radiators or install a fuel burning appliance.
  • Fire hazards. For example, any construction work requiring an escape route to comply with fire safety standards.
  • Plumbing. For example, if you wish to install a new bathroom or kitchen.
  • Ventilation. For example, all new windows, doors or fixed air-conditioning systems.
  • Other. For example, any work which affects sound resistance, hygiene, drainage and waste disposal or conservation of fuel and power.

Who is responsible for getting building regulations?

Homeowners are legally responsible for ensuring structural or alteration work complies with building standards. You can delegate responsibility to your builder or contractor in advance of them starting work. But, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring your home complies with relevant building standards.

For certain jobs, you can also obtain building regulation compliance from a tradesperson who is part of a self-certify scheme.  Traders who can approve their own work are part of a Competent Person Scheme. The most well known schemes are: Gas Safe (gas engineers), APHC (plumbers), NICEIC (for electricians) and FENSA and CERTASS (for window and door installers).

A list of members is available online at the Competent Persons Register. So if you want your boiler replaced, your electrics rewired or new bi-fold doors installed, check the company is part of the relevant scheme and can provide you with a building regulations compliance certificate at the end of the work.

What projects are exempt from needing building regulations?

The following common home improvement projects will generally not require you to apply for local authority approval:

  • Replacement of baths, sinks, basins or toilets.
  • Any alterations to existing electrical circuits which are not close to baths or showers, as well as, work on lighting or additional power points.
  • Conservatories and porches separated from the property by a door and not heated may be exempt.
  • Carports attached to a property with at least two sides (except in respect of electrical installations).
  • Greenhouses.
  • Garden rooms if the floor area is less than 15 square metres and contains NO sleeping accommodation.

Are planning permission and building regulations the same thing?

No. Planning permission is designed to control the way areas are developed, while building regulations are aimed at making sure building standards are met so building work is done correctly and safely. If you intend to make major structural changes to your home, therefore, or to build something completely new, you will probably need to get planning permission. While you don’t need planning permission for many internal renovations and some house extensions which fall within your permitted development rights, it’s best to check before work starts. So contact your local planning authority first.

Where can I get building regulations approval?

There are three main sources of approval for you/your building contractor to consider:

  • Local Authority Building Control (LABC). Most people go through their LABC body to get Building Regs approval.
  • Private building control bodies. Private company Approved Inspectors advise you on how the regulations will apply. They check plans, notify a local authority of intended work (via an ‘Initial Notice’), inspect the work as it progresses and issue the final certificate. There is no application process in this instance.
  • Competent Person Scheme. The main advantage with self-certification is that no building control fee is charged. Customers benefit from lower prices and the convenience of the work being carried out and signed off by the same person, at the same time.
  • Finally, there are also a range of third party certification schemes for accreditation of materials, products and installers. Some LABC bodies accept third party accreditation as evidence of building regulation compliance, providing the scheme is recognised.

How do I apply for building regulations approval and how long does it take?

If you or your builder decide to use the local authority building control, there are three main types of application for approval. You can submit any of the types of application online:

  • Full plans: Either you or your builder submit full plans and/or technical drawings (see below) of what you intend to build in advance of work. The local authority usually processes applications within 5-8 weeks, and approved applications are valid for the next three years. Local authority building inspectors will arrange to visit you and check works are compliant at key stages in the build.
  • Building notice: You inform a local authority that you intend to build without providing full plans. It is quicker and easier to pursue than submitting full plans. But, there are some exclusions (work relating to fire safety or close to drains highlighted on sewer maps). There is also an element of risk. Building inspections are carried out throughout the construction process. Work that does not comply with regulatory standards will need to be modified or removed. Only once work is satisfactory will the local authority issue a completion certificate.
  • Regularisation: This final type of application is retrospective approval (see below).

Structural changes to a shared wall or boundary may require a party wall agreement with your neighbour. Read our guide about your responsibilities under the Party Wall Act and let us help you find a local party wall surveyor.

Building Regulations Drawings

Whether you already have architect plans for your project, a builder in place to carry out the job, or are planning a DIY alteration which you know will require building regulations approval (e.g. removal of a load bearing wall), then you will also need structural calculations and technical drawings to submit to the local authority building control to explain your project and seek approval. A chartered structural or civil engineer can provide this for you. These structural calculations and drawings will also be an important guide for your builder/contractor/you to follow.

If you require structural calculations and technical drawings, use our tool to find local Structural Engineers. Get details to contact them directly to discuss what level of service you require.

What happens if I don’t get building regulations approval?

If the local authority rejects your initial application, you have the option of amending your existing plans. This is the smoothest and quickest option. Alternatively, you can try to discuss and resolve any pertinent issues, or appeal the decision at a local level or to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

If you go ahead with work without receiving authorisation and it turns out not to comply with building regulation standards, you could be asked to remove or alter each offending contravention. The local authority will either serve a 28-day requirement notice (together with a bill for costs) or choose to prosecute if you fail to fix the contraventions. Penalty fees of up to £5,000 can be charged plus £50 for each day that the work remains uncorrected if you are convicted. Failing this, the authority may decide to perform the remedial work themselves and recover all costs from the property owner.

You can lodge an appeal for ‘determination’ if you believe that your plans comply with regulations but have been rejected. Or, you can apply for ‘relaxation’, ‘dispensations’ and ‘appeals’ if you believe that the regulatory requirements are excessively onerous or irrelevant.

Can I obtain retrospective approval for building work?

If you have undertaken building work without prior approval, then a retrospective application process, known as ‘regularisation’, can be used to obtain a ‘regularisation certificate’. However, this may entail extensive corrective work to comply with building standards. A fee is usually charged for this type of application. The amount differs by local authority. It is usually based upon the estimated cost of the initial work against a sliding scale.

How much does building regulation approval cost?

The cost of building regulation approval varies according to local authority fee rates and the nature of the work. As a rule of thumb, most conversion, renovation or extension work will cost around £100 to submit full plans and a further £200 -400 for inspections. Approved Inspection fees are usually similar in terms of a total charge – usually around 1-2% of the cost of the work.

Do I need to get a building regulations certificate?

Yes! Once the building work is complete, you should obtain a completion certificate. This confirms that the building work complies with the local authority regulatory standards. It is a good idea to get the completion certificate before handing over payment to the responsible builder or tradesperson. However, competent person scheme members will provide you with a certificate within eight weeks of completed work. You cannot get a completion certificate retrospectively. So, failure to obtain one at this time could lead to major difficulties if you choose to sell your home at a later date. Indemnity insurance may help overcome this hurdle.

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