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When do I need to worry about Building Regulations?

  1. 08 August 2019
  2. By Andi Michael

Whether you're buying a property that has had significant building work done to it, or you're making changes to your existing home, you're likely to need to know about building regulations. 

We're pleased to welcome White Horse Surveyors to our blog today to share their expertise on building regulations and when you need to bring in a surveyor.

If you have recently moved home and are planning on carrying out any kind of significant works, or recently acquired a property that contains several existing alterations, you should be aware of the essential requirements that any form of construction must follow. These are referred to as building regulations and represent an objective level of quality set-out by the UK government. 

What are they?

Building regulations refer to a minimum set of standards that any construction or prospective building design must adhere to. They are primarily concerned with ensuring that a property is structurally sound and does not compromise the safety of any individual that resides in or around the building. What’s more, they also set out several basic requirements surrounding both the energy efficiency and disabled access for the property. Including aspects such as sanitation, ventilation, drainage, fuel, glazing and electrical safety, as well as access to and use of the actual building.

It should be noted, however, that these standards generally relate to the ways that a property ‘must’ be constructed rather than ‘what’ can be constructed. This is where building regulations differ from planning permission, as the planning system is more concerned with the effect that a property may have on the public environment. Not the structural stability of a potential development.

As such, any responsibility to conform with these standards lies with both the individuals who are orchestrating the building work and the current homeowner.

When are they required?

In addition to the initial construction, there are also several projects or alterations that must also follow the guidelines set out by building regulations. Although these can generally be summarized as any kind of major structural alteration, specific examples include:
  • The fitting of a new insulation into a cavity wall
  • The underpinning of foundations
  • Any extensions of a building
  • Any loft or garage conversions
  • Any change in the building’s use
The above works will require sign-off from either an approved inspector or your local authorities building control officer. Nevertheless, if you do choose to privately instruct an approved inspector, you will still be required to jointly inform the local authority of your intentions.

If, on the other hand, you are intending to replace any window or door units, you have the alternative option to request a self-certified tradesman to complete the work. Although, you must check that they are FENSA (Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme) registered or you will be required to seek similar approval from building regulations.

Regardless of whether you are planning on carrying out any of these works yourself or have simply acquired a property that has recently undergone significant alterations, you must consult building regulations to ensure that they comply with the previously mentioned standards. However, it is important to also be aware of the works that do not require Building Regulations approval. These include:
  • Equivalent replacements (i.e. for baths, toilets, basins and sinks)
  • General repairs and maintenance work
  • Changes made to electrical points (except for those surrounding baths and showers)

How does surveying have an impact here?

If you are unsure as to whether you should consult building regulations, you can refer to the expert advice of a property surveyor. These regulated professionals will be aware of building regulation requirements, and therefore capable of instructing you on the best course of action. More specifically, although these property inspections will not be able to comment on any structural issues, the surveyor will pay specific attention to an area and give the appropriate advice. This will potentially identify any defects that were not immediately obvious but would require further investigation from a structural engineer and subsequently intervention from building control.

What’s more, regarding any existing alterations made prior to your acquisition of the property, it is strongly recommended that you also consult your Legal Adviser for confirmation on several key factors. Notably, a conveyancing solicitor will be able to collate all relevant documentation pertaining to radon gas, flood risks, insurance, listed buildings, conservation areas and building regulations.

Nevertheless, later down the line, the structural engineer may use the survey for reference. Especially if this was the point that the issue was first identified.

White Horse Surveyors are the UK’s largest independent, residential surveying company. Originally established in 2006, our wide network of RICS regulated surveyors now service much of England, Scotland and Wales. Our products include: RICS HomeBuyer Reports, RICS Building Surveys, Private Valuations and Home Reports for Scottish Property.

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