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I've already done the work. Can I still get building regs approval?

Over the last year we’ve received an increasing number of calls from concerned property owners whose homes are up for sale.  In many cases they had carried out home improvements but hadn’t realised they needed to apply for building regulations approval before they started work.

The issue had only arisen when their solicitor had asked them to provide a building regulations completion certificate for the work or a buyer had commissioned a survey of their property and a query had been raised.

We can’t stress strongly enough how important it is to always check with Planning and Building Control before you carry out any home improvements so that you don’t end up in the same boat in the future.

If you are in this situation already though, there is usually a way to overcome this by applying to ‘regularise’ the work, provided the work took place after November 1985. (Only Local Authority Building Control can regularise building work which has already been carried out.)

What types of project need approval and which are exempt?

Most domestic building projects need building control approval and you can find out whether yours did by reading our webpage.  There are however projects, such as some conservatories, garden buildings and garages which are exempt from the building regulations as we explain here.

By applying for building regulations you ensure that the work you do is compliant, well built and safe to live in.  For example, our checks and inspections ensure things like sufficient insulation is used, drains are correctly laid or that a steel beam is sufficiently strong to support the load from the floor above.  Nobody wants to live in a home that could be potentially unsafe.

Did you check if you needed planning permission?

If you are not sure whether you needed planning permission for the work you carried out, the Planning Portal interactive house is a good starting point. It allows you to search the type of work you carried out and explains about any planning requirements. 

In general, if the work was internal, for example taking down a loadbearing wall, it would not have needed planning permission, but there are exceptions, for example if you live in a listed building or a conservation area. We would therefore recommend you check with your local planning department if you are unsure.

Couple looking for advice on a laptop

What can I do if I’ve already carried out the work?

You can make a regularisation application to us, provided the work took place after 11 November 1985*. However, you should be aware that this is not always a straightforward process and can involve you having to:

  • uncover work, such as pipes, beams and insulation
  • provide any plans you have
  • send us structural calculations for any structural work carried out, such as taking down a loadbearing wall between two rooms
  • potentially incur further expense to remedy any issues that are found when we carry out our inspection.
  • If once we have made our inspection and checked any additional information we asked for, the work is found to have met the building regulations at that time, we can issue you with a Regularisation Certificate.  This can then be used to prove to your solicitor and potential buyer that the work complied with the building regulations.

You should however be aware that if on inspection the work is found to be unsatisfactory, we can’t issue a regularisation certificate until the remedial work has been completed.

*Regularisation of roof coverings of more than 50% of the roof are only needed for work carried out after April 2006.

How to make a regularisation application

To make an application you should complete the regularisation application form on our website here. You will also need to pay the regularisation fee at the same time. You can contact us to find out what the fee will be using our fee quote form here, stating that the work has already taken place.

Image of model house with For Sale written within body of house

Will my sale be affected if I don’t have building regs approval?

Yes it could be, and it is more than likely to delay the sale process. If you make a regularisation application and your property is already on the market, whilst we will do our best to expedite the regularisation process for you, this still takes time because of the amount of work involved.

Depending on the size/complexity of the project, we will need evidence such as plans/structural calculations and any photos you have of work as it progressed. We will then check all this information and make an inspection of the work ourselves.  If it is all found to be satisfactory we can issue the regularisation certificate however if remedial work is needed this must be carried out first.

What if I don’t want to regularise the work?

If the work took place before 11 November 1985 you can’t regularise the work but if you also decide you don’t want to go down this route, you could offer to buy indemnity insurance for your buyer. (This is usually arranged through your solicitor and you should speak to them as it is not something building control can help with.)

Prospective buyers asked to accept an indemnity policy should make sure that their solicitor explains what the policy covers. It isn’t a very satisfactory answer though. The same issue will arise the next time the property is sold and buyers may be hesitant to take on a property which has had unapproved work carried out to it.

An example of what is involved in regularising work

Taking down a loadbearing wall in your home is usually a simple project, but if you took it down without letting building control know it will be more time consuming to have the work checked for building regulations compliance and may involve you having to uncover areas which have since been decorated. 

When you make your application you will need to pay a fee and provide structural calculations and any photos of the work.  We will also need to satisfy ourselves that:

  • the structural calculations prove the beam used is sufficient to support the load from the floor above
  • the beam is sat correctly on the pad stones
  • fire boarding was used to cover over the beam after it had been put into position and before decorating. 

This will usually involve us making a site inspection and us documenting evidence in your application on our database.  If no remedial work is needed a regularisation certificate can be issued.

What are my responsibilities?

As a property owner, if you carried out work that should have had building regulations approval there can be consequences if you don’t regularise the work. This is because under Section 36(6) of The Building Act 1984, the council can request a High Court injunction to require alteration or removal of the work that doesn't comply if it is deemed dangerous. (Whilst this is very rare, it has happened.)

Our advice

If you have carried out work which you think should have had building regulations approval make a regularisation application as soon as possible and don’t leave it until you decide to put your home on the market.

If you are considering any future home improvements read our Homeowner Guides or look at some of our other project blogs to help you understand what you need to do before you start work.

Categories: Blog, General Advice