What are the Building Regulations?
The Building Regulations apply to building work in England & Wales and set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety and health for people in or about those buildings. They also include requirements to ensure that fuel and power is conserved and facilities are provided for people, including those with disabilities, to access and move around inside buildings.
Do I need Building Regulations Approval? If you are planning to carry out ‘Building Work’ as defined in Regulation 3 of the Building Regulations, then it must comply with the Building Regulations. This normally means seeking approval of the work from a Building Control Body.
The following types of project amount to ‘Building Work’:
The erection or extension of a building
An alteration project involving work which will temporarily or permanently affect the ongoing compliance of the building, service or fitting with the requirements relating to structure, fire, or access to and use of buildings
When installing replacement windows using a builder or window company not registered with the relevant Competent Person Schemes
The installation or extension of a service or fitting which is controlled under the regulations
The insertion of insulation into a cavity wall
The underpinning of the foundations of a building
When you want to change the building’s fundamental use
If your building work consists only of the installation of certain types of services or fittings (e.g. electrical installations in dwellings, heating, hot water, air-conditioning and ventilation, replacement windows, WCs, and showers) and you employ an installer registered with a relevant Competent Person Schemes as designated in the Building Regulations, that installer will be able to self-certify the work. Therefore, you will not need to involve a Building Control Service. However, this concession is strictly limited to the specific type of installations and does not cover any other type of building work.
The works themselves must meet the current relevant technical requirements in the Building Regulations and they must not make other fabric, services and fittings less compliant than they were before – or dangerous. For example, the provision of replacement double-glazing must not make compliance worse in relation to means of escape, air supply for combustion appliances and their flues and ventilation for health.
They may also apply to certain changes of use of an existing building. This is because the change of use may result in the building as a whole no longer complying with the requirements which will apply to its new type of use, and so having to be up-graded to meet additional requirements specified in the regulations for which building work may also be required.
Where to get Building Regulations approval
To help you achieve compliance with the regulations, you are required to use one of two types of Building Control Service:
your local authority Building Control Service; or
an approved inspector’s Building Control Service
Failure to comply with the Building Regulations
If you do not follow the building control procedures set out for handling your building work or you carry out building work which does not comply with the requirements contained in the Building Regulations you will have contravened them.
Enforcement Notices & Fines The local authority has a general duty to enforce the Building Regulations in its area and will seek to do so by informal means wherever possible.
Where an approved inspector is providing the Building Control Service, the responsibility for checking that the Building Regulations are complied with during the course of your building work will lie with that inspector. They will usually do this by advising you. However, approved inspectors do not have enforcement powers. Instead, the regulations provide that in a situation where they consider your building work does not comply with the Building Regulations they will not issue you with a final certificate and in addition will cancel the initial notice by notifying your local authority. If no other approved inspector takes on the work, the Building Control Service will automatically be taken on by your local authority. From this point on your local authority will also have enforcement powers to require you to alter your work, if they consider this necessary.
If a person carrying out building work contravenes the Building Regulations, the local authority or another person may decide to take them to the magistrates’ court where they could be fined up to £5000 for the contravention, and up to £50 for each day the contravention continues after conviction (section 35 of the Building Act 1984). This action will usually be taken against the builder or main contractor, and proceedings must be taken within two years from the completion of the work. Alternatively, or in addition, the local authority may serve an enforcement notice on the owner requiring them to alter or remove work which contravenes the regulations (section 36 of the 1984 Act). If the owner does not comply with the notice the local authority has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs of doing so from the owner.
A section 36 enforcement notice cannot be served on you after the expiration of 12 months from the date of completion of the building work, but this does not affect a local authority’s (or any other person’s) right to apply to the Courts for an injunction for the same purpose. A local authority also cannot take enforcement action under section 36 if the work which you have carried out is in accordance with your plans which the authority approved or failed to reject within the statutory time of five weeks (or two months with your agreement) from deposit of the plans.
Impact on Selling the Property Notwithstanding the possibility of enforcement action, you should bear in mind that if the local authority considers that building work carried out does not comply with the Building Regulations and it is not rectified, the authority will not issue you with a completion certificate and the contravention may come to light through a local land search enquiry when you wish to sell your property.
Is Building Regulations approval the same as planning permission?
Building Regulations approval is a separate matter from obtaining planning permission for your work. Similarly, receiving any planning permission which your work may require is not the same as taking action to ensure that it complies with the Building Regulations.
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