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Selling a House Without Building Regulations Approval

Adele MacGregor

Written by Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

4th Feb 2021 (Last updated on 10th Aug 2022) 4 minute read

Building work that is carried out on a property in the UK must follow certain standards. This includes Building Regulations Approval. As the seller of the home, you will be expected to produce a Building Regulations Completion Certificate.

It's not unusual to find that work has been completed on a home without the necessary approval. If work was completed prior to your ownership, you may not have the paperwork to prove it met regulations.

If you believe any work took place without the correct approval, there are steps you can take to reassure your buyer.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What are Building Regulations?
  2. What Renovations Need Regulatory Approvals?
  3. Can I Sell My Home Without a Building Regulations Certificate?
  4. How Can I Reassure Buyers?
  5. Why Would Someone Not Get Permission?

What are Building Regulations?

Building regulations approval is required for certain home improvements. It should be obtained after planning permission but before a builder is appointed. It is important to note that building regulation approval differs from planning permission.

Work that needs building regulations approval is known as 'notifiable' work. This includes:

  • Full Plans
  • Buildings notice (suitable for smaller projects)
  • Competent Person - The competent person schemes are a way for tradespeople to prove their ability to carry out work to required standards. This can take the place of applying for building regulations approval.

Obtaining building regulations approval is a statutory requirement set by the government. It ensures design and construction meet Buildings Regulation and Associated Legislation. This includes health and safety, fire safety and the structural integrity of buildings. It is also to ensure long-term environmental benefits.

Building Regulations in Scotland

In Scotland, Building Standards ensure building work complies with building regulations. For minor work on the home, Scottish Building Standards apply. For major work, you will need to apply to your local council for a Building Warrant.

Building Regulations in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Building Regulations (2012) are a legal requirement. They exist to ensure the health, safety and welfare of people living in and around buildings.

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What Renovations Need Regulatory Approvals?

Improvements and home extensions are covered under the Building Regulations 2010. This includes adding a new building, alterations to a building or a loft conversion.

You may also need approval for smaller changes made on the property. These include

  • Replacing fuse boxes and connected electrics
  • Changing any electrics near a bath or shower
  • Installing a bathroom that will involve plumbing
  • Installing a fixed air-conditioning system
  • Installing or replacing a heating system
  • Adding radiators to a heating system
  • Replacing windows and doors
  • Replacing roof coverings on a pitched or flat roof

Can I Sell My Home Without a Building Regulations Certificate?

Not having a building regulations certificate doesn't mean the work was not approved. Prior to 2013 local authorities were not required to issue certificates in all cases.

If there isn't a certificate because there was no approval, it does not mean the works are unsafe. However, it does mean the correct procedure was not followed.

If work is carried out without approval, the homeowner could be prosecuted and fined.

Furthermore, they could be made by the local council to pay for any faulty work to be fixed. Local Authorities can take action against an owner, even if they didn't arrange for the work to take place.

As a result, buyers will want assurance and proof that the works were completed with approval. Otherwise, they risk taking on a home with illegal and even dangerous building works. Essentially, they could be the ones being fined.

In some cases, the home may even sell for less to account for remedial work.

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How Can I Reassure Buyers?

Buyers may be reluctant to purchase a home without the correct approval documents. This can delay the process or even call the sale to collapse completely.

However, there are steps you can take to reassure the buyer that the home meets regulations.

Retrospective Building Regulations

If you believe unauthorised work took place, you can apply for Retrospective Building Regulation. This is obtained from your local authority (usually the local council). A regulations inspector will visit your home to carry out an extensive assessment. Providing the property meets regulations, a regulations compliance certificate can be issued.

This can only be applied via a local authority building control body. Only work carried out after 11 November 1985 can be approved in this way.

Imdemninity Insurance

Either you as the seller, or your buyer can take out indemnity insurance. This covers you for legal property issues, such as works that have not been carried out correctly.

Who pays for the insurance will be down to negotiation. However, if you are at fault as the seller, you may be required to take on this cost. If you have already taken out indemnity insurance, it will still be valid for the buyer to use.

Indemnity insurance is a one-off payment. The cost will vary depending on the value of the property and the type of issue the policy needs to cover.

For more information see: What is Indemnity Insurance

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Why Would Someone Not Get Permission?

One of the reasons for not seeking the correct building regulations approval is ignorance of the law. Some individuals may simply not be aware they need approval for the work being undertaken. This oversight can cause issues further down the line, including potentially large fines. You will need to research all rules and regulations before making any changes to your home.

In some cases, it may be a deliberate decision not to apply for consent. This can happen in instances where it is clear that Building Regulation Approval has not or would not have been granted for the works. In this case, the person wanting the work carried out is taking a chance that they won’t be caught out, which is a risky move.

Adele MacGregor

Having written for PerformanceIN, WalesOnline, Grazia Magazine and The Olive Press, Adele now writes advice articles for home movers, first-time buyers and house sellers alike.

Gareth Brooks

Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

Solicitor and Partner, RMNJ Solicitors

With 19 years of experience in the residential conveyancing industry, Gareth Brooks is a partner and head of management for the conveyancing department at RMNJ Solicitors.