What are building regulations?

What are building regulations

Building regulations are a set of standards that builders and building owners are required to meet when carrying out building works to property.

Building regulations (or building regs, as they are more commonly known) is a term that is frequently mentioned when talking about building a home extension, but many people are unsure of what is required and when.

What is the history of building regulations?

The building regulations and construction legislation that currently apply to building work carried out in England and Wales were originally set out in the Building Act 1984.

These regulations have since been regularly updated and edited and  are set and amended by the Secretary of State, and refer to three separate areas:

  • The design and construction of buildings
  • The demolition of buildings
  • The services, fittings and equipment provided in or in connection with buildingsBuilding regulations cover areas such as health and safety, the conserving of fuel, prevention of waste, protecting the environment, sustainable development and prevention of crime.

Building regulations costs

In order to obtain planning approval, you must submit a building regulations application, along with supporting approved documents, and pay the relevant building regulations application fees. How much these fees cost will depend on what work you are carrying out, and are set by your local authority.

Planning permission and building regulations

When you are planning to carry out building work, there are two types of building control applications you can make:

  • A full planning application (for planning permission)
  • A building notice application (for building regulations approval)

A full planning application will require detailed drawings of the intended building work and is required for more complex work, larger extensions and loft conversions.

A building notice application is a more simple application, and does not require drawings. Building notice applications are required for smaller extensions and basic building work, but as a building control officer can only assess work as it is being carried out, you may be required to make amendments and change plans mid-project if the building control officer does not agree that building regulations have been met.

Do I need building regulations?

Generally, any improvement to your property that constitute ‘building work’, whether you do it yourself or bring in the professionals, requires building regulations approval.

Some popular examples of jobs that require building regulations approval include:

  • Building an extension
  • Replacing your window
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Foundation underpinning
  • Any work affecting the energy efficiency of your home

Building regulations for extensions

Become increasingly more popular as homeowners decide to improve their existing properties over selling quickly, a home extension is one of the most common types of building work that requires building regulations approval. Whether you just need building regulations approval, or full planning permission, will depend on the size and scope of your extension.

If you submit a full planning application, you will be informed at the start of the project which building regulations apply to your project. If you do not require full planning permission and decide to just apply for building regulations approval, the building control application cannot be actioned until work is underway. As a result, you may be required to make amendments to the work carried out in order to acquire the building control certificate and get the project signed off as complying with building regulations.

If you do not acquire building regulations approval (and the corresponding building control certificate), you may be required to ‘undo’ the building work that has been carried out, and return your home to its previous state.

Do I need building regulations for a small extension?

For extensions completed before May 2019, the government has made temporary amendments regarding which types of extensions require planning permission and which simply require building regulations approval.

The current guidelines, for work completed before the May 2019 deadline, are that extensions do not require planning permission if they are:

  • No higher than the highest part of the current roof
  • Not extending more than three metres from the original rear wall of an attached house or four metres from the original rear wall of a detached house

Building regulations replacement windows

Whilst planning permission for windows is not required, building regulations have been required for replacement windows since April 2002. Don’t worry though, most window installation companies will handle all of the building regulations requirements on your behalf and simply hand you a building regulations approval certificate on completion of the new window installation. Make sure you keep the certificate safe, as it will likely be required to prove building regulations compliance at the point of selling your property.

Fire safety building regulations

Fire safety is a large part of building regulation requirements, and is one of the reasons that replacement windows now require building relations approval.

Building regulations and indemnity insurance

If, when you come to purchase a property, there is not a building regulations certificate available to cover building work that has been carried out, it is likely that your solicitor and mortgage provider will request that an indemnity insurance policy be purchased.

This indemnity policy will protect you, and any other future owners, from ramifications. If, for example, the work is found to not comply with building regulations and you are serviced with a building regulations compliance notice, your indemnity insurance policy should cover you for the associated financial costs.

It is important to remember, however, that any building work that has been completed for 12 months or longer is exempt from a local authority building regulations compliance notice and therefore you cannot be forced to alter or remove any non-compliant work.

If an extension has previously been built on a property (or any other work that may have required planning permission), yet there are no documents available to prove that planning permission was granted, planning permission indemnity insurance is also available.

What is building control?

Building control is the department within each local authority that is responsible for ensuring that buildings are designed and constructed to comply with all current building regulations and construction legislation. If you are planning to carry out any work that requires building regulations compliance certification or planning permission, you need to make a building control application (a building notice application or planning application) through the appropriate channels.

How do I apply for planning permission?

If you want to apply for building regulations or planning permission, there are two ways you can go about it. You can either apply to your local authority directly via a government planning portal, or you can apply through a private approved inspector, who will liaise with the local authority on your behalf.

If you are applying for full planning permission, you can expect to receive a decision within around 5 weeks of your application being submitted.

If you are making a building notice application (for building regulations, rather than full planning permission), you can start the work just two days after submitting your application. Unlike with a planning permission application, you will not get any sort of formal approval until the work has been completed and inspected.

If you have already carried work out, without submitting an application in advance, you can apply for building regulations approval retrospectively, but this must be done directly with your local authority Building Control Body.

If you submit a building notice application through your local authority, they will have standardised fees, based on the category and scope of the work you are carrying out. If you choose to use a private approved inspector, they will negotiate fees with you directly.

If the work being carried out is being done to adapt a property to meet the needs of someone with a disability, you may not be required to pay any fees for the application.

What to do if your application is denied

If your building regulations application is denied, you have a month to make an appeal.

As a first step, you can ask for one or more building regulations to be ignored or relaxed by the local authority, if you feel they should not apply to the work you have carried out.

If the local authority is unwilling to budge, your next stop would be a formal appeal to central government. The appeal should be made to the Department for Communities and Local Government using the form on the planning portal gov UK website.

If you have any questions about building regulations appeals, you can email the Department for Communities and Local Government at: enquiries.br@communities.gsi.gov.uk.

If you are looking for further information about building regulations in the UK, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website provides a useful resource, and a handy glossary of key terminology. You can also find information about the latest amendments and additions to building regulations and construction legislation. For more information, visit the RICS website.

If you are looking for a more informal resource, www.designingbuildings.co.uk is a wiki site that allows members of the public to share their knowledge. They have a page dedicated to building regulations that contains details about different areas covered by building regulations, along with links to a wide range of useful resources.

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