What are building regulations?

The house I am buying has had many improvements. My solicitor says we must ensure that all these works have building regulation approval. Is this the same as planning permission? No, building regulations are different.

The house I am buying has had many improvements. My solicitor says we must ensure that all these works have building regulation approval. Is this the same as planning permission?

No, building regulations are different. They cover the structural stability of a property, fire resistance and means of escape, weather resistance, sound resistance, ventilation, drainage, heating and the conservation of fuel and power, stairways, ramps and guards and facilities for disabled people and the safety of glazing.

Will the council have checked the works?

Statutory inspections will have been carried out during the works and, once completed, the building control officer will issue a completion certificate, confirming the work complies with the regulations.

There is also a loft conversion. Would that have required building regulation approval?

If the loft is used as a bedroom then, yes, the regulations will apply. Certain improvements do not however need consent, such as extensions under a certain size and greenhouses, porches and conservatories (with a transparent roof), covered yards or car ports where the floor area of the addition does not exceed 30sq m.

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And there are new windows at the house, are they covered by the regulations?

Since April 1, 2002, the regulations have applied to doors and windows. Replacement windows, roof lights and glazed doors have to be covered by either a certificate from building control or Fensa. There are also new regulations relating to electrical installations.

What if the owners of the house have failed to obtain the necessary approvals?

The owners may be able to obtain retrospective approval. The council may not be able to enforce the regulations if the works were carried out more than 12 months ago unless, for example, the property is not safe. The buyer could consider insurance against the risk of enforcement.

If we wish to do further improvements, what should we do?

Check with building control whether consent is necessary and, if so, how to apply. If you fail to obtain required consents you could have problems when you come to sell the property.