Builders Liability

Building Works Rules & Regulations

Whenever you make a structural improvement to your home, whether it’s large or small, check first with your local authority. You may need to apply for planning permission and/or comply with building regulations. An architect or consultant working on your behalf should do this automatically.

The rules and regulations can be complicated, but they have the force of law they exist to provide a pleasant and safe environment for everyone. It’s worth being on good terms with the staff of planning and building control offices, who are there to help.

Planning Permission

The purpose of the Town and Country Planning Acts is to protect the character and amenity of an area. in England and Wales, this responsibility lies mainly with local authorities. Scotland and Northern Ireland have similar regulations. in Scotland, these are enforced by the councils. In Northern Ireland, applications should be made to the Planning Service Office of the Department of the Environment.

The aim of the regulations is to look after the public interest, not the interest of one individual over another. You do have the right to make some alterations to your property, but the onus is always on you to check whether planning permission is needed.

Operate on the principle that you should take nothing for granted, as interpretations of regulations may vary from area to area. You may discover, for instance, that alterations made by a previous owner mean your home has reached its maximum allowable size. In a Conservation Area, even repainting the exterior of your house may be controlled. If you don’t find out where you stand, you can be forced to undo any unauthorized work and restore the building to the way it was before you started.

Six Steps In Applying For Planning Permission

1. Write to your local planning department to explain what you are hoping to do. Ask if they foresee any difficulties and, if so, what modifications might help get your plans through.

2. If planning permission is necessary, ask for the appropriate application form (some local authorities have them on their Web site, for downloading) and check the following:

  • How many copies of the form do you need to return?
  • What plans do you need to submit?
  • How long will it be before you are given a decision?

3. Check what fee is payable, and what it covers. If the application is turned down, you can usually modify your plans and reapply free of charge within a set time. Equally, if you want to make minor adjustments once work is underway, you may not have to pay a further fee, but you will need to seek permission.

4. Send your completed application forms, necessary plans, and fee to the planning department. Keep copies.

5. The council should acknowledge your 5 application within a few days. It will also notify your neighbours, put up a notice near the site, or advertise the application in the local paper. Members of the public can study your application at the council offices.

6. If permission is refused, you are entitled to know why. Planning staff may be prepared to advise you about changes that might make your scheme acceptable. If permission is granted. work must usually begin within a certain time.

Building Regulations & Control

The Building Control Service of each local authority has a wide range of responsibility for building regulations, from ensuring safety in public buildings, through naming streets and numbering houses, to making sure that dwellings are structurally sound. Generally, you need to comply with building regulations and get approval from your local Building Control Officer when you:

  • Erect or extend a building here size is important, see Volume and area
  • Carry out structural alterations
  • Extend or alter a controlled service for example, water and waste, by putting in a downstairs cloakroom
  • Change the use of a building for example, by sectioning off some rooms to create a self-contained flat, or converting a warehouse or barn into a dwelling.

Additionally, building regulations cover some less obvious work, such as having cavity walls insulated. Seek advice as early as possible unless the work is exempt, you have a legal requirement to tell the council about your intended work. You are entitled to start work two days after giving notice, but for major work it is better to wait until approval has been granted.

How To Apply For Building Control Approval

There are two types of application. The Building Control Service will advise you on the best one for your circumstances.

Building Notice

This is suitable for relatively simple work, such as putting in a new cloakroom or removing an internal wall. You need to submit:

  • A completed Building Notice application
  • A site plan showing the site boundaries and the position of the public sewers if the application is for a new building or a simple single-storey extension. This is available from the council
  • The relevant fee. This is calculated according to the type and cost of the work involved.

Full Plans submission

Required for more complicated work such as a double-storey extension or where the site presents problems with foundations or drainage. You will probably have to enlist professional help to draw up the plans. If successful, you will receive a formal notification that the plans have been passed. You need to submit:

  • Two completed Full Plans applications
  • Two copies of the detailed drawings of the proposed work. The degree of specification required (such as foundations, roof construction and covering, and thermal insulation) depends on the extent of the work you are proposing
  • Two copies of a site plan showing site boundaries and the position of public sewers, available from the council
  • The relevant fee. This is calculated according to the type and cost of the work involved.

Other People’s Building Plans

You have a right to examine any planning application at the council’s planning department. Contact the planning department if you think the proposed work would affect your privacy, block your light or overshadow your garden, increase the amount of traffic to an unacceptable level, cause problems with parking, create noise or other pollution (in the case of an industrial development), alter the character of your street, or have any other environmental impact.

Put your objections in writing. There is no guarantee that the development will be stopped, but you may at least win some modifications that minimize its impact.