Every area of life seems to be increasingly regulated these days and that includes our homes. Keeping up with all the latest building regulations is proving especially challenging. Many of us are either unaware of the full extent of the rules or are simply ignoring them. All across the country, people are adding light fittings or ordering incorrect replacement windows and doors without realising the consequences, you could inadvertently receive a fine of up to £5,000. But, mostly, it only comes to a head when you try to sell your property. So, if you’re thinking of selling a property in any of our areas (Bracknell, Wokingham, Binfield, Warfield and Jennett’s Park), here’s what you need to know:
Once you have accepted a buyer’s offer, you will have to fill out a Seller’s Property Information Form which asks specific questions about whether you have obtained the correct permissions for work carried out in your home. If you have not, it could delay the sale of your house, or even reduce its value. If you omit any pertinent information from the form, you could be liable to a claim under the law of misrepresentation. So what kind of work requires you to either inform Building Control or use an installer who is registered with a Competent Persons Scheme? Here are a few of the examples listed by the Communities and Local Government Department (DCLG):
• Installing or replacing a boiler/central heating system
• Installing a new bathroom (only when plumbing and electrics are added or altered)
• Converting your loft to be used as a room with windows, a fixed stairway and electricity
• Installing a fixed air conditioning system
• Any structural changes, such as removal, or part removal, of load-bearing walls
• Re-roofing when using a different material (heavier or lighter)
• Replacing external windows and doors
• Adding cavity wall insulation
• Building most types of extensions
• Building a new house
• Any work that involves a gas appliance
• Replacing an external door or window
• Most electrical work
Electrical work is the area most likely to cause confusion over whether or not something is notifiable. Since 2005, most work must be carried out by a properly registered and qualified electrician (NICEIC, etc) or be inspected by Building Control. These include any new electrical installations, house re-wires and additions to existing circuits in kitchens, bathrooms, outdoors and other special locations. In fact, there are very few things you can do yourself. You can fit a new light or a switch, but only if you are replacing existing ones.
So what do you do if you are selling the house and have failed to comply with any of the regulations? After a ten-year period, you are no longer considered to be at risk of prosecution. Beforehand, there are a number of courses of action open to you, but you should always check with your solicitor first. One option is to offer a discount to the purchaser. Or, alternatively, you could apply for retrospective building regulations approval. Some issues are more complicated than others and some may cause problems with your buyer’s mortgage and insurance, whereas others may not. Clearly, an incorrect replacement door is far more straightforward to deal with than an extension that’s not been signed off. A door can be replaced. An extension could mean you will be required to expose ceilings and foundations in order to satisfy Building Control and that can involve substantial costs. For these kinds of scenarios, you need to consult with a relevant expert. They can tell you whether what’s been done is likely to be compliant or what it might cost to put it right.
If all else fails, there is another option - you could pay for ‘Lack of Building Regulations Indemnity Insurance’. It’s a policy that involves a one-off payment made by the vendor to cover the purchaser and mortgage lender against any financial losses suffered should Building Control serve an enforcement notice on the property (section 36 notice). It is much quicker and cheaper than retrospective approval and avoids alerting Building Control to the problem and can often be done online. However, the best advice of all is to make sure any work is done correctly in the first place. In the long run, it is a lot cheaper and a lot less trouble.
The information we provide is our personal opinion and should not be relied upon for legal advice. Should you need legal advice or guidance please contact an appropriate professional.