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Building Regulations - Pitfalls for the Unwary Vendor
Important information for anyone considering selling their home who may have carried out work on it within the last 10 years without obtaining Buildings Regulations approval. The Building Regulations regime in England and Wales derives from two statutory instruments made under the Building Act 1984. These are the Building Regulations 2010 and Approved Inspector Regulations 2010. These Regulations came into force on 1 October 2010 with further regulations (The Building (Amendment) Regulations 2011) coming into force on 15 July 2011.
These regulations dictate that since 2010 virtually all building work within a house needs to comply with the Building Regulations and a Building Regulation application will be required. For instance, removing a loadbearing wall, converting a loft space or garage and alterations to the electrical wiring are all examples which are required to comply with the Building Regulations. They also apply to virtually all extensions and a Building Regulation application will be required in most cases, although some small extensions are partly or totally exempt from the Building Regulations.
It is vitally important that you comply with the Building Regulations for two main reasons. Firstly, if you do not comply, the local authority can take enforcement action against you. There are three enforcement options available to the local authority:-
- Enforcement Notice
If you have not complied with Building Regulations the local authority can serve you with a notice requiring you to remove or alter the works. The notice must be served within 12 months of the completion of the works. If you do not comply within 28 days of the notice the local authority can carry out the works at your expense.
Where an enforcement notice has been served the local authority can apply for an injunction requiring the removal or alteration of the works. However, injunctions are uncommon with regards to Building Regulations enforcement.
Where the breach is particularly serious the local authority may decide to prosecute you through the Magistrate’s Court. This can result in a fine of up to £5,000 with an additional £50 per day for each day the contravention continues after conviction.
The second reason for complying with Buildings Regulations is that if works have been done without appropriate Building Regulations approval you may have been storing up trouble for the future. For example, when you come to sell your house, the buyers solicitors will be checking that the Regulations have been complied with. Even if a local authority does not prosecute or take enforcement action, it will not have issued a completion certificate to confirm compliance with the Building Regulations. This will cause you considerable problems when you come to sell your home. A purchaser may be advised not to proceed with the sale for fear of future enforcement action by the local authority.
There is a way around this by retrospectively applying for a certificate, but this carries the danger of alerting the local authority to the problem which could prove costly. Alternatively you may have to pay for an insurance policy which the buyer takes out and would cover the expense of putting everything right should the local authority become involved.
These are dangerous matters which anyone selling their home needs to bring to their solicitors attention at the very outset, so their solicitor can advise the best way to proceed, in order to ensure a future purchaser is not lost in what today is clearly a buyers’ market. Early pro-active advice is thus essential from solicitors who are on your wavelength with practical advice on how to best sort out the situation.